Wednesday, February 3, 2016

It's Alive! (Maybe) + Giveaway

Everyone wants to (re)create Frankenstein.

The book was getting adapted in Mary Shelley's lifetime - most famously when she attended a play only to discover when it started that it was an adaptation of her novel. (#famouswriterprobs)

The most recent film adaptation starred Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy in Victor Frankenstein. (Don't worry - you'll get a review. I just haven't seen the movie yet.)

But recreating Frankenstein is not an easy task. To date there have only been two successful film adaptations (always excluding the above-mentioned film which I'm sure will be the best yet): Whale's 1931 adaptation starring Boris Karloff, and Mel Brooks' parody Young Frankenstein.

Maybe it's this repetition that makes it so hard to piece together a new creation from the old scraps of a corpse that has been reanimated regularly for almost 200 years.

And for that reason, when a Frankenstein adaptation succeeds, it demands attention.

Kenneth Oppel's Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein trilogy (I use the word in the hope that the two book series will have offspring) is the best Frankenstein story, outside of the original novel and the 1931 film, that I have encountered.

If you've been here before, you might recall my review of the first book in the Apprenticeship trilogy, This Dark Endeavor, in which I praised the novel to the skies.

A review of the second book, Such Wicked Intent, would probably read similarly.

But because I don't like to do the same thing twice, (come on, you know this blog would be boring if it was consistent) this post will review two Frankenstein novels side by side - like two brothers, one of whom is trying to resurrect the other from the dead.

And, aside from both being YA Frankenstein adaptations, that plot point is the main thing Such Wicked Intent has in common with This Monstrous Thing - the steampunked Frankenstein story by emerging writer MacKenzi Lee.

The two resurrection plots differ in the details, of course: when his brother dies, Alasdair tries to reanimate him using clockwork; when Victor's brother dies, he tries to grow a new body in the hope that he can bring his brother's spirit back to inhabit it.

Oppel's book is a prequel to Mary Shelley's novel; Lee's is a re-imagining of Mary Shelley's world, in which the Frankenstein story is based on true events and the monster is created using gears and clockwork.

I found Lee's story interesting in that it featured Mary Shelley as a prominent character, and I liked the theme of Frankenstein meets Steampunk (because seriously, that's an awesome idea and why didn't I think of it?) I liked the characters, especially Alasdair (the Victor Frankenstein parallel), and Clemence (the capable girl with a secret). And the second half of the book completely hooked me. It was a fun story and one that I enjoyed.

But - and I mean this with no disrespect to MacKenzi Lee, whom I regard as awesome - This Monstrous Thing didn't quite live up to the expectations I had formed for it after reading the reviews on goodreads. It was and is a good story - and the first sentence of the book gave me chills - but when I place it beside Kenneth Oppel's Such Wicked Intent, I find that it pales a bit in comparison.

Oppel's Victor Frankenstein novels are alive(!) with passion, suspense, and a strong undercurrent of the Gothic. The characters are strong and vibrant, and the whole story has a dark, creepy edge that makes you shiver but with delight (if it were really, truly horrifying I wouldn't read it, so you can rest assured it's safe for you). Victor's character is so spot on it hurts, and I loved seeing Henry Clerval grow in this book. Elizabeth was as fiery as ever, and Konrad so likable that you really feel it when he - ok, he's already dead at the start of this book, so not a huge spoiler, really. Let's just say, lots of hyperventilation towards the end of the book.

Lee is a debut author with lots of promise; Oppel is a seasoned writer who knows how to manipulate the variables to in turn manipulate his readers. The choice to switch to present tense when Victor is in the spirit world is brilliant - especially since Victor feels the spirit world as more real and present than the living world, which uses the past tense. Oppel implies so much with just a change in tense. And that is why his Frankenstein story lives while so many others fall flat on their face and die.

Kenneth Oppel is a master storyteller, and as a creator, he puts Victor Frankenstein to shame.

Anyone else think this tombstone faintly resembles R2D2?

I've mentioned several Frankensteinian (if that's not a word it should be) stories in this post. And you could take one home. Or, rather... it could come to your home. That sounded ominous. But all I meant was that if you comment on this post, your name will be entered in a giveaway for one book or movie from the following list of Frankenstein-related fiction:

Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

This Dark Endeavor OR Such Wicked Intent, by Kenneth Oppel

This Monstrous Thing, by MacKenzi Lee

Frankenstein, the 1931 film starring Boris Karloff

Young Frankenstein, the 1974 film by Mel Brooks

If you win, you can choose ONE of these items which will then be shipped to you. The item condition may not be Like New, but it will be decent, and it's free. (:

To enter the giveaway, answer one of the following questions by commenting on this post:

What's your favorite Frankenstein adaptation?

Have you seen the new Victor Frankenstein movie? What should I know? (no spoilers)

What is the worst Frankenstein adaptation you have ever seen?

Or, if none of these questions pertain to you, what do you think of when you think "Frankenstein?"

I'll announce the winner on this blog a month from now, so check back in on March 4th to see if you're the lucky one. May the odds be.... no. Good luck.

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