Edited by Ross E. Lockhart
Published by Word Horde
Review by Jonathan Raab
From the dedication:
“To Mary. And her Monster. With thanks.”
Indeed! Shelley’s Monster needs no introduction, although its many reinterpretations and reincarnations over the past (almost!) 200 years might leave people with competing ideas over who and what it is and represents. But anyone with a passing familiarity to film and horror knows the basic premise of man-creates-monster, and surely would recognize some form the Monster has taken over the years, whether in the iconic and stoic visage of Karloff, the misshapen face of Lee, the re-animated ghouls of a certain Stuart Gordon film, or even a seasonal breakfast cereal.
My first encounter with the Monster was probably Mel Brooks’ interpretation in Young Frankenstein, which is arguably the greatest film inspired by Shelley’s work. Or perhaps it was in the shadowed halls of Castlevania, low on health and hoping I had the right subweapon to finish off the pixelized terror.
We all have a connection to Shelley’s creature, and our own ideas about what it is and what it should mean. The assembled authors in Eternal Frankenstein share with us their own visions of the Monster’s horror, through tribute to Saturday morning movies, through science fiction settings and motifs, through stories focused on emotion and personal trauma.
Often the strength of a Word Horde anthology is its diversity of authors and stories. Whether you’re a fan of pulp-horror, quiet horror, weird fiction, or science fiction, you’re sure to find something you like, even if there’s a few stories you don’t vibe with. Some of my favorites include:
Amber-Rose Reed’s “Torso, Heart, Head” starts the anthology off strong, with a backstory for the different parts of what might become a monster. Her story proves that callback with a touch of pastiche can still pack an emotional punch while remaining a bloody good time.
Autumn Christian’s “Sewn Into Her Fingers” jumps right into SF territory with a narrative that is both disturbing, hopeful, and frighteningly plausible.
“Baron von Werewolf Presents: Frankenstein Against the Phantom Planet” by Orrin Grey represents so much of what makes his Technicolor-tinted style of horror writing so fun and wonderful, as it follows a “lost” foreign Frankenstein/science fiction movie presented by a goofy and doomed TV horror host.
“The New Soviet Man” by G.D. Falksen is tied for my favorite story of the anthology. A Soviet officer and his attache head to a remote research facility to root out disloyalty but instead find the future of worldwide socialism writ in flesh and brain tissue.
David Templeton’s novella “Mary Shelley’s Body” caps off the anthology with a re-examination of Shelley’s life by her ghost, a post-death autobiography about her victories and defeats, her love, her Monster, and her monstrous love. Along with Falksen’s story, Templeton’s tale told through Shelley’s own voice is a high point of the book, and is a must-read for any fan of the famous author and the Monster.
Eternal Frankenstein is best read a couple of stories at a time. While the themes and motifs overlap a bit, each author builds a new and fresh creation out of the flesh and blood of monster movies and tales past. Frankenstein transcended the boundaries of life and death and, as this book proves, his legacy—and that of Mary Shelley, his own creator—will live on eternal.