Reviews by eknapp
Dense, poetic, ahead of its time.
Mary Shelley's classic is quite different from the famous James Whale film retelling. Victor Frankenstein is a gifted young achiever with a love of learning, not a wild-eyed mad scientist. The monster is not a lumbering mute who kills unintentionally, there are no neck-bolts, there is no lightning. It is not given a 'criminal brain'; the monster's mind could be any of ours. While initially sympathetic--an innocent, hopeful soul in search of simple camaraderie--he is transformed by rejection into an articulate, super-humanly strong, eight-foot-tall serial killer. (No, the rejection didn't make him strong or eight feet tall. You know what I mean. Smartass.) The novel tells the story of the monster's creation, its descent into rage and bitterness, and its campaign of vengeance against his horrified maker.

I have no idea how to critique such a masterpiece so I'm going to brain dump some thoughts. Things I want to remember.

--It was beautiful but difficult to read. Very poetic. It put me in mind of Tolkien, but then I don't have a lot of classic literature under my belt for comparison.

--People exclaimed an awful lot 200 years ago. Grand declarations of eternal affection and unshakable friendship. Vociferous recriminations and dramatic pronouncements of loathing. No feeling was experienced in moderation.

--At one point the stories were nested four deep. The monster recounts his first two years of life to Frankenstein, who gives his own story to a companion, who chronicles the whole tale in letters to his sister and which finally makes it to me, the reader.

--Much of the book was spent depicting tragic stories of injustice. Obviously there's the monster himself, initially guiltless but repeatedly shunned in horror. A Turkish merchant is arrested in France for the crime of being different. He promises his daughter as wife for the aid of a young French noble but has no intention of following through. A friend of the Frankenstein family is framed and executed for the murder of Frankenstein's brother. Frankenstein himself is arrested for a crime he did not commit.

--Victor Frankenstein to his betrothed: "I have one secret, Elizabeth, a dreadful one; when revealed to you it will chill your frame with horror, and then, far from being surprised at my misery, you will only wonder that I survive what I have endured. I will confide this tale of misery and terror to you the day after our marriage shall take place; for, my sweet cousin, there must be perfect confidence between us." Um. In the interest of "perfect confidence", shouldn't you confide your tale of misery and terror BEFORE she ties her life to yours 'til death do you part? Truly it was a different time.

--Victor Frankenstein has the constitution of a fainting goat. Any shock causes him to tip over "in a fever" and requires weeks or months of bedridden convalescence before he can continue. It happens five or six times.

--It strikes me that to a large extent the tragedies of "Frankenstein" all result from an extremely unlikely conspiracy of events, "Mystic River" style. Had Victor not passed out just as his creation awoke, perhaps he would have been the teacher and companion it craved. Had the old man's children returned an hour later than they did, the monster might have secured his friendship. Had the monster not encountered young William Frankenstein on the road to Geneva, he might well have met Victor without innocent blood on his hands. They could have reconciled. So many things had to go disastrously wrong for the story to unfold as it did.

--"Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change." As true today as it was in 1818
Couldn't finish it. And that's rare for me.
A while back I saw a Marc Forster movie called Stay. It started in reasonably coherent fashion with a shrink trying to locate a suicidal patient. Then it devolved into plot chaos: events repeating themselves, people wandering around murmuring sentence fragments into space, conversations between characters that died years before, it's contorted and phantasmagorical. Stay tried to salvage itself with a gasp!-twist ending, but it was much-too-little, much-too-late, what-was-the-point as far as I was concerned. I hated that movie.

Flex Mentallo's surreality reeks of Stay and that's a bad thing. A narrator ODing in an alley who meets Flex at different ages yet in a short timespan although Flex used to be an illustration but now he's real kind of like Pinocchio and fights a giant robot with five heads and hunting Rorschach-looking mystery men who throw not-real cartoon bombs and are pixelated while his partner The Fact MUST be found but HE might not be real and a castle in space that the little-boy version of the narrator is on sometimes and a herd (a flock? a murder?) of costumed heroes appears repeatedly they don't speak or do anything and Morrison tries to ramp up the doomsday-dread all Watchmen-like but fails and still fighting the giant robot wait his hand is actually the narrator's hand while the astronaut sees the superheroes but nobody believes him and that's it, I'm out. It might make sense in the end but I don't care. A quick skim of the back half doesn't look promising anyway.

Two stars instead of one because it's pretty and I've read dumber.
Promising crime novel sinks at the end.
A two-part novel about the weather in Minnesota, newsroom politics, a string of serial killings, and the death penalty.

Part One describes the murders, committed once each season and always during an extreme weather event. Tornado, ice storm, record-setting fog or heatwave, etc. We are introduced to Dixon Bell, a preternaturally gifted meteorologist, and Rick Beanblossom, a brilliant investigator and news producer. This was the good part of the book. Great characters. A crime story with a novel twist. An interesting look at TV news production from the inside.

Part One also serves as the author's love letter to the state of Minnesota. It's apparently beautiful, and crime is low, and the people are kind and proud and modest and industrious. The whole state is just really super, like Lake Wobegon but even better. Then Dixon Bell gets arrested.


Part Two, in which Bell is put on trial while Beanblossom tries to prove he's innocent, is riddled with plot holes. When another character confesses to the murders right in front of Beanblossom, why in hell would he keep that information to himself?? If Bell IS guilty...why?? He makes no sense as a serial killer. The maximum security prison in which Bell is housed is filled wall to wall with gentle, sympathetic guards and noble, self-sacrificing hero-prisoners. Ooookay. An execution is described in multi-page grotesque, loving detail. TWICE. It reminded me of those anti-abortion billboards that basically go "Abortion is wrong because look at this picture of a happy fetus." Part Two is driven transparently by the author's agenda and the story suffers badly for it.


The writing is solid and the research is excellent, but after a good start The Weatherman runs off the rails.
Excellent beginning, adequate finish.
Kepler is a centuries-old being who wears people like suits, moving from skin to skin by touch and leaving confused amnesiacs in his wake. He's hunted by an organization dedicated to the destruction of his kind.

Touch works hard to explore how perception changes when one has worn numerous different bodies, male and female, old and young, fat and thin, weak and strong. It's aware of aches and failings and capabilities that real humans would generally take for granted; slight near-sightedness, posture-related pain, etc. And that is exactly what I want from this particular sub-genre. It's Touch's best feature.

The ending was a bit limp. Predictable. Overall a five-star core with a 3-star finish.
Lost in (Interdimensional) Space
Scientists, a couple of kids, a smarmy bureaucrat and his toady bounce from dimension to dimension due to a busted science thingy, searching for The Way Home.

Black Science is absolutely beautiful to look at, full of heavy, intense blacks and oranges and purples. Really striking.

The plot's pretty generic. There's a brief mystery regarding who sabotaged the science thingy, but it turns out to be exactly who you'd expect. Each dimension is home to another hostile anthropomorphized animal species. Fish people, frog people, bird people, gorilla people. Not awful but not particularly interesting.