Tongue-in-cheek literary amendments, all done without ridicule or a pretense of improving the beloved original.

MARY SHELLEY'S FRANKENSTEIN

NOW WITH EXTRA MONSTERS!

Laidlaw (400 Boys and 50 More, 2016, etc.) revamps Shelley’s horror classic to include a bevy of monsters throughout the entire narrative.

Laidlaw presents readers with an ambitious Minimum Monster Guarantee—“At Least One Monster Per Paragraph,” he claims. He further promises that Shelley’s original text is intact, with all the new material merely additions. While the novel is in the mashup style of Stephen Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Laidlaw changes very little of the Frankenstein story. Many references to creatures are superficial, albeit amusing. For example, Victor Frankenstein notes that his love Elizabeth’s illness puts her “in the greatest danger it was possible to be in without a vampire feeding upon her or an alien chest-burster actually shooting out of her breast while she lay abed.” Still, the expanded tale is often humorous, and some of the modifications are outright shocking, including young Felix, who has an affinity for torturing animals. Laidlaw, meanwhile, effectively fuses his voice with Shelley’s. Accordingly, his contribution to the opening of Chapter 10 genuinely sounds like Victor’s woeful narration: “After a morning spent screaming in horror, I spent the following day roaming through the valley.” Monsters don’t make it into every paragraph; readers on occasion will have to suffice with lurid adjectives like “hideous” or the blunter “monstrous.” In the same vein, there are myriad horror films and TV shows cited, which reaches a crescendo in gleeful absurdity when Victor describes a castle as “something out of a Dracula or Frankenstein movie.” This likewise allows for an encyclopedia of horror icons mentioned, from literary (H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu) to cinematic (Godzilla and the Xenomorph aliens). Nevertheless, it’s hard to miss a few inconsistencies. Movie character Freddy Krueger’s name is spelled three different ways, and a pledge to avoid “random obscenities” is contradicted by preceding and subsequent expletives.

Tongue-in-cheek literary amendments, all done without ridicule or a pretense of improving the beloved original.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 249

Publisher: Freestyle Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2018

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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