Books: Dead and Alive

July 18, 2011

Dead and Alive is another book (see yesterday’s post on The Avenger) that I already knew the outcome of from having read a later book. Unlike with The Avenger, I wasn’t fascinated by the way the author developed the plot to reach the expected conclusion.

The only characters I really enjoyed were Erika Five and Jocko, Victor (Frankenstein) Helios’ tank-produced wife and the troll-like creature that grew in and burst out of another of Victor’s New Race people who was masquerading as a police detective. (All that is told in the first two books of the series.) I knew them as characters from the later book, but in that book they already knew each other well. Here I could see their relationship develop as their own characters develop – both having been independently alive (i.e. out of the tank and out of the detective’s body) only a day or two.

The rest of the book is pretty much showing numerous New Race people going off the rails in one way or another. The replicants¬†of the District Attorney and his wife discover that the most pleasure they’ve ever had is killing members of the Old Race (i.e. human beings) – while running around stark naked. Victor’s housekeeper thinks she’s a character from a movie she watched (she happens to look just like the actress who played that character). Another of Victor’s servants thinks a cantaloupe is a crystal ball telling him the way to happiness.

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Books: City of Night

June 13, 2011

If finishing a book quickly is a sign of how much one likes it, I guess I really liked this book. It’s not all that long, so it wasn’t hard to finish in a single day. (And having dropped off my younger son at Boy Scout camp did mean a bit more time to myself in the evening.)

Not surprisingly for a second book in a series, it has a rather unfinished feel to it. A couple of plot lines are tidied up at the end, but the rest remain wide open for resolution in the third book of the series. So far I can say I like Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein series better than I initially thought I would, just from seeing the titles in the store. But I’m glad I settled for borrowing them from the library, as I don’t think I’m likely to reread them, as I would some of Koontz’s other novels.

City of Night continues to show how Victor (formerly Frankenstein) Helios’s New Race of beings is deteriorating mentally. The first book showed some of them wanting to die; this book explores why. These people, human in appearance on the outside, and subject to many of the same emotions as human beings, are deprived of free will. They are “born” from tanks, knowing that they exist to serve their maker, Victor Helios, and that they cannot choose otherwise.

Being just as self-aware as human beings, they have as much desire for happiness and meaning to their lives, but are condemned to existence without either. Their bodies, far superior in many ways to those of the “Old Race” (i.e. human beings), will allow them to live for hundreds of years. But in practice, it turns out that about twenty years is the longest they manage to tolerate the fact of their slavery to Victor. Then their “programming” starts to fail in various ways, leading one way or another to the escape they long for (i.e. death).

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Books: Frankenstein: Prodigal Son

June 6, 2011

Having read the fourth book in Koontz’s Frankenstein series, I decided to back up and start with the first book, Prodigal Son. I had assumed – incorrectly – that it would start with Victor Frankenstein assembling his creature from assorted body parts and then animating it with lightning.

Instead, the book starts with Deucalion (the name the creature gave itself) in a Tibetan monastery. I thought that at least it was some time in the past, until Deucalion mentioned Cheez-Its. Well, a book in which Frankenstein’s monster likes both¬†Cheez-Its, and discussing the meaning of life with monks, is the kind of unusual “horror” book that Koontz writes and that I enjoy reading.

I’m actually not sure to whom the title refers. I assumed at first that it would be Deucalion, who in the two hundred years since Victor created him has changed from a homicidal monster to a wise and compassionate man, and who is now trying to stop the monstrous evils Victor is ready to visit upon the world.

But Deucalion appears only from time to time in the novel. There are other, more recent creations of Victor (now using the surname Helios), who have been programmed to see themselves as superior to human beings, but who find themselves unhappily lacking. One is desperately searching for happiness, cutting up human beings to find their “happiness gland.”

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