This is a terrific read. I read it in one day - it kept me hooked. Set in the fog of Victorian London, the story moves from the docks, to Whitechapel and the East End and west to Kensington and the Natural History Museum. The story is very visual - it would make a good television drama. Told in the form of diaries, the narrative moves from character to character. Cheshire's writing is intelligent and clear and has a nice period style. The plot builds at a good pace and keeps you reading. The characters - particularly Victoria and Albert - are compelling and very well-drawn. Wolfgang Frankenstein is truly a monster. Not for the faint-hearted and recommended for anyone who enjoys Gothic horror!
I was amazed to see that this book, which I’ve admired hugely since it was first published, ranks almost six millionth in Amazon’s best-sellers list. It should at least be up in the 100s.
1879. Professor Marchbanks arrives at Charing Cross station having just travelled from Europe. He is very afraid. He is accompanied by two children, incongruously named Victoria and Albert. There is something strange about them. They have pale, waxy, unnatural-seeming skin, piercing, needle-sharp eyes, strange fissures and what looks like stitching on their heads and necks. They are alarmingly intelligent but remember nothing which happened more than a few days before.
Yes, Victor Frankenstein’s spirit has passed on to his descendants and they are carrying on the good work. Professor Marchbanks has been called out to the Frankenstein castle, remote and terrifying, to give advice about the latest developments in the programme. He is appalled by what he sees and escapes with the two children. But their creator Wolfgang von Frankenstein is determined to have them back.
Thus starts a gothic thriller, full of the special darkness which only Victorian London can give, involving horror, some particularly nasty deaths, a chase across the stews and teeming streets of the East End as it once was – Jack the Ripper country. The pace is breakneck, the tension taut like a bowstring. A terrific read in its own right. I devoured it at a sitting.
But there’s more. Cheshire understands how a later generation could realise what power Victor’s discovery can lead to in an industrial, capitalist society. Technology and money meet in an unholy alliance which adumbrates the modern age: Wolfgang’s ambitions, which forecast contemporary debates about the ethics of medicine in prolonging and even perfecting life, are suddenly given shape by his realisation of the power of money and the tentacles of Victorian finance. They have emerged from Romantic fantasy, entered the real world and become inestimably more dangerous. There is no easy solution to all this and Simon Cheshire does not balk at the implications of any suitable resolution.
So – a page-turner which can be read as merely terrific entertainment and also a narrative which deals seriously with issues still current today. It deserves a readership which it has, unaccountably in my opinion, never had.