It started off so well and went downhill so quickly. Marcus Sedgwick’s stunningly bound and illustrated The Monsters We Deserve starts out as a good, atmospheric gothic novel and ends up as…well, I’m still not sure what it ends up as.
The Monsters We Deserve (admittedly an awesome title) opens in a remote chalet in the Swiss Alps, where a Frankenstein-hating horror writer, known to us only as M.S. (yes, I know), has gone to overcome his writer’s block. When the beautiful scenery, majestic wildlife and magnetic, nighttime darkness fail to set him on the right path, he embarks on a series of reflections on his copy of Frankenstein. The copy is well-worn, not from frequent perusal, but from constant throwing across the room; dog-eared, not from any sense of reverence for certain passages, but out of M.S.’s desire to quickly identify the parts he hates most. Sedgwick presents a blistering, intriguing critique of Frankenstein‘s literary (de)merits and a fascinating reflection on the nature of horror writing and what compels us to create it, read it and privilege it above hope and light.
Then he gets visited by the ghost of Mary Shelley, who wants him to rewrite Frankenstein.
Yes, you read that correctly.
At first, I was vastly amused by this, and thought the book was heading into similar satirical territory as my post, Victor Frankenstein Reviews ‘Mary Shelley’. What a lark this is going to be, I thought. Unfortunately, the book did not turn out to be a lark, and things only became more ridiculous from this point on.
I don’t know what came over Sedgwick in taking the story in this direction. I don’t know why or how his editor let him. I don’t know where this awful, inauthentic version of Shelley comes from, or how Sedgwick could bear to have her spout words, declarations and requests that sound nothing like her. What I do know is that this ‘twist’ ruins everything.
The Monsters We Deserve provides some genuinely valuable insight into the nature of horror writing, and I found its irreverence for Frankenstein to be genuinely refreshing. However, the moment the narrator started talking to ghosts, this book lost me and never quite got me back.