Black Venus Novel James MacManus
Susan Heyboer O'Keefe has taken Marry Shelley's hideous monster, a lump of mismatched parts, and infused him with a soul, his human-like spirit evolving through misadventure and the dogged cruelty of a man dedicated to his extermination, Robert Walton. The dying Frankenstein wrested a promise from his friend with his dying words, "swear to me that you will hunt down the creature and destroy it." There are certainly monsters afoot in this beautifully imagined story, but they are of human origin, twisted by passion and obsession. Seeking shelter from an indifferent, nay, hostile world, Frankenstein's monster embarks upon a bleak journey from a decaying Venice to the wild Orkney Islands and finally a Northumbrian coal mine, relentlessly pursued by Walton. From a tentative exploration of affection with a mute woman in Venice, the monster is tormented, Walton's singular mission to destroy his friend's foul creation. Spewing lies to impressionable villagers, Walton's forces his prey to flee.
As monster embraces humanity, his eager mind fed by books and brief encounters with those who tolerate his deformities, Walton proudly shoulders the burden of his task, filled with vengeance and a sort of divine madness, like a fanatical saint burning with the fervor of his hatred. Each small victory, a new place to sleep, the brief gift of friendship, is avidly destroyed, Walton become the monster's shadow, a terrible twin exacting retribution. In his grief, Frankenstein's creation turns to England with a plan to strike at Walton in kind, through the family her corresponds with regularly, a sister, Margaret Winterbourne, her husband and daughter, Lily, a beautiful sprite who flaunts convention, finding in the spontaneously named "Victor Hartmann" a formidable weapon against the restrictions of convention.
Dupe, fool, object of scorn and terror, "Victor" is swept into Lily's web, imagining one more chance to inhabit the world as other men but for the ugliness of his form. The half-mad Lily drives the next phase of the monster's journey, first to the wild country of the Orkney Islands, then to a Northumbrian coal mine, where a reckoning between foes becomes an epic battle waged in Hades, the cunning Walton filled with deadly fury after a mine collapses in the bowels of the earth. So human does this monster become, so anguished with the burden of his beginnings and the violent assemblage of his disparate parts, that it is impossible not to grant such a creature the grace of existence among men. True evil grows in the twisted pathways of a diseased mind, Shelley's monster an innocent born of Frankenstein's hubris, brutishly navigating a world of predators, until the realization, "I have been a monster of my own making. I will be a man of my own making instead." Luan Gaines/2010.