Classic Horror and a Picture Perfect Ending

Movie adaptations of Frankenstein always miss the mark.  Sure they capture the morbid way in which the monster was made (from dead body parts).  They show the mayhem the creature causes. Some point out the folly of the scientist who created life just because he could.

Sadly, most versions omit the pathos of the rejected monster himself.  But in The Monsters’ Monster,  Patrick McDonnell’s children’s book about a similar science experiment gone wrong, readers get an ending that delights rather than chills.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, 1818

Post format:  A Tale of Two Books

Frankenstein was written by Mary Shelley in 1818.  It’s the story of Dr. Victor Frankenstein, a brilliant scientist consumed with making life.  When he succeeds, he is horrified by his creation and quickly abandons it.  The hapless creature is left to fend for itself.  In a number of touching scenes, Frankenstein’s creature tries to make friends and live among humans. But his hideousness scares everyone away.  Only then does he become crazed and murderous.  Shelley’s description of the monster’s super strength and speed is truly terrifying as is his relentless pursuit of the doctor who made and then denied him.  I’ve always thought this haunting, beautiful tale would lend itself more to a Masterpiece Theater series than a horror film.

The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell, 2012

In McDonnell’s tale, The Monsters’ Monster, three monsters quarrel about who is the worst and then decide to settle the argument by making “the biggest, baddest monster EVER!”. But when a lightning bolt brings their creature to life, its first words to its creators are “dank you.”  Disappointed, they then watch helplessly as he gently pets the snakes and spiders around him.  His foray into the nearby village takes him to a bakery where he buys treats.  Unlike Dr. Frankenstein, the three monsters’ initial disgust with their creation turns into affection by the book’s end.  In a touching scene, the monster hands each one a warm, jelly doughnut and the group gazes happily into the sunset forgetting about being monsters at all.

Now The Monsters’ Monster is a picture book which pretty much guarantees a happy ending.  And yes, Frankenstein, considered the forerunner to today’s science fiction and horror genres, would have faded into obscurity without its tragic conclusion.  But anyone who takes the time to read Shelley’s original tale will feel for this creature.  While the terror makes for great storytelling, part of you will wish someone had rather just taken the time to accept him.

QUESTION:  Do you have a favorite horror book or movie?

A Challenging Read

I took a challenge recently, and it paid off.  READING WITHOUT WALLS  is a worldwide call to all readers that’s pretty simple.  Just read a book out of your comfort zone and see where it takes you.  My chosen book took me to Mars.  The Martian is a 2014 book written by Andy Weir.  Here’s more about this amazing tale and the challenge that inspired me to try it.

READING WITHOUT WALLS has three parts:

1. Read a book about a character who doesn’t look or act like you:  Mark Whatney, the main character in The Martian fills this bill.  He’s male. I’m female. He’s in his 20’s.  I’m…well, let’s just say I have a few years on him.  He’s a botanist, an engineer, and an astronaut.  I’m an English major who works in a school library.  As different as we are, I grew to love this character.  Long story short, Mark is stranded on Mars after an aborted space mission.  His training, his intellect and his “never give up attitude” helps him survive the unforgiving planet for more than a year.  But his final rescue comes about through the herculean efforts of his fellow man.  Their actions fill him with pride and love for the human race.

“If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search.  If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood.  If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies.  This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception.  Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care.  But they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.”

 

I took the READING WITHOUT WALLS challenge. Will you?

2. Read a book about a topic you don’t know much about:  Space travel, NASA, EVA suits, chemistry…I know little of these subjects.  But I learned about them and so much more.  Heck, I now know the basics of making water (mix two parts hydrogen with one part oxygen.)  Weir’s clear writing and humor make the science clear and even entertaining.

 

3. Read a book in a format you don’t normally read for fun (a chapter book, a picture book, poetry, or an audio book): I fell somewhat short in this regard.  The Martian is a novel which is my go-to format for pleasure reading.  It is, however, a genre I rarely grab–science fiction.  This challenge reminded that a good story is a good story, no matter how, where, or why it is written.

READING WITHOUT WALLS is the brainchild of Gene Luen Yang and the Children’s Book Council.  Go here to learn more.

BONUS BIT: Three other book’s I’ve read that challenged me and opened my eyes:

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, 2008:  This sweeping novel taught me about Afghanistan and its history.   I can now associate real places and people with this country that is so often in the news.  Plus Hosseini’s storytelling is superb.

 

Honey Bees: Letters from the Hive by Stephen Buchmann, 2010: This non-fiction book kindled a passion in me for honey bees and the food they produce.   I now keep a jar of honey in my pantry at all times.

Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin, 2012: This book detailing the build up to the atomic bomb was fascinating.  It’s a real-life story that reads like a movie script.  Hollywood take note.

QUESTION:  Care to share anything you’ve read that was out of the ordinary?  I’d love to hear!