There have been many iterations of Frankenstein’s monster since Mary Shelley’s book was first published in 1818 and now, the monster has become a horror icon among today’s popular culture. Some of the iterations are very well done and capture the sympathy readers and viewers feel towards the monster, some are just fun and done with good humor for younger readers and audiences, and then there are some that had potential, but fell flat in the story department. One such iteration is Robert Daicy’s The Man Who Became Frankenstein’s Monster.
William Barker is living a near perfect life in New York in the 1920s: a good paying job and a son who adores him outweigh the fact that his wife blames him for anything bad that happens and does not seem happy at all with their marriage. A terrible accident changes everything for William, leaving behind both inner and outer scars that threaten to haunt him forever. Believing he is destined to roam the Earth as a tormented soul, his life is changed again when Roland Skelton, the owner of Skelton’s Spectacular Traveling Carnival, enters William’s life and offers him a spot in the freak show as the one and only, Frankenstein’s Monster.
This book had so much potential and just the synopsis alone will grab the attention of anyone who is a fan of both Shelley’s Frankenstein and circus fiction. However, upon opening the book and reading the story, the attention slowly drifts away. The Man Who Became Frankenstein’s Monster is Daicy’s debut novel and, unfortunately, it shows in numerous ways that he has some techniques to work on. He has skill in storytelling and forming a plot, but he needs to work on character development, editing, dialog, and bringing the story as a whole together.
The pace of the story and the characters go hand in hand in Daicy’s book. The characters keep the story going in any story and in this story, rather than moving at a continuous pace, it moves at various paces. It is incredibly slow in the beginning as the readers learn about William and his family. It is great to have background on the main character one is following: where does he live, what does he do for a living, what is his relationship with his family? Well, readers learn that William works for a bank, he lives comfortably with his wife and young son, his son James looks up to him, and his wife Helen… loathes him. The reasoning behind why Helen is so bitter is never truly explained in the book. William mentions how she was an amazing woman before James was born. After that, she turned into a not-so-nice person and there is really no explanation given as to why. This leaves the readers disappointed and hating Helen’s character just twenty pages in.
When the accident happens to William, the pace of the story speeds up at an incredible rate from the previous seventy pages. One can tell Daicy likes to describe horrible accidents for he does an amazing job at explaining how tragic the accident really is. After all of the blood and broken glass is cleaned up, the pace slows way down again. Helen leaves William, telling him she’s been having an affair, and his mother travels to his house to take care of him. Cue the drawn-out pity party of William Barker. Readers understand that what happened to William was awful, but they are also truly grateful when Roland Skelton comes into the picture. Roland Skelton is a very well written character and is fun to read (and his last name makes many think of skeleton or Skellington) and he has a wonderful idea to make William the star attraction in his traveling carnival as Frankenstein’s Monster.
A saving grace for this novel is that Daicy knows how to write the atmosphere of a traveling circus in the early 20th century. He really shows how odd the “freaks” of old were depicted to the public, but as a whole, how they were the nicest people one would meet and they got along great with one another, being there to encourage one another and lift each other up. The idea of having a “Frankenstein’s Monster” as a freak show act is a wonderfully creative idea, but how Daicy executes it is odd. Skelton has William jump out on stage, quote some lines from Shelley’s book, and growls. That is basically it. Then after the show, audience members are allowed to touch his scars. It is difficult to think of how one could make “Frankenstein’s Monster” an attraction at a carnival, but perhaps instead of an act in a show, Daicy could have had William wander around the carnival throughout the evening scaring people and then having to be captured by the carnies and locked in a cage. It just seems a bit more realistic to do than just to stand on stage quoting a book.
The main thing Daicy could have done before publishing his book was to have gone back to edit and revise his story once or twice more. For starters, rereading it could have helped to eliminate the many grammatical errors scattered throughout. He also could have spotted repetitive lines of dialog and paragraphs. Certain things were repeated one too many times and it becomes tedious for readers to read the same thing over and over again throughout the book. Daicy mentions in his author’s note that he omitted much of his original manuscript, but there were still parts that were not needed in this final version that could also have been omitted with another reread. He could have also added more detail in certain parts while taking out some detail in other parts.
The Man Who Became Frankenstein’s Monster is a wonderful concept for a story and was okay for a debut, but it needed more time to develop and, with that time, it could have turned into a good, even a great, debut. Daicy has a good starting base for his story; he just needed to work on more character development (mainly on Helen and her reasons for being a jerk), less repetitive dialog and paragraphs, a more continuous pace, fixing grammatical errors, and a more-developed execution of one of the most well-known monster classics of all time. Daicy has potential for future books and possibly even future stories of circus fiction or other novels consisting of other well-known classic monsters, he just needs to remember to take the time to fully develop his stories before sending them off to be published.