I love the novels of Dean Koontz for a whole laundry list of reasons...only one of which is how they can't easily be pinned down to any single genre. With varying amounts of suspense, horror, mystery, science fiction and subtle satire, Koontz's novels are not only consistently entertaining, but "miracles of contradiction" as well.
What do I mean by that?
Simply this: Despite the grim and terrifying situations, settings, and characters of his novels, there's always an overarching sense of morality at work that celebrates the love, hope, friendship and faith of good people as they battle against very real (and often very human) evil. You'd think books featuring psychotic killers or accidents of genetic manipulation couldn't possibly convey a sense of hope or appeal to our better natures, but somehow Koontz manages to do just that. That's not to say I don't enjoy his delightfully twisted, whacked-out bad guys...but ultimately it's the decent people populating his novels who really shine and make a lasting impression.
Though I've been an avid Koontz fan for years, I only recently found out about his Frankenstein novels. Originally conceived as a TV series for the USA Network (with some involvement from Martin Scorsese), Koontz and his collaborator Kevin J. Anderson decided to incorporate their concepts into book form when good old "creative differences" ended their association with the USA project.
Often promoted as an "update" of the Frankenstein story, Prodigal Son and City of Night are actually a continuation of Mary Shelly's original tale. Its premise is that Victor Frankenstein actually did create artificial life in the early 19th century, and that both the monster and its creator still live here in the 21st century. The monster, now a wise immortal calling himself Deucalion* (ue-kay'-lee-uhn) is sustained through the supernatural power of the lightning that originally granted him life, while Victor Frankenstein continues to live by way of his own twisted science and iron will.
Victor, now known as biotech tycoon Victor Helios, is secretly creating a new race of humans to replace what he views as the imperfection and fragility of "The Old Race". However, despite Victor's arrogant insistence that his creations are "perfect", they begin exhibiting disturbing quirks and macabre malfunctions that suggest a growing evil that not even their creator can prevent or even understand.
Stumbling into this deranged secret world while investigating a serial killer are New Orleans detectives Carson O'Connor and Michael Maddison, who eventually cross paths with the mysterious Deucalion and join his mission to destroy Victor Frankenstein. Since the Frankenstein legend is every bit the pop cultural touchstone in the novel as it is here in the real world, you can imagine the shock of O'Connor and Maddison when they learned the true identities of their new plus-sized pal and his mad creator.
As vivid and compelling as the primary characters are, I can't forget to mention the secondary characters that occupy the Frankenstein books, particularly various members of the New Race. Thought perfect by their maker, they struggle with forbidden emotions, heartbreaking bewilderment, wildly malfunctioning psyches, and monstrous mutations...as Koontz masterfully builds the growing chaos within Victor's clockwork universe to a fever pitch.
I recently finished Book One (loved it), I'm currently racing through Book Two (ditto), and I can hardly wait for Book Three (Dead and Alive) to be released next Spring...but even though I haven't completed the entire series yet, I can still confidently recommend them to anyone looking for a hugely entertaining read.
Yes, there was a television movie adaptation in 2004, and a comic book version of Prodigal Son (Book One) is supposedly on the way. However, I would urge anyone interested in the story to avoid the cross-media adaptations and give the books a shot first.
* Since the creature's adopted name was never really explained in the novel, I did a little digging and found out that the name "Deucalion" comes from Greek Mythology. Deucalion was the son of Prometheus, the Titan who gave forbidden fire to mortals. The full title of Mary Shelly's original novel was Frankenstein, or, the Modern Prometheus (referring to Victor Frankenstein). Get it? That's exactly the kind of cool, understated detail I love about Koontz books.