Reviewed by Steven H Silver
While Dracula and vampires have had a tendency to infiltrate the speculative fiction field fairly well, other supernatural creatures haven’t managed the transition as well. Frankenstein’s monster and other golems have occasionally made forays into the field, most notably in recent years in Michael Bishop’s Brittle Innings, but have generally been one-shots. In Hideous Progeny, Brian Willis invited several authors to write stories based on the assumption that Victor Frankenstein was an historical figure whose creation spurred on the science of reanimation.
The quality of the stories varies tremendously, from fully realized tales to stories which are built around an idea which is insufficiently examined. Among the former are Ceri Jordan’s “Mad Jack,” a tale of a Jack the Ripper-like figure in Victorian London who resurrects the fallen instead of killing them. Jordan creates plenty of background for his story, which could easily be lengthened to explore his intriguing city more fully.
“Know Thine Enemy,” Gary Greenwood’s World War II story, on the other hand, postulates a rich alternate history background leading up to the events of the tale. Unfortunately, the majority of the story is comprised of flashback sequences which relate this background. Greenwood could, and perhaps should, take that material and turn it into a more fully plotted and charactered story.
Another powerful story which could be further explored is Iain Darby’s “Bits and Pieces.” Darby’s protagonist, Heinrich Speer, is a resurrected man who acts almost like a Niven-esque organ-legger. As the story opens, Speer has arrived in Africa to try to track down quality bodies and parts for resurrectionists. While Darby hints at the prejudices against using interracial body parts in resurrection, he could go much further in examining racist attitudes in this regard. Instead, Darby examines Speers growing relationship with a one-timer, one of the non-resurrected.
Most of the stories in Hideous Progeny are horrific in nature, although occasionally humor does show through, most notably in the ending of Rhys Hughes’s examination of racism and sexism in a world with resurrected people in it. “The Banker of Ingolstadt” appears to be a story about a woman attempting to break through the social barriers which preclude women from attending universities. In the end, it turns out to be quite a different situation.
The biggest disappointment with Hideous Progeny is how few of the stories manages to fully examine the themes and issues they lay forth. Few of the stories are outright failures, but even fewer are complete successes. Anyone who is interested in speculation based on the creation of Frankenstein’s monster would do well to search out this collection, however the reader should be warned that most of the stories fail to fully satisfy.
|Brian Willis||Prelude: Snatched from the Flames|
|Simon Morden||Traitors Gate|
|Gary Greenwood||Know Thine Enemy|
|Peter Crowther||Fallen Angel|
|Paul Finch||The Day After the Day the War Ended|
|Ceri Jordan||Mad Jack|
|Chris Poote||Guinea Pig A|
|Iain Darby||Bits and Pieces|
|Tim Lebbon||Going Gently|
|Rhys Hughes||The Banker of Ingolstadt|
|Richard Wright||Lips So Tender|
|Paul Lewis||Dying for a Living|
|Joel Lane||Cash in Hand|
|Steve Lockley||An Act of Faith|
|Steve Rasnic Tem||Cubs|
|Brian Willis||Coda: Cold Phoenix|