Dean Koontz is an author I’ve had a love/hate relationship with over the years. When he’s good, he’s positively brilliant. When he’s bad, I end up wanting to throw the book against the wall in frustration. This was why I had to give up on him for a while, only returning when I heard some good buzz about his Frankenstein series.
Prodigal Son is the first book in the series. Think about if the Frankenstein legend – and Mary Shelley’s book – were actually based in fact. A real-life Dr. Frankenstein who managed to create life, yet was driven from his home country. He resettled in New Orleans and through his experiments and research also managed to lengthen his own life expectancy until he was nearly immortal.
Set in the present day, Dr. Frankenstein has become known as Victor Helios, a wealthy society man of old money. He has perfected his creations to the point that he is using them to infiltrate everyday society in the hopes that one day he can trigger them to rise up and replace the human race with one he considers to be more perfect. You can only imagine what that means for us humans.
There’s only one problem. Actually, there are several problems with his plan. One is that his creations are not quite as perfect as he thinks. One who is ensconced in a local parish as a priest is actually starting to believe in the faith he was programmed to consider inferior. Another is committing murder high and low, but it is masked by another serial killer on the loose in New Orleans. One he has programmed to act as his wife is finding herself capable of feelings, particularly compassion, which enrages Victor to no end.
These are minor annoyances, though, to the real problem Victor does not yet realize he faces. His initial creation is still alive and well. Going by the name of Deucalion, he has been living with monks trying to achieve inner peace with monks in Tibet after spending years as part of carnival freak shows. Once he learns that his creator is still alive, this prompts him to return to the world to stop him.
The story is a good one. Prodigal Son does a great job of being an independent thrilling story in itself as well as setting up the larger story that will carry through the series. Two police officers interact with Deucalion as they investigate the serial killer dismembering people in New Orleans. They are individual characters that are quite interesting with a good history in their own right. Carson is one I particularly became attached to, probably because I could sympathize with her raising her younger brother who has autism. I’m pretty sure I know after just reading the first book how certain parts of her back-story will tie into the Victor Helios storyline and it will be interesting to see if I’m right. There is sexual tension between her and her partner Michael, although they’ve never actually acted upon it.
If you’ve read Dean Koontz before, many of the characters have a familiar tinge to them. I really feel like the evil he depicts in the book often comes off like variations of the same core character. It’s interesting the first few times but gets tiresome after a while. Here, though, he manages to build on the Frankenstein legend with his own interpretation of evil and surround it with a cast of interesting characters in a city that has always had an eclectic image. The result is one of the best Koontz stories I’ve read in years.
My hope is that the series doesn’t falter from here. Prodigal Son has created such a promise that I will be sorely disappointed if the rest of the series turns out to be variations of the same Koontz themes I’ve read in the past. It’s a good book to read if you’ve never read Koontz before. If you’re like me and have been a fan in the past only to end up frustrated by recent offerings, it’s a nice way to get back to him as well.
Next book in the series (link): City of Night by Dean Koontz: Frankenstein Series, Book 2