cover image Pride and Prometheus

Pride and Prometheus

John Kessel. Saga, $27.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-4814-8147-2

Kessel (The Moon and the Other) makes an ambitious attempt to cross Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but this expansion of his Nebula-winning 2008 novelette falls short. After the marriages of the older Bennet sisters, Mary Bennet is left bored at home and takes up collecting fossils. She encounters the haunted-seeming Victor Frankenstein at a London society party and is swept up into his creature’s quest to force Victor to animate him a bride. Mary is more sensible and intelligent here than her original author allows, but Kessel’s insistence on sticking firmly to the plot of Frankenstein ends up trampling her contribution, as she doesn’t get to do anything that actually matters. Kessel has several interesting ideas, such as Dr. Frankenstein selecting the corpse of a pregnant woman to make a new creature, but he never follows through with any of them. It’s unclear what he’s trying to say about the Shelley side of things, and, as for the Austen commentary, the idea that Mrs. Bennet can be insufferable is not a new sentiment. The prose and characterization are neither as witty nor as clever as one would expect given the book’s antecedents. Readers hoping for a provocative or transformative work will be left unsatisfied. (Feb.)