Review: The Monsters We Deserve by Marcus Sedgwick - 10/10*
Creative, witty, and philosophical, The Monsters We Deserve by Marcus Sedgwick is a rather unusual book, but, nevertheless, it’s rather brilliant.
This is a novel, and it isn’t a novel. This is a literary essay, and it isn’t a literary essay. It’s a book about how books are written (and how monsters are born.) It sounds like a odd combination doesn’t it? It works though, strangely enough.
It’s about a horror writer who is undertaking some soul searching. He’s fed up of writing stories that simply scare people and has reached the conclusion that such dark writing gives nothing decent to society. He now wants to write something good and beneficial for his readers. He wants to talk about the natural world and monsters and people and everything in between.
So he does.
The book questions the act of writing, itself a form of creation. It questions the rigid nature of publishing and how writers are forced to shape their project according to reader expectation instead of letting the writing be what its wants to be. It’s a book that celebrates the natural world with its sharp descriptions and emphasis on the beauty of life. My point is, this book is lots of things at once. It’s fragmented and experimental, though it is also very perceptive and extraordinarily clever.
The element that will appeal to most readers is the way the book talks to a dead writer and her characters. Mary Shelley haunts the steps of the writer. She visits him as does her pompous (not my words) protagonist Victor. They discuss monsters and how our books come to shape us, establishing and defining us as a certain type of person: a writer of horror, for example. Through the interaction this slates Frankenstein heavily; yet, for all that, it made me laugh. All the criticism are fair (albeit a little petty and playful) and in a way, they add to the original work because they firmly establish how the book was a product of its time. Any narrative weakness only highlights how naïve and young the novel was during the early nineteenth century. Frankenstein is far from perfection, though it will always remain a literary marvel because of the themes it tackles head on. And, at the route of things, I think this annoyed writer knows this.
I don’t know how much of this embodies the real author’s opinions and experiences and how much of it is a product of the fictional author’s (ignoring the fantastical events, of course.) We’re not meant to know. It seeks to blur the lines between fiction and reality, creator and creation, writer and monster. Either way, it’s not overly important to the ideas this book discusses in such clear terms.
I stand by what I have already stated, The Monsters We Deserve is an unusual book. And I think many readers won’t quite connect with it. But for those that do, they will become beguiled by the playful nature of the writing that questions why we write (like I myself was.)
Postscript- I’m in love with the book design – it’s so simple and so precise, full of illustrations that accentuate what’s being said. More book covers should be this exact rather than attempting to be too flashy and intricate: it’s crisp, clean and effective.