Edward M. Erdelac’s new novel Monstrumfuhrer is a tour de force, playing on the classic horror convention of science gone awry.
The novel posits Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as truth, the main character (Jotham Podczaski) and his brother (Eli) discovering the correspondence of Captain Robert Walton in the attic of a Polish bookstore in which they are hiding from the Nazis. Meanwhile, Shelley’s “pale student of unhallowed arts” is re-imagined in the form of Josef Mengele, as he uncovers Victor Frankenstein’s experiment journal and proceeds to apply his re-animation process in service of the Reich. (This plays well off the mad doctor’s historical exploits.) After escaping Mengele’s clutches at Auschwitz, Jotham travels north in search of Frankenstein’s original creation in order to secure its aid in seeking vengeance for the murder of his brother at the hands of Mengele, and in stopping Mengele’s evil machinations.
Erdelac remains faithful to the original novel in regard to the creature’s disposition—both physical and mental. The relationship between Jotham and the creature is well developed in that both have been scarred spiritually and bodily, cursed and hunted by the race of men. They also relate in that they each have their own selfish, unyielding motivations in the search for Mengele.
The story is a tapestry of lush, vivid detail, animated by beautifully paced plot development. A keen observer of human emotions/relationships, Erdelac succeeds in developing fully fleshed sympathetic characters we can connect with and fear for along the way. He also excels in the crafting of various settings—from Ingolstadt, Bavaria to Nazi occupied Warsaw, through Auschwitz to the arctic wastes.
Two points of criticism, as no story is without its blemishes: there are a few stretches as far as plot twists go that will test your suspension of disbelief. And there are the occasional long-winded, unnatural streams of dialogue that detract from the story’s overall mood/progression.
These points aside, I’d say that Erdelac has ultimately triumphed in regard to the novel’s overall effect. This is one writer to keep an eye out for in the future.
Review Written by W.J. Renehan