Back around Halloween, Bill of “The Wildcat’s Lair,” posted his “Favorite Monster Novel Challenge.” I’ve been promising to do this and here it is already after Thanksgiving!
So here are my picks for five of my favorite novel monsters that I’ve read so far, in no particular order:
I’m not a big fan of novels told mostly (or entirely) through letters and journal entries, yet this Bram Stoker’s Dracula still manages to keep the suspense up as it does so. Count Dracula has a sympathetic side in that he is a victim of a changing world. The old days of war and conquest, which resulted in his families rise to power are long gone, and he is forced to adapt to a new reality. Change is easier for some of us than for others, and I can find a way to relate to the character’s anger and fears about change, even if the way the character deals with those feelings are much different. I’m also intrigued by the religious symbolism in this novel. It is a Christian morality play, yet its supernatural themes and dark mood sufficiently mask the underlying message so that it is entertaining without being preachy.
I must confess that I was surprised when I read the novel for the first time because I hadn’t realized how different the 1931 film is from the novel itself. Far less than being a dangerous imbecile who can speak only in grunts, Shelley’s monster is articulate and is himself a lover of humanity, wishing to love and be loved, and finds himself being shunned because of his appearance. I can sympathize with that, too. No matter how hard the monster tries, even when he’s trying to do good deeds, his actions and motives are misinterpreted because of his appearance alone.
On the surface, Bryan seems like a good kid, a dutiful son worthy of pity. But he has some special talents and chance encounters with people who he feels have wronged him brings the dark side out with a vengeance. Does absolute power corrupt absolutely? For Dean Koontz’s character of Bryan, it does, and he is merciless in his torture of his adversaries, despite his youth and corresponding great need for acceptance.
A retail giant threatens the economy of small towns by crushing all of the mom-and-pop stores and taking all of the business for itself. It’s a familiar theme in our society. In The Store, Bentley Little capitalizes on our distrust of the major corporation and the hatred of the blood-thirsty business owner who will seemingly take any step to win. Newman King, the head of a chain of Walmart-esque discount outlets that call themselves The Store, is a monster in more ways than one. At first, he is a menace to the small towns he invades. But as his plans unfold, we learn that he is a monster in a real way as well, as are those who work for him with such unquestioning loyalty and devotion. By the end of the novel, much more depends on his defeat than a few “going out of business” sales.
One of my favorite Stephen King titles because he juggles the many storylines so well, the town of Castle Rock is literally rocked when Leland Gaunt appears to open a unique antiques shop. Nearly everyone finds an item of some kind that they think they literally can’t live without, and Gaunt’s price is quite high. His true identity is revealed with a bang…actually, with a series of bangs that nearly take the town with them. Like The Store, Needful Things contains a nice parallel opening and closing scene that leaves one last chill.