Advance praise for The Solace of Monsters
of Monsters is courageous and innovative and mesmerizing, Frankenstein for
a new age. Laurie Blauner never shies away from the grotesque, or from the
— Helen Phillips (author of The Beautiful Bureaucrat
and And Yet They Were Happy
dogged curiosity and integrity give the novel an appealing energy.
She's an engaging heroine... Blauner often reaches for a quirky
expression of detail that sometimes creates a charming image... and
sometimes verges on silly... but when her writing is at its clearest
and simplest, Mara's wonder at her journey and the people she meets
springs off the page and welcomes the reader into her world.
|One of Seattle’s more accomplished writers, one who
doesn’t always get the attention her work merits, Laurie Blauner is the
author of three previous novels (all published by Seattle’s Black Heron
Press) and seven books of poetry... [Solace of Monsters is] a strong new novel...|
— Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company
Solace of Monsters was like its protagonist -- built from
others' body parts -- it might draw some of its limbs and organs from Kazuo
Ighiguro's Never Let Me Go, Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the
Dog in the Night-Time, and, naturally, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
(And at least a little part of it—the redness of its cheeks, perhaps—might even
come from Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo.) But in the end, Monsters
is its own weird and wonderful creation, the story of the fifth version of a
daughter who, despite being haunted by lives she never led and the vision of a
perfectionist father, simply wants to be herself.
Brazaitis (author of The Incurables and Julia & Rodrigo)
I have followed
Laurie Blauner’s literary career since reading Somebody, her first
novel. Each of her novels is different from its predecessor; one could not
anticipate where her vision and her adroitness with metaphor would take her.
But with The Solace of Monsters she has provided a statement about the
nature of evil and its inevitability, perhaps even its necessity, that reveals
the tragic essence of her vision. In the end, The Solace of Monsters may
be taken as a warning to us to proceed with caution in our creations, and, at
least as important, to question ourselves as to our motives.
—Jerome Gold (author of In the Spider’s Web and The Moral Life of
The Solace of
Monsters is inextricably
linked to Frankenstein, but in ways that renew and enlarge the dialogue
of themes and implications. The characters are quirky and very contemporary,
raising complex thematic questions. The style is direct, yet lyrical. The
voices and personalities are thoroughly engaging and varied, yet related as if
they were different versions of a large complex being.
approach their dilemmas without hesitation or indirection while raising further
dimensions they are only tangentially aware of. There’s an intimacy in the
searching, yet they seem to be addressing some larger concern in their
The novel is
not so much about the issues of the artificial creation of life as it requires
us to understand more thoroughly what natural life actually is. How can you
create it if you don’t really know what it is? How does an artificial creature
discover life when a natural one can’t understand it?
The Solace of
Monsters stands on the
other side of the question of euthanasia, raised in the author’s novel, Infinite
Kindness, contrasting the creation of life with the ending of it. The
characters are under your skin before you realize how complex and implicit the
questions they have brought with them really are.
— from the
November 2016 issue of Raven Chronicles Review by Rich Ives (author
of Sharpen and Tunneling to the Moon)
|The temptation is to read this book as
another mad scientist creates a creature novel, particularly as the author
leads you in that direction. The “scientist” (I use the quote marks as it
becomes apparent that the man’s career in the lab has fallen upon hard
times, for shady reasons, and he is relegated to pushing a broom in the
lab, rather than peering into flasks and retorts) is called Dr. F. The
suggestion is as obvious as it is misleading.|
What we learn is that the creature, who is also the narrator, is the fifth
attempt at creating a substitute daughter to replace the one he lost, along
with his wife, in an accident. “The new daughter” is kept confined to their
isolated home, as her body is imperfect and needs constant mentoring and
modification, as parts fail and fall off, or cease working altogether.
Mara, as she is called, can read the hundred books she has been given by her
father, but has no interaction with the outside world. What she does know
is gathered from a limited exposure to media on television and limited computer
use. The situation is a bizarre parody of parenting in the modern world, with
all the ironic implications kept subtlety in the background.
In fact, I would say the whole book, from the title, to the inevitable failed
escape from home, and the harsh realities of the outside world, are a
deliberate misdirection. Yes. we see things as Mara sees them, but
she is the ultimate unreliable narrator: naïve, nominally human, yearning to be
free of her bonds and be like other people. But, of course, she can never
achieve this as she is not a human, but a facsimile. I would assert, this is an
artful magician’s trick of the highest order, masquerading as kind of horrific
fairy tale gone wrong.
Throughout, I was impressed by the associations the book evoked. Not only with
the impossible to ignore, book and movie, Frankenstein (Whale’s
touching movie with that scene where the monster accidently kills the child) as
with other movies such as “Blade Runner” with its replicant humans. Mara
cherishes intrusive memories she eventually realizes are not her own but a
compilation of those of the failed Mara’s that came before her. Anything like
free will, as with the replicants in Blade Runner, is limited by the rapidly
ticking down biological clock inside her. The reader recalls Leon, the
replicant, looking at the family pictures of manufactured memories, Rachel
recalling playing the piano and recalling her cherished childhood which was
actually the niece of her creator, and Mara’s various unchosen moments of times
past, all of which were other’s thoughts and dreams. In the end the most
telling moment of replicant thought was Roi who says to Dekkard who, he has just
saved from certain death, “I have seen things you humans can only dream of....”
The replicant is more human than the man. The monstrosity is not the created
object but what Goya painted in his back rooms near the end. Ultimately,
we must ask who is the monster? The sorrowful, all too real Mara 5, the man who
created her, who is determined to try again with a Mara 6? Or the society we
live in? Blauner, who never writes the same kind of novel twice, amazes us
again with her dexterity.
— Alan Catlin (as published in misfitmagazine.net, Issue No. 19 / Fall 2016)