The Solace of Monsters
by Laurie Blauner

If you are in Seattle, you can find the book at either The Elliott Bay Book Company, The Secret Garden Bookshop, or the University Book Store.  For those outside Seattle, you may order the book here.  

You can read an excerpt from the book in Issue Eighty-Seven of The Collagist.

To hear Laurie read from the book, click either of the links below:

From Chapter 1.
From Chapter 5.

Laurie reading from Solace of Monsters

Advance praise for The Solace of Monsters

The Solace of Monsters is courageous and innovative and mesmerizing, Frankenstein for a new age. Laurie Blauner never shies away from the grotesque, or from the beautiful.

    

— Helen Phillips (author of The Beautiful Bureaucrat and And Yet They Were Happy


Mara's 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.

    

— Kirkus

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

If The 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.

    

— Mark 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 Soldiers)

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.

The characters 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 immediate lives.

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)
Copyright © 2015 Laurie Blauner, all rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction by any means strictly prohibited.