Hideous Progeny: Mary Shelley and Her Monster

Written by Vaughn Entwistle
Review by Jo Ann Butler

Have you ever taken a romantic trip with friends—to Lake Geneva, Switzerland, perhaps—only to be kept inside by rain? In 1818, you amuse yourselves with shocking news, like the report of spontaneous life wrought from chemicals and electricity by England’s Dr. Andrew Crosse. You discover ancient myths of werewolves and vampires in the house’s library. Drink, then-legal drugs like heroin, and even riskier moral explorations add zest to candlelit evenings. How about storytelling? If your host, the acclaimed poet Lord Byron, challenges you to a ghost story contest with the equally famed Percy Bysshe Shelley, you might be daunted. However, Shelley’s lover and future wife, seventeen-year-old Mary Godwin, trounces them both. Inspired by a night of cataclysmic thunderstorms, Mary writes of a hulk stitched together from human corpses and animated by lightning.

Frankenstein makes Mary Shelley a household name, but fame brings her no joy. She is haunted by ghosts of her beloved husband, children, and friends, all carried to early graves. At age forty-four, tortured by headaches and nightmares, Mary consults Dr. Crosse about an undiagnosed brain tumor which will eventually take her life.

Vaughn Entwistle takes a delicious dive into Shelley’s tragic life with his novel, cradling it in his own tale of creation and destruction, steeped in hallucination. He writes à la Shelley, but with a light touch which lets Hideous Progeny careen along with manic energy as Mary’s past reverberates into the present, and forward into the unknown. Dopple- (and triple) gängers, heady draughts of forbidden science and passion, murder, afterlife and rebirth – Vaughn Entwistle delivers them all in Hideous Progeny; a great read for a dark and stormy night.