Monday, November 29, 2010

It's Alive!!!

Dr. Bob Curran's latest release, Man-Made Monsters: A Field Guide to Golems, Patchwork Soldiers, Homunculi, and Other Created Creatures, is a superb addition to the long-line of titles that Curran has written for New Page Books. And, as you'll immediately understand from it's title, this new one deals with creatures that have to thank (or even curse) us for their existence.

And a wide and varied bunch of beasts they are, too!

As you might guess, we get to learn much about Frankenstein's Monster. But, rather than just looking at Mary Shelley's famous creation in the world of fiction, Curran tells the truly fascinating story of how Mary Shelley may have been influenced by some real-life equivalents of Dr. Frankenstein himself.

Were they scientific visionaries, or definitive mad-professors, complete with the near-ubiquitous Eastern European accents? Well, maybe, they were a bit of both. But this chapter alone makes Man-Made Monsters well worth reading, as it delves into the shadowy and dangerous worlds of body-snatching, medical skulduggery, the mysterious Mr. Pass (you'll have to read the book to find out about that sinister character...) and much more. And, in many ways, Curran demonstrates that the truth of the matter may be even more horrific and Gothic than Shelley's novel itself!

Of course, in a book like this, much attention is given to such creations as the legendary Golem and Homunculi. Curran's study of the two most certainly does not disappoint, and he skilfully dissects and details the legends, tales and mythologies that surround both.

For me, the most entertaining and thought-provoking section of the book was that dealing with so-called "Warriors of Brass." If, having read those words, your mind is thinking "Robots," well you would be right! However, these are not the modern-day, human-like machines that have for so long dominated the genre of science-fiction.

No: here we are talking about secret science, ancient computers, and highly-advanced technologies that may have been in the hands of our long-gone ancestors. From such places as ancient Greece and China we learn tale-after-tale of created-machines that sound astonishingly like complex, modern-day robots built for entertainment, work, and even on the battlefield.

No, we're not talking about anything as near as sophisticated as The Terminator, but we are talking about constructions - fashioned by human hand - that strongly suggest in centuries-past there existed some definitively mechanical marvels that today, unfortunately, are utterly lost to the fog of time.

And, with sections on Tulpas and thought-forms, alchemy, ancient magic, and much more, Man-Made Monsters is an excellent study of its strange-yet-engaging subject-matter. Whether for you, a friend or family member, it will make a fine Christmas gift!

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