Review: Hideous Progeny by Vaughn Entwistle

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Vaughn Entwistle's Hideous Progeny: Mary Shelley and Her Monster was published in October 2020.

Vaughn Entwistle
Vaughn Entwistle

Vaughn Entwistle is a British author who grew up in Northern England. After the family moved to the United States, he attended Oakland University in Michigan where he earned a Master’s Degree in English.

In the early nineties he moved to Seattle to work as a writer/editor. In his spare time he ran a successful gargoyle-sculpting company for ten years (yes, really!). Entwistle has published poetry and fiction in a number of small literary journals and won awards for screenplays and novels.

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Hideous Progeny by Vaughn Entwistle
Hideous Progeny
by Vaughn Entwistle

Hideous Progeny: Mary Shelley and Her Monster.

It never had life... but now it must die...

As a girl of 18, Mary Shelley’s imagination birthed the nameless monster that would make her name famous. But since that night of apocalyptic storms at the Villa Diodati and the dark nativity of her hideous progeny, Mary’s life has been a tedious narrative of grief and loss: a dead husband, a dead sister and three dead children. Now in middle age, Mary suffers headaches from the brain tumour that will soon end her life. Seeking relief from her monster’s malign curse, Mary travels from London to the Somerset estate of Andrew Crosse, the gentleman scientist who inspired her Dr. Frankenstein. Mary has come in search of an electrical cure, hoping that the same dread engine that raised her monster can now lay that ghost to rest.


Vaughn Entwistle's Hideous Progeny: Mary Shelley and Her Monster is a fascinatingly dark, deep and unsettling book for those who enjoy horror stories and want to read something different with substance. It's excellent gothic fiction with elements of psychological horror and captivating weirdness.

Before I delve into analysing and reviewing the contents of this book, I'll mention this: I guess that everybody knows who Mary Shelley is, but just in case there happen to be readers out there who are not familiar with her, I'll briefly mention that she is the author of "Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus", which is an acclaimed novel of classic science fiction and gothic horror fiction. "Frankenstein" is one of best known speculative fiction novels of all time.

I consider Hideous Progeny to be an especially intriguing piece of gothic fiction, because it breathes new life into Mary Shelley's later years and sheds light on what happened to her before her death in an original way. I found this book satisfyingly fresh and compelling. Because I've been of a fan of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein for a long time, this book was of special interest to me (I think that readers who are familiar with Frankenstein will get the most out of this book, but it will also be of great interest to others due to its excellent story).

By the way, I strongly urge readers to read the preface, because it explains a few things about the book. I think it's good to mention that, in the preface, the author - amongst other things - mentions that this book has two interwoven narratives. Narrative 1 has been written in the third person and Mary is 44 years old in this part of the narrative. Narrative 2 has been written from the first person point of view and Mary is 53 years old in it and her brain tumour is far advanced. At the climax of the story, both narratives collide.

The story begins with Mary travelling by carriage to Somerset to visit Fyne Court, the country estate and home of Andrew Crosse, who is a gentleman scientist and electrical experimenter (it is believed that he may have been the inspiration for the character of Doctor Frankenstein). She is now a solitary woman and feels the weight of the past on her shoulders. She suffers from severe headaches and uses laudanum to soothe them. When Mary arrives at Fyne Court, she meets new people and acquaints herself with them. Soon, it becomes evident that she seeks cure for her illness from Andrew, because she hopes that electricity may provide a cure for her...

The story moves forward in a satisfying way. When the story reaches its climax, all the threads collide and interlink each other in an excellent way. I was fascinated by how fluently the author writes about Mary's hallucinations, nightmares and headaches, because they pave the way for something darker to come in an alluringly sinister way.

I enjoyed reading about the events at Fyne Court. Plenty of things happen there, but due to the possibility of accidentally revealing major spoilers, I won't write much about them. I'll only mention that the events related to the persons who reside there are especially intriguing.

The characterisation is handled well in this book, because the author has managed to create a fascinating and diverse cast of characters. I enjoyed reading about the characters and how they interacted with each other, because there's dynamics between them and the gradual revelations about them and their lives are genuinely entertaining.

The author's vision of Mary Shelley is incredibly powerful and compelling, because he describes Mary as a lonely woman who has suffered a lot and believes that she may be cursed due to her loved ones passing away at a young age. Ever since writing her famous book, she has lived in the shadow of her monster. The monster has cast a great shadow upon her life and has haunted her for a long time.

It was also intriguing for me to read about how the villagers felt about Andrew Crosse, because his experiments made people fear and shun him. Reading about Andrew's young wife, Cornelia, was also interesting, because she is not very mature and gets easily excited about many things (she behaves in a slightly childish manner due to her age). I must also mention that the author's way of writing about Reverend Philip Smith and his religious zealotry and self-righteousness was thrilling. He describes the reverend as a person who has strong opinions about religion and damnation.

This book has plenty of sadness and sorrow, which is one of the reasons why it's such a powerful piece of gothic fiction. When you begin to read it, you'll soon notice how fluently the author writes about Mary's experiences with death and how she feels about all the suffering and many losses she has had to endure during her life. The losses of her loved ones have had a great impact on her life and well-being.

One of the best things about this book is that the story doesn't glorify the past in any way. Although the story is pure gothic fiction, it has a touch of realism to it that makes it stand out. I also want to mention that I was pleased by how the author writes about elements related to sexuality, human mind and electricity, because his way of handling these elements doesn't feel forced. Electricity is an important part of the story and the author is capable of handling all matters related to it in an excellent way.

The story has elements of gothic fiction, ghost stories and classic weird fiction to varying degrees (the story is mostly gothic fiction, but the other elements manifest themselves as the events begin to unfold). All of these elements compliment each other and together they form a good backbone for the unsettling events. It's also worth mentioning that a great deal of research has clearly been needed to write this book, because it's filled with details about Mary's life.

I'm deeply impressed by Vaughn Entwistle's writing skills. He seems to be capable of writing almost anything, because his writing effortlessly glides from fantasy fiction to atmospheric gothic fiction. I greatly admire his ability to write about famous historical persons in an entertaining and engaging way, because he does it with ease and creates fiction that pulls the reader into the story.

If you love dark and engagingly written stories, you should not hesitate to take a look at Vaughn Entwistle's Hideous Progeny: Mary Shelley and Her Monster, because it's a highly entertaining and pleasantly unsettling book. This book is sure to please you with its dark and atmospheric story.

Highly recommended!