Category Archives: Kenneth Oppel

Such Wicked Intent


by Kenneth Oppel

Kenneth Oppel; Simon & Schuster; 2012

Once again Oppel has managed to successfully lead me down the dark and twisted pathways of the heart and mind of the young Victor Frankenstein in such a way, that even now, twenty-four hours after reading those hateful words, “The End”, I have yet to decide whether to embrace the main character in hopeful love, or toss him in an asylum for the criminally insane before it’s too late. I don’t know whether to applaud his willingness to explore all the possibilities to try  and save his twin, or resign myself to the fact,  that regardless of how honorable Victors intentions may seem, the bottom line is,  in the end, all things serve his god-like  purposes.

Even if those purposes are to bring his twin back from the dead.

From start to finish, the author has enriched us with his ability to bring to fruition the life of one of literatures most classical figures in a way that we might mistakenly think that it was Oppel, and not Shelley,  who was the original author and creator of Victor Frankenstein.  So full and colorful are the protagonist-antagonist’s narrative of himself, his comrades,  and the events surrounding his baptism into arcane things better left alone, that he makes the reader forget that they are merely observers of the events,  rather than its participants.

“If my heart were a compass, you’d be North.”  ― Kenneth OppelSkybreaker

If there had been a Book Three,  to “The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein” series waiting  on a library shelf or Amazon Kindle reader, I’d have already gone out and bought it. But since there isn’t, I’ll just have to content myself with the hopes that it won’t be too long until I can rejoin my newfound friends on their quest to uncover the dark and forbid magics of necromancy.

On a scale of one to five, I’m giving “Such Wicked Intent” a five; as I found it even better written than its predecessor.

Book One: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein: “This Dark Endeavor”

From the laptop of an uncensored dreamer,

SSpjut

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Re-Blogged: Musings of a Monster Librarian


Here’s a great muse I discovered @monsterlibrarian about>with the author.  This looks like a great site for my fellow information junkies when looking for additional publishing spots, book reviews, links etc. I’d bookmark this site if I were you.  I’m including a copy of their “About Us” @ the end of Oppel’s comments.

Teen Read Week: It Came From The Library! Kenneth Oppel on Frankenstein

Published by Kirsten on October 15th, 2012 – in Uncategorized

Kenneth Oppel is the author of  two novels (so far) about the young Victor Frankenstein, This Dark Endeavor (reviewed here) and Such Wicked Intent(reviewed here). He has also written many other books, and received a Printz Honor Award for his novel Airborn in 2004. We asked him to share what influenced him to write the story of Victor Frankenstein. It was pretty neat to learn that Frankenstein is one of his favorite books! You can see what he wrote back to us below.

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 From Kenneth Oppel:

Frankenstein is one of my favourite novels, and I wish I’d written it. Unfortunately, it was written two hundred years ago by a 19-year old genius called Mary Shelley. Arguably, Frankenstein is the first science fiction novel, the first monster novel, the first horror novel. Not only is it an incredibly gripping read but, like all the best literature, it tackles weighty themes: reckless human ambition, the ethical implications of scientific pursuit, the creator’s responsibilities to his creations, and the perils of really, really bad parenting. All things that are still relevant today.

A couple of years ago, while re-reading the novel, I was struck by how quickly Victor Frankenstein’s youth is described – and one line in particular stuck out: “No youth could have passed more happily than mine.” Now, remember that this is a kid who goes on to dig up corpses, chop them up, sew the body parts back together, jolt them with electricity in the hopes of revivifying them, and creating life from death. Doesn’t sound like a very happy youth to me. What might have happened to Victor to lead him to become the “mad scientist” we all know? That, I thought, would make an interesting story.

A few pages later, Shelley goes on to give a helpful clue: “I entered with the greatest diligence into the search for… the elixir of life…. What glory would attend the discovery, if I could banish disease from the human frame, and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!”

Right away I had an image of a teenager who was curious, ambitious, arrogant, and probably obsessive. Obsessions are a staple of literature — every great character has one. Whether it’s a desire or an aspiration, or the simple will to survive, there’s something that drives every hero — and every reader to keep turning pages.

Sixteen year old Victor Frankenstein is a fantastic character to work with. He’s the embryonic form of the man who will go on to dig up corpses, chop them up, suture then back together and jolt them with electricity to try to create life from death. Now that’s an obsession! When you read about people who create a work of genius, whether it’s an invention or a work of art, there’s often a strain of compulsion or even madness that motivates them and keeps them working tirelessly towards their goal — often at great emotional cost to themselves and those around them. Off the top of my head it could be as various as Howard Hughes (with his movies, or his Spruce Goose), or Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now) or Philip K Dick (who wrote himself to death).

Victor’s search for The Elixir of Life makes for an excellent quest. But it seemed to me there had to be something more behind it. What if Victor needed the elixir for a personal purpose? Was he himself ill? Or maybe a friend, parent – or a beloved sibling?

And so, in my alternative Frankenstein mythology, I decided that Victor Frankenstein had a twin brother, Konrad — who has an entirely different personality, and is a much steadier sort than Victor — and just that much better at everything.

It was tremendous fun to learn about the real Mary Shelley and her sources for Frankenstein. I’m sure plenty of my readers will pick up on all the references to the real Mary Shelley and the fascinating and tragedy-filled life she led. From my point of view, all this material was source material for me. I used Mary Shelley’s family as a basis for Victor’s – and stole characteristics from her husband (Percy Shelley) and friend Lord Byron to build Victor’s personality and backstory. When you’re reimagining a literary classic, you want to preserve the tone of the original, and this was one way I could do it.

And I loved writing Victor. As a writer I think you strive to create characters that exercsie the full range of human behaviour and emotion — and often these things are not heroic or noble or attractive. Victor is certainly a larger than life characters. He’s smart, arrogant, rash, selfish, but also loyal and loving and brave — in short, he’s no more an antihero than most of us on the planet. It’s huge fun to let loose a character with a temper, but also with a passion and a plan. I think you sympathize with Victor’s sense of inferiority around his perfect identical twin, and any reader would sympathize with someone who tries so hard to be good at things, in the shadow of another. Sometimes envy makes people do rotten things. So Victor’s not always nice, but you always want to watch him — and I think you want him to get what he wants, even if it’s a bit appalling. I mean, he’s Victor Frankenstein, not Harry Potter.

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About MonsterLibrarian.com:

The Monster Librarian welcomes you! This site is dedicated to all the books that are creepy, scary, and give us the willies.  It is meant to be a resource for readers and librarians. For readers of horror, this is designed to be a site where you can find other books that fall into the horror category that you might be interested in reading.  For librarians, this site provides tools to help in collection development, readers advisory, and program planning. While the site will have  information on current mainstream horror it will also include in the various lists older books that may be of interest.   This site has no other agenda than encouraging people to read, and supporting readers of the horror genre.

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This Dark Endeavor


Simon & Schuster; 2011

by Kenneth Oppel

Whether I was eight  reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”, or fifty-six reading Anne Rice’s “The Wolf Gift”, I have been, and always will be, a voracious reader looking for the ultimate  voyeuristic literary experience: a story that invites me to immerse myself within the mind, thoughts, and emotions of the authors creations.

A seduction of the senses used to lure me into becoming  one with the  very humanistic passions, victories, and despairs of its characters.

Kenneth Oppel’s “This Dark Endeavor” has accomplished all that, and more.

I don’t remember what it was that first drew me to read “This Dark Endeavor”, as I’d never heard of Kenneth Oppel or any of his other YA books such as, “Airborn”, “Skywing” or “Skybreaker” .

It might have been a review I read somewhere (though I don’t usually put much stock in other people’s reviews, or even my own for that matter), Facebook post or Twitter tweets. More than likely I saw it at the library (still, after all these years, one of my favorite haunts) proudly displayed on their  “New Arrivals” shelf;  flaunting what I think is a very cleverly designed book cover (Let’s face it, front covers make or break books. Find yourself a great cover artist and you sell even the worst prose. But get stuck with a moderately, so-so one; might as well bury the book somewhere in the middle of a fifty-cent bin.).

Regardless of where I first discovered the book, the fact that I did, and that I liked it well enough to run right out and locate the sequel,  should say a lot for what I think about the author, his characters, and the story he tells.

“You can’t eat [literature], that’s the problem,” he said. “I’ve tried, it’s very dry, and not at all nutritious.”
― Kenneth Oppel

Not only is the book well written,  and the plot and its characters nicely developed, but Kenneth Oppel has done a brilliant job of exploring the unspoken question in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”; “Who was the real monster; the creature or its creator?”

Throughout the main protagonist-antagonist’s story,  Victor Frankenstein’s narrative search to find a cure for his twin’s mysterious illness, Oppel  enlightens  us with  glimpses into the nature and soul of a young man at war with himself;  the moral obligation to do what is right and good,  against the inner darkness to  become the god-man he secretly believes himself to be.

Oppel  helps his readers to do this by exploring the humanistic schizophrenia that lives within us all: that at one time or another in the journey of every life, each of us will be forced to choose between darkness and light, human or god; and that hidden within the very best of intentions, are motives powerful enough to deceive us all.

It is the precursor to the mind and heart of a man,  who in later years, will be forced to come face to face with the dichotomy of his own heart.

“This Dark Endeavor” is one of those books that should,  and or will be found (in my not so humble opinion), on the bookshelves of the; young and old, classical or pulp, serious or flibbertigibbet.

On a scale of one to five, I’m giving “This Dark Endeavor” a four and half.

Book Two: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein: “Such Wicked Intent

From the laptop of an uncensored dreamer,

SSpjut

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Author: Kenneth Oppel


Kenneth Oppel.
August 31, 1967; Spouse; Philippa Sheppard
Born in Port Alberni, British Columbia, he spent his childhood in Victoria, British Columbia and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
He has also lived in Newfoundland and Labrador, England and Ireland. Wikipedia
Awards: Vicky Metcalf Award, Governor General’s Award for English language children’s literature.
Nominations: Michael L. Printz Award, Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, Locus Award for Best Young-Adult Book, Carnegie Medal.
Kenneth Oppel is the author of numerous books for young readers. His award-winning Silverwing trilogy has sold over a million copies worldwide, and been adapted as an animated TV series and stage play. Airborn was winner of a Michael L Printz Honor Book Award, and the Canadian Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature; its sequel, Skybreaker, was a New York Times bestseller and was named Children’s Novel of the Year by the London Times. His most recent books are THIS DARK ENDEAVOR and SUCH WICKED INTENT, prequels to the gothic classic Frankenstein. Born on Vancouver Island, he has lived in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, England, Ireland, and now lives in Toronto with his wife and children.

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