Today I’m posting up my review of Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron as part the Australian blog tour, and there’s also an opportunity to win one of three copies below!Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron
Published: October 3rd 2013 by Allen & Unwin
Format: Paperback, 368 pages
Genres: Science Fiction
Goodreads ● The Book Depository ● Booktopia ● Bookworld
Love can be a real monster.
Sixteen-year-old Boy’s never left home. When you’re the son of Frankenstein’s monster and the Bride, it’s tough to go out in public, unless you want to draw the attention of a torch-wielding mob. And since Boy and his family live in a secret enclave of monsters hidden under Times Square, it’s important they maintain a low profile.
Boy’s only interactions with the world are through the Internet, where he’s a hacker extraordinaire who can hide his hulking body and stitched-together face behind a layer of code. When conflict erupts at home, Boy runs away and embarks on a cross-country road trip with the granddaughters of Jekyll and Hyde, who introduce him to malls and diners, love and heartbreak. But no matter how far Boy runs, he can’t escape his demons—both literal and figurative—until he faces his family once more.
What a wonderfully clever book! I wasn’t expecting a book about the son of Frankenstein’s Monster to be so … human. For me, Man Made Boy is an unexpectedly inventive novel that uses some of the most famous monsters in mythology to explore what it means to be human.
The book is narrated by Boy, the child that the Monster and the Bride have stitched together. He lives in a community of other creatures: trolls, satyrs, fairies and a vampire. Boy feels stifled in this life – he wants to live amongst humans, to interact with them, but the closest he can get are the friends he has made on online chat-rooms. I enjoyed the narration of the book. Something about Boy’s voice, his wry comments and dry sense of humour appeal to me. He’s a fairly typical protagonist (stitching aside) and prone to the foibles of all teens – pining after unattainable people, chafing at the rules adults place on him, and generally thinking he knows better than everyone else. I admire Skovron’s skill in writing this character so I sympathised with him, and not just rolling my eyes at how immature he is.
The plot of Man Made Boy is nothing like I’d expected. It’s an amalgamation of horror and paranormal romance, with a technological thriller thrown in for good measure. I love the way all the different elements tied together well, but I understand some readers want to know what they’re reading before they start, and this book is so very difficult to pigeonhole that it may frustrate people. The addition of Boy’s runaway virus, in particular, is amazing because it allows Boy to straddle both the roles of Created Monster, and Monster Creator, and this allows the story to explore what those roles really mean.
The changes in narrative style went together with changes in setting: the urban New York where Boy first breaks out into ‘human life’ is wonderfully contrasted with the road-trip section, and again balanced out with a glamorous stint in LA. I like how the author has used the different environments to show-case the best and worst of those who accompany his protagonist: Liel struggles in the big city while Sophie and Claire flourish in it. It also serves to highlight how differently Boy approaches romantic situations, in one he is an equal partner in the relationship and in another it’s painfully obvious he doesn’t have any power at all.
It’s this basic idea, that Boy isn’t necessarily advantaged in any way because of his size, especially because of his soft, kind and painfully naïve personality, that struck me the most. While I hadn’t expected Boy to be a bully, I’d thought the temptation of using his size as a weapon would have appealed to him, but Boy is unerringly gentle and well-mannered when I was expecting him to snap. It’s one of the things he brings up about human shallowness – that in seeing him as huge and ugly, humans also assumed he was deaf, brutish, slow-witted and dangerous. I think the way that humans treated him, in general, was abhorrent and really served as a reminder that although we like to see monsters everywhere, few creatures are as cruel as we, as a collective, are.
Man Made Boy has been a pleasure to read, and I hope there Skovron intends to write more about Boy and VI and Sophie and Claire. If not, I look forward to anything he writes with enthusiasm. I urge those interested in a story with equal measures of imagination and inventiveness, with a few dashes of romance, to pick it up.
Man Made Boy is published in Australia by Allen and Unwin, and is available now from all good bookstores and online. They have kindly offered up three copies for a giveaway. Things you need to know before you enter:
- You do NOT need to follow Speculating on SpecFic to enter. Open to all Australian residents, 13 years and over.
- Entry is via the Rafflecopter form below.
- Entries will be checked for IP addresses: entries with different names / email addresses originating from the same IP address will be automatically deleted.
- Daily extra entries are available to those who spread word of the giveaway via Twitter.
The competition runs from the 4th of November 2013 to the 18th of November 2013 (ending at 2359 Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time (GMT +11)) Good luck!!