by Thomas Ligotti (Subterranean Press; 1993/2011/2014)

Up until 2014 this was the rarest book by the great Thomas Ligotti. Now THE AGONIZING RESURRECTION OF VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN AND OTHER GOTHIC TALES is finally available in eBook format, courtesy of Subterranean Press, and turns out to be…well, moderately satisfying, though not exactly what one might have hoped for after a 21 year wait.

This is unquestionably one of Ligotti’s most atypical works, a short (50 page) collection of brief retellings (most around 2-3 pages in length) of several iconic horror stories. The intent, as Ligotti makes clear in his introduction, was to increase the unpleasantness that befalls the characters of such classic horror tales as FRANKENSTEIN, DRACULA, THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA via newly conceived endings in which each tale is “pushed onward in the direction of its unique and perverse apotheosis of pain.”

In this respect we have the title story, in which Victor Frankenstein perishes at the North Pole only to be resurrected, and so doomed to suffer the same agonies as the monster he created. “One Thousand Painful Variations Performed Upon Diverse Creatures Undergoing the Treatment of Dr Moreau, Humanist” sees the not-so-good doctor subjecting an experimental subject to even greater tortures than those imagined by H.G. Wells. In “The Heart of Count Dracula, Descendant of Attila, Scourge of God” we learn about the torments suffered by Dracula after he’s staked, just as “The Intolerable Lesson of the Phantom of the Opera” relates what occurs after the Phantom breathes his last–and his gal pal comes to grips with the intolerable emptiness of her existence.

Also included are “The Irreproachable Statement of the Governess’ as to the Affair at Bly,” in which the deranged governess narrator of THE TURN OF THE SCREW is employed to look after a new set of kids; “The Transparent Alias of William Wilson, Sportsman and Scoundrel,” which sees Poe’s William Wilson going mad(der) after murdering his errant twin; “The Interminable Residence of the Friends of the House of Usher,” whose doomed protagonist discovers that he shares the malady that brought down the Ushers; and “The Fabulous Alienation of the Outsider, Being of No Fixed Abode,” about the ultimate fate of H.P. Lovecraft’s Outsider, whose hideousness is spread across the Earth to taint future generations.

The tales are all related in Ligotti’s usual erudite and refined manner, albeit without the hallucinatory brilliance of his more representative stories (which, for the record, can be found in the collections SONGS OF A DEAD DREAMER, GRIMSCRIBE and NOCTUARY). Still, the contents of THE AGONIZING RESURRECTION OF VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN aren’t without worth, offering thought-provoking and oft-witty twists on several horror standards. Just keep in mind that to fully enjoy this collection you MUST be at least partially familiar with the classic stories retold herein!