One of the best things about the Indie Book Revolution is that readers have the chance to read stories that never would have seen the light of day under the previous model of publishing. Compelling, interesting, and engaging stories that would have been shunned by the New York publishing houses. Yet thanks to the digital revolution, we get to enjoy these imaginative tales for ourselves. We get to be the Gatekeepers.
Michael Bunker’s newest book Brother, Frankenstein is one of those books. Of course, we don’t know for sure, but it is too daring, too out of the box, too…Amish…to be a traditionally published book. We like our Amish in neat little romance books. A girl in an apron on the front cover, clutching a bouquet of flowers, and a covered wagon driving away in the distance. There’s too much risk to allow the Amish to mix with sci-fi in the way Bunker does in Brother, Frankenstein.
But in that risk, in taking a leap of faith that readers can cope with “out of the box,” Bunker has achieved a wonderful book that transcends many of the books you would be able to find on the shelf of Barnes and Noble today.
In a way, this was always meant to be. The simple life of the Amish, combined with the world’s first truly science fiction story – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The moral dilemmas that Dr. Frankenstein encountered and dealt with in the groundbreaking novel are presented here as well. In Bunker’s work, Dr. Chris Alexander has a military grade robot body that is just in need of a heart and brain. The donations come from an autistic Amish boy who was dying anyway. Dr. Alexander believes he is giving the boy a gift. Another chance at life…in a body that can wipe entire towns off the map with the firepower contained within.
As Dr. Alexander goes on the run with Frank, the government sends in an agent who is as ruthless as he is skilled at his job – Cyrano Dresser. Dresser approaches the search for Frank and the Doc as his own White Whale, and has no problem in running over whoever gets in his way. He is a special type of evil villain and I can totally see the character on the big screen.
So, with the government hunting them down, where do the fugitives go? Amish country of course. There they fit in (as best they can), and Alexander works to contain Frank’s emotions. Emotions aren’t Frank’s friends – that’s because when he gets mad, he transforms into a Voltron-type robot capable of mass destruction. Not quite Amish.
In the end, I found the book to be quite enjoyable and Bunker’s best work to date. Pennsylvania was a Bunker’s previous attempt at “Amish Sci-Fi” but he’s refined his style and his pacing in Brother, Frankenstein was much improved. The stakes are high for Alexander and his experiment, and the emotional payoff for the reader and for Frank is worth it.