As stated in a previous post, I adore all things Frankenstein. So when I found out about Pandora's Bride, I tried to find a copy in stores (which was futile). Recently I purchased a copy from Amazon - unfortunately, I didn't really find the book to be at the same level as other Frankenstein-esque titles I've read (Frankenstein's Monster, Frankenstein's Bride, The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein - which, to be fair, are all more recent titles, though not by much).
This is an officially sanctioned sequel to the Universal Studio's film The Bride of Frankenstein. For those who haven't seen the film, here's a spoiler alert - the Bride (played by Elsa Lanchester) is in the film for all of six minutes (and what glorious minutes they are!). The bulk of the film follows Dr. Pretorius as he slowly manipulates Henry Frankenstein into creating a female version of the creature. Though in the film Dr. Pretorius is supposed to be an evil man, I didn't quite find him to be so - after all, when no one else has taken pity on the creature (not even Henry, his creator), here is Pretorius, who steps up to give the creature something to help soothe his pain. Pretorius is found to be quite the mad scientist, having created several creatures already: all miniature in size, they vary from a king to a mermaid, each one more perfect than the last.
In the book, Pretorius continues his role of a gray-area benefactor to the female creature, who he adopts as a daughter of sorts. Perhaps in keeping with Shelley's original book, when the female creature is asked to pick a name for herself, she eventually settles on the greek Pandora, who is known for her curiosity and unwittingly releasing all of the horrors into the world; however, Pandora is described as a goddess of femininity (along with the more well known myth), which is what sways the female creature's decision. The story goes from Pandora's birthplace to the city of Berlin, with a wide cast that ranges from Pretorius' Children of Cain (the miniature creations he's made through various experiments, including a large horse that eats rodents), a narcoleptic named Cesare who acts as Pretorius' assistant, and another scientist named Rotwang who creates his beings out of mechanical parts. The villains of the piece turn out to be Henry and his wife Elizabeth, who are planning on remaking all females in the world into obedient slaves, through which they will control all men.
A theme of feminism is the most striking thing about the book, which is only natural since we're dealing with the creation of a woman solely for that of a mate (not unlike Eve in the Bible, but any Frankenstein-esque book is rarely without its religious themes) but it often comes off as heavy handed. I did enjoy having the main character be the bride herself, but I wish that she had shown the same amount of wit and inner turmoil that the creature exhibits in nearly every incarnation of Frankenstein that I've seen - instead she is of one mind, that she knows all, and if that's supposed to be a blatant statement about women, well, it's a poorly done one at that. Pandora bucks against expectations for her gender, but eventually comes to realize that one cannot be taken in by appearance and must learn from experience.
After reading Frankenstein's Monster by Susan O'Keefe, the writing definitely felt underpar; just as being sexually alluring is Dracula's trademark, the juxtaposition of an ugly exterior with a brilliant mind is Frankenstein's creature, and I simply didn't feel that level of intelligence coming through in the writing. I do enjoy the fact that the creature got a voice this time around (it's essential to his character, and being stripped of it in the film really destroys his evolution as put forth in the original book), and that he is also given a chance to prove himself to earn Pandora's affection; but honestly, the book doesn't do much that's new. It was also an incredibly quick read - I literally sat down and was done with it in the same day. I certainly wouldn't reccommend this book to a Frankenstein purist, either of the Universal Movies flavor or the book; I'm a little sick myself of seeing Henry/Victor being shoehorned into the villain role. I would tell anyone interested in this book to pass on it.