Sèphera Girón’s 2014’s Flesh Failure is a standalone horror story.
Agatha is a patchwork woman, covered in stitches and scars, smelling of death. She has been buried and left for dead, but claws her way out of the grave. She has only spotty memories of the people, and the process, that animated her.
It is London in 1888. Employment opportunities for women are few, and even fewer for scarred women who reek of the grave. It’s even hard to make friends, as few people can tolerate her smell … especially in the small, poorly ventilated rooms that are the lot of the poor. But Agatha persists, and eventually finds work as a fortune teller and freak. She even discovers that the occasional dose of electricity will temporarily reverse some of her more alarming symptoms.
Except for her tendency to ambush and consume the unwary. Ah well, nobody is perfect.
When Agatha’s creators dumped her in a shallow grave, they had no idea she was alive. They just wanted to dispose of what they thought to be an inanimate, failed assemblage of corpse parts. The thought that their creation might be alive and capable of tracking them down had never occurred to them. It occurs to Agatha. Her spotty memories lead her to further clues; clues lead her to the men responsible for her existence, such as it is.
And then …
It’s no coincidence that Agatha reminds the reader of Frankenstein’s monster, or Adam, as Mary Shelley’s book has it. Shelley’s work inspired the would-be resurrectionists, one of whom assembled Agatha from the brain of his lover and fragments from unfortunate prostitutes. Not all of Jack the Ripper’s victims were soiled doves, only the acknowledged ones .
Agatha is luckier than Adam because she is able to make friends and acquire allies, despite her alarming appearance and unpleasant stench1. Though poor, her friends do what they can for her. If this weren’t a horror story, that would be touching.
Another parallel: the men responsible for Agatha’s macabre rebirth abandoned her, just as Victor Frankenstein did his Adam. One of them was sure Agatha was dead and the other didn’t want to contradict his friend. But Agatha does manage to track them down, so happy endings all round, right?
Unfortunately, publisher Samhain Press closed down in 2016. Used copies of this book seem to be rare; there are none available through Bookfinder. If this sounds like your cup of tea, you have a quest ahead of you.
Sèphera Girón’s blog can be found here.
Please address corrections to jdnicoll at panix dot com.
1: The fact that Agatha has a tendency towards lethal violence is generally the last thing anyone learns about her, so it has little effect on her ability to form friendships. It would limit the duration of such friendships, of course.