A heaping helping of Hyde

Along with my recent viewing of Jekyll and Hyde movies, I’ve also been doing some reading, starting with, of course, THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE by Robert Louis Stevenson.By modern standards, this reads very oddly (as do those other seminal horror texts, Dracula and Frankenstein). As Leonard Wollf’s annotated version points out (I only glanced at a few footnotes, as I’ve read it before), two of the three times we see Hyde before the finish are second hand accounts rather than real time. It doesn’t scare me the way it did as a kid — I couldn’t finish it — but it’s still entertaining. Things I’d forgotten when I wrote Questionable Minds are that Jekyll isn’t just comfortable, he’s seriously rich — the luxurious mansion in the 1931 version (from which I took that Miriam Hopkins/Fredric March scene above) is about right. Another is that for all Jekyll talks about the two natures of man, he comes off as having only one, venal and preening — he doesn’t want to be good as much as be seen as a good man. It’s the hypocrisy as well as the horror that has made the book last.

HYDE by Craig Russell is a Name Only riff in which Edinburgh detective Edward Hyde investigates a sinister pagan Celtic cult despite these terrifying blackouts in which he has no idea what he might have done or to whom …This was a competent horror thriller but as it had nothing to do with Stevenson (Hyde isn’t a split personality and doesn’t have the dark side he fears) I’m thumbing it down anyway, because “competent horror thriller” isn’t what I was looking for.

HYDE by Daniel Levine has a great concept, telling the story from the POV of Edward Hyde.  Unfortunately Levine’s idea of a big reveal is that Hyde was always there (a childhood dissociative personaltiy spawned from abuse) and the drug just brought him out. That doesn’t work for me at all, nor does the idea Hyde isn’t really a villain (the idea Jekyll is is implict in Stevenson and so hardly shocking). I’m also annoyed by the afterword in which he claims Jekyll’s motives for unleashing Hyde are one of the questions he sought to answer when Stevenson spelled them out in the book. I put this one down unfinished.

MARY REILLY by Valerie Martin nominally tells the story from the POV of Jekyll’s housemaid but it focuses much more on the everyday life of a British servant, which as with the Russell book isn’t what I picked this  up for. I find Mary implausibly happy in her domestic role too — she reminds me of the happy black cooks and maids in so many comedies and TV shows of 60-80 years ago.

THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE: An Electric Empire Novel by Viola Carr is the first in the trilogy that ended with The Dastardly Miss Lizzie (though I don’t recall thinking it was the endpoint when I finished it). Jekyll’s daughter Eliza is a forensic investigator and MD in a steampunk alt.Victorian world (the turning point is that an immortal Isaac Newton has been manipulating science and politics for his own ends), here investigating a pattern killer (chops off a ballerina’s legs and other professional body parts). Lizzie’s investigation is undercut by a Royal Society agent and her dark side, Lizzie Hyde. The transformations, fueled by stress, make them rather Banner/Hulk like, but the two quasi-sisters are quite close and protective of each other.

This was less fun than the later book because even in a steampunk world, serial killers don’t interest me (the big reveal of what they’re planning is, but not anything leading up to that) — and there’s even a second one, an imprisoned Hannibal Lecter type playing mentor to Eliza’s Clarice. And as with the later volume, I can’t figure out the dating: it appears to be early 20th century but Newton refers to Origin of Species as a new book. Would stating the date be that hard? Still, this was the most fun of any of the books here.

#SFWApro. Cover by Gene Mollica, all rights to images remain with current holders.

1 Comment

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One response to “A heaping helping of Hyde

  1. Pingback: Bad, bad, bad, bad girls, they make me feel so … uncomfortable? | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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