David Neades tackles weighty questions of morality, predestination and the very nature of human evil in his debut novel Legacy of the Monster.
These complex questions undergird a short tale of two men living in the same small American town, individuals who, in past lives, helped steer the course of world history in two very different ways. Both Karl Bear and Joseph Mendoza are reincarnated souls brought back to Earth at the whim of two gods bent on conducting an experiment.
In past lives, the pair exemplified the best and worst of human nature; one lived as one of history’s greatest criminals and butchers, the other as one of the world’s most inspirational and impassioned voices of peace. The gods Eldor and Showden have summoned the souls of Adolf Hitler and Mahatma Gandhi to live in the same time and place, to see if evil is redeemable and if good is durable.
In their new lives, Bear and Mendoza experience very different upbringings and clash only later, when the life of an innocent woman named Emily is threatened. They come together in a conflict that pits the best and worst in human nature, a struggle that offers the gods unexpected insights into the fundamental nature of morality.
In reviving two very different historical figures in a contemporary setting, Neades manages to tackle some intriguing questions. The author’s prose is direct and clean, a style that adds depth to the narration, despite the novel’s small scale. Across less than 100 pages, Neades manages to adequately realize the potential of his interesting narrative proposition.
The brevity of the book lends it the feel of a short story, and readers looking for a detailed exploration of ethical questions may be left yearning for more. Nonetheless, this is a quick read—an enjoyable “what if” exercise that encompasses genuinely interesting moral questions and manages to pack in subplots of action and romance, to boot.
Also available in hardcover.