Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

Donovan's Brain, by Curt Siodmak

Second paragraph of third diary entry:
Schratt has lived in Konapah for more than thirty years. The heat has dried up his energies. He has become as superstitious as the Indians of his district. If his medical ethics permitted, he would prescribe snake charms and powdered toads for his patients.
This is another finalist for the Best Novel Retro Hugo for 1943, a short novel which was the basis of several memorable films. Our protagonist, a mildly corrupt doctor in a desert town in the Western USA, rescues the brain of evil millionaire Donovan, who is fatally injured in a plane crash, and finds a way of keeping it alive; but the brain is stronger than its human minders, and manipulates them to continue its original owner's evil plans of various kinds (notably perverting the course of justice). It's a basic horror plot of possession, but there's a tremendously convincing air of despairing degeneracy about the entire story (the narrator is disgusted with himself) and nods to the latest technology as of 1942.

It's striking that of the six finalists for the Best Novel category in this year's Retro Hugos, three are from firmly outside genre publishing as it then was (Islandia, The Uninvited and Darkness and the Light). I think both Donovan's Brain and The Uninvited would fit more comfortably into today's horror shelves.
Tags: bookblog 2018, hugos 2018, retro hugos 1943

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