June 10th, 2014

pearly whites.

Review: Hyde by Daniel Levine

by Daniel Levine

In Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the world was introduced to a curious serum that allowed Dr. Jekyll to split himself into a “good” doctor and the wicked Mr. Hyde, who grows in power until his evil personality threatens to obliterate the doctor completely. At least, that is story as told by Dr. Jekyll and his friend, the lawyer Utterson. Now, Mr. Hyde finally gets a chance to share his own version of events as he hides in Dr. Jekyll’s surgical cabinet, waiting for his inevitable capture. He reveals the character not of an amoral monster, but of a man capable of episodes of violence but also of heroism. As he leads a life separate from that of Dr. Jekyll, Hyde becomes aware that periods of time have passed of which he has no memory, and begins to fear that he is not the only presence sharing the body with Jekyll.

Daniel Levine fleshes out Dr. Jekyll’s background, providing greater motivation for him to embark on his strange experiment. Now Jekyll is motivated not just by scientific inquiry, but traumas from an abusive childhood, a failed romance, and the failure to save a patient with a controversial treatment haunt the doctor and his quest to escape himself. Likewise, Hyde’s adventures while in control of the body reveal an independent life complete with his own home, his own favored haunts, and even a lover.

The conflict also moves away from an internal struggle between Jekyll and Hyde as outside forces try to frame Hyde for an ever-escalating list of crimes. A mysterious tormenter called Mr. Seek is a real, foreboding presence determined to destroy Hyde. It becomes difficult to tell the difference between the real and the imagined as it becomes clear that neither Hyde nor Jekyll can account for episodes of amnesia, and as the danger escalates their control continues to slip.

Levine’s exploration of multiple personalities and mental illness would have been enough to justify revisiting this classic tale, but by piling on an old girlfriend for Jekyll and a group of men intent on persecuting Hyde he clutters the story unnecessarily. . The narrative is somewhat repetitive, and at times quite slow and plodding. Hyde may be humanized and tamed, but he lost something in the process, and this version of the character just never captivates in the way Stevenson’s Hyde does. When it comes to describing the gritty, dirty underbelly of Victorian society, Levine shines. Even though I didn’t much enjoy this one, the quality of the writing makes me look forward to the author’s next novel, and I cross my fingers that next time he’ll create his own story instead of retreading someone else’s work.

For those who have never read Stevenson's original novella, never fear - that story is reprinted in this book after the conclusion of Hyde.

3 out of 5 stars

To read more about Hyde, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: Queen Jezebel (The Medici Trilogy #3) by Jean Plaidy
2012: Nevermore: A Graphic Adaptation by Edgar Allan Poe, et al.
2011: Fashionista Piranha will be on hiatus for a while…
2010: Sometimes We’re Always Real Same-Same by Mattox Roesch
2009: Murder of a Medici Princess by Caroline P. Murphy