Gaston Leroux – the author of The Phantom of the Opera – wrote The Machine to Kill in NINETEEN TWENTY-FOUR. Many book sites list it as 1935, but that was just the year it was finally translated into English. It has also been published in English under the titles The Bloody Puppet and The Gory Puppet.
Personally I would use the title The Clockwork Dead Man or The Clockwork Killer because for modern readers The Machine to Kill sounds like a traditional science fiction tale and both variations of the “Puppet” title make it sound like it’s about a killer puppet.
In reality this neglected Gaston Leroux novel is a horror/sci fi hybrid about an android/ cyborg mix whose mechanized body has been outfitted with the brain, eyes and nervous system of a guillotined murderer. The robotic man – called Gabriel – was created by Dr Jacques Cotentin, who needed an absolutely fresh brain, hence having to settle for a just-executed criminal.
And not just any criminal, but Benedict Masson, a monstrous-looking recluse put to death for a series of gory dismemberment killings whose quasi-sexual nature probably shocked readers in 1924. The foolish Dr Cotentin believed the brain and nervous system would simply serve as an operating system for Gabriel, animating his body but with no consciousness of its previous life. Continue reading