Review: Frankenstein

Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus

                            FrankensteinAuthor: Mary Shelley

Gold StarsRating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Recommended Reading.

Genre: Literary Classic / Science Fiction/ Speculative Fiction.

A fevered young scientist pushing the limits of his trade beyond ethical boundaries; a creation more than human who strikes fear and horror into all those who see him; a world not ready for either ‘being’ and neither able to die while the other lives.

While this book has long been considered one of the greatest in the horror genre, by today’s standards Frankenstein is simply science fiction. For years I avoided reading this literary classic because of the Hollywood interpretation – it scared the socks off me and I never finished watching the film, so why would I read the book? But it’s not like that. Yes, the monster is labeled as grotesque and hideous but it is also clearly described as being that way because it is larger than life itself. At 8 feet tall it is disproportionate to the smaller humans of the era. Doctor Frankenstein pieced this creature together with the best elements of humanity in an attempt to make the perfect being.

It is remarkable the way Shelley shows readers the ethical implications the scientists of her day faced. And this stands true for today just as much as it did in days past. The idea of cloning, growing new organs genetically compatible to our own, and so much more is just as wondrous and frightening as a man re-animated from the flesh of the newly dead.

The humanity Shelly imbues the monster with, the emotions, hopes, and dreams, make this creature all the more frightening in a metaphorical sense. She reveals what we are capable of through the trials and tribulations of a monster asking the very question, “Who is really the monster here me or Dr. Frankenstein?”

My only warning for modern readers who look at picking up this book would be that it is not what you are expecting. It is a philosophical contemplation of the ethical outcomes of science and not a scare-me-silly monster story. Yes, choices the creature makes are horrific but as readers we can understand his reasoning, his child-like behaviour and yearning for love as well as his isolation at being ‘the only one of his kind.’

Frankenstein is a truly exceptional look at the human condition and the implications of pushing science too far. It is infused with passion, love, remorse, death, murder and revenge just as any good piece of fiction should be – it is life personified.

Review by M.J. Moores, Author, Editor, Freelance Writer.

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4 replies

  1. Years ago I had a double-story book – half was the original Dracula, the other half Shelley’s Frankenstein. I couldn’t finish either because they were just toooooo boring for me. LOL The ideas behind the stories are fabulous, and when they were first written, terrified people. I guess I’ve become immune because of Hollywood. 🙂

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    • The dynamics of writing are so different now, even from twenty years ago, that our expectations of what makes a good story vary widely. The concept of Dracula still sends shivers up my spine, but if it’s written more in the ‘old style’ perhaps I’ll crack it open too 😉 It’s important to put these classics in perspective. So many teens today (who I’ve taught or spoken with in a high school setting) are enthusiastic about reading Frankenstein and then do nothing but complain because it doesn’t match modern perceptions. I wonder how the book would read if it were “translated” into today’s writing style…?

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  2. I love these Gothic novels but the lavish and long descriptions are tedious at times. That said both books are chilling in their own way, Dracula especially. I felt Frankenstein had parts of it that could have been left out, there was no need for Captain Walton’s account at the start for example. It took away from the main protagonists.

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    • While I can see how Captain Walton’s account at the beginning may be a deterrent for modern readers, the book-ending of the story in this way gives a physical balance to the story. The simple fact that it’s Walton telling the story (as it was told to him) and not via the Doctor or his monster allows for a removed perspective on the course of events and yet allows readers to connect with the narrator unlike what a nameless non-presence of omnipotence would bring. It’s all about “human” connection, and Shelley is just trying to reach beyond the pages that hold the story 🙂

      Thanks for your insight, holdencaulfieldcampion!

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