In the Bookcase

8.29.2017

Book Review: Frankenstein

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (4 star review)


Frankenstein

written by Mary Shelley

324 pages // published in 1818 // gothic literature




BOOK DESCRIPTION

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the world’s most famous Gothic novel about eccentric scientist Victor Frankenstein, who creates a grotesque creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. Shelley's work is considered to be the world's first science fiction, with Frankenstein’s monster being a symbol of science gone awry. Shelley’s masterpiece has inspired numerous films, plays and other books.




My Review


4 Star Rating


“Frankenstein” is a peek into the true nature of man, and man's response to “ugliness” of the world, even in each other.

“... a fatal prejudice clouds their eyes, and where they ought to see a feeling and kind friend, they behold only a detestable monster.”

On the surface, it's the unbelievable story of how a scientist works so hard at “infusing life into an inanimate body”, and his creation that becomes destructive and a monster to humanity. But when we look at the story deeper, we see, yes, this strange being “becomes” a monster through his actions; he wasn't a monster or even scary just because a scientist pulled him into the land of the living, but only due to his character and conduct. The same goes for all of us, you know; people can become monster-like, based on their actions, not looks.

“Wealth was an inferior object, but what glory would attend the discovery if I could banish disease from the human frame and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!”

Now, this monster, after being born into the world, must grasp knowledge on his own, and does it rather swiftly. He ponders about himself, “My person was hideous and my stature gigantic. What did this mean? Who was I? Whence did I come? What was my destination? These questions continually recurred, but I was unable to solve them.”

And as for Dr. Frankenstein? He transitions from being master of a science never known to man before, being an absolute genius... to feeling like the scum of the earth, creator of destruction, and finally, one full of revenge. “I was guiltless, but I had indeed drawn down a horrible curse upon my head, as mortal as that of crime.” … “I am, by a course of strange events, become the most miserable of mortals.”

I've seen some of the old, vintage Frankenstein films. But the actual book is nothing like the horror story the films portray. In fact, forget Boris Karloff completely; the green skin (it was actually yellow *cough*), the metal bolts in the neck, the incoherent moaning. The strange creature in the book is actually a very articulate being, using the English language so well, it's ridiculous. What an eloquent and polished speaker he is.

“His tale and the feelings he now expressed proved him to be a creature of fine sensations.”

Some Christians may not be completely comfortable with the subject matter of the book, namely, the fact that a humble man creates life, or in Dr. Frankenstein's own words, became “capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.” I do recall at one point that he vaguely mentions “the creation of the world”, but then inversely has thoughts such as the following: “Whence, I often asked myself, did the principle of life proceed? It was a bold question, and one which has ever been considered as a mystery...” Not a mystery to believers, one we wouldn't question.

I've got to admit, some of of the story can get a bit dry. At the beginning of the story, I yearned for the actual “adventure” to begin (it took a few chapters before I felt like I was reading something). After it got going, it still had its dry spells, and this could deter some readers, but if you're like me, I pushed through and was rewarded with the achievement of finally reading Frankenstein. I can cross that off my bucket list. The story focused a lot on emotions moreso than action; in this regard especially is where I think the films have veered away, reversing the ratio. Sometimes I thought that certain chapters read similarly to Charles Dickens (who brought lots of emotion into any story) or Robert Louis Stevenson (who was an adventurer at heart, it seems), but at other times the story would still drag.

There are some pretty murderous (or suicidal) thoughts found throughout, sentences like so: “...but if you refuse, I will glut the maw of death, until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends.” Now there's a horrific threat, if I ever heard one.

Shelley herself has such a wide vocabulary. I was always checking on words to find out what they mean, and it was a bit fascinating. That's classic literature for you.

So, there is a lot in this story – this gothic classic through the ages. “Frankenstein” may be labeled as a scary book or horror story, but the scary thing about is that humankind, ourselves, can be just as destructive as any fictional monster.



Available on Amazon in paperback format, and on Project Gutenberg in e-book format.

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This is book #7 for me in the Back to the Classics 2017 challenge.
[CATEGORY: Gothic/Horror Classic]





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