AUTHOR: Mary Shelley
PUBLICATION: Oxford World's Classics,
PUBLICATION DATE: 2009 (originally 1818)
Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature's hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.
Frankenstein, an instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with Nature? In our age, filled with news of organ donation genetic engineering, and bio-terrorism, these questions are more relevant than ever.
I've never read Frankenstein before, or seen any of the movie adaptations, so didn't know what to expect. This is a story-within-a-story epistolary novel that starts off slowly but picks up pace in the second and third parts. The writing has it's moments, and on occasion was downright beautiful. I can see why English literature teachers love this novel - so many themes and ideas. I was, however, expecting more on how Frankenstein created the monster. This aspect was covered in all of one short paragraph. I also found Frankenstein's a bit daft for such an intelligent man. He wanted to create a being but simply had no thought for what to do with it (him?) once created? Frankenstein should have created a dog. That would have created less drama for both the monster and the Frankenstein family. None the less, an enjoyable story.
NOTE ON 1818 EDITION: This was the original novel as written by Mary Shelley. Later she revised it slightly to improve grammar. In 1831, Mary Shelley published a substantially modified edition of the novel, for reasons that can be summarized as political correctness and making the novel more "respectable" to the public. The Oxford 1818 edition provides a list of changes made for comparison.