Monday, February 19, 2018

Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein. or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, read by Simon Vance*
Published: originally in 1818
Source: bought the audiobook at my local library book sale

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.

My Thoughts:
Frankenstein is one of those books that I've long felt like I "should" read but I really didn't have any interest in it. This was, of course, entirely based, almost entirely, on the movie adaptations I've seen of it. I envisioned a great lot of discussion of the piecing together of body parts, long passages of trial and error. But when I found the audiobook for only $2 at the library book sale, and it was only seven discs long, I decided to knock this one off the need-to-read list.

Certainly this is the perfect book for the R.I.P. challenge in the fall, but it is so much more than a horror story. Is it a science fiction story, then? Not entirely, even though science plays a big part in it early on and some sources say that it may well be the first real science fiction story written. For me, Frankenstein is more a psychological morality tale than anything else. It is certainly a book that remains relevant.

Recently scientists cloned monkeys; certainly there have to be those who think that humans can't be far behind. Mary Shelley seems to suggest we should rethink that. What of the consequences? Victor Frankenstein was certainly a man who allowed his obsession and intelligence to carry him into uncharted waters without thought of the ramifications.

Over the years, people have mistakenly called the creation "Frankenstein." More recently, the popular opinion has become that Victor is the real monster. I defy you to read this book and not come away from it still wondering about that.

Certainly Victor, immediately upon seeing what he had created, walked away, leaving his creation to fend in a world Victor knew would not accept him. On the other hand, the creation is a thinking being, who educates himself and then chooses violent revenge. And would it be right or wrong for Victor to create a mate for his Adam, as the creation demands?

There is so much to think about in this book and there are no easy answers.

*If you have never read this book, I highly recommend the audiobook. Simon Vance is, as ever, amazing. He truly makes the story come alive. Even though I often sat in my car a little longer than necessary to keep listening, I was never tempted to pick up a paper copy of the book so that I could keep reading because I wanted Vance to read me the book.


  1. I think the ideas that Mary Shelley explored in this novel are powerful. It's not a favorite book, but her ideas about responsibility and free will are timeless.

  2. I also enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. So many things to chew on and so relevant for our day still. I'd like to listen to it, though, the next time I read it! Sounds like it was quite the experience!

  3. I just read a book called Making the Monster by Kathryn Harkup which is kind of the historical context for Shelley's writing this book and it really made me want to read it! I think audio might be the perfect way to go. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I've never read this book (or watched any of the movies.) Is it scary? It sounds like it's kind of creepy, but there are a lot of books that are creepy without being scary. I'm a great big wimp when it comes to scary books. I wish I could read them, but I just can't handle it.