on October 28, 2015
On writing this review, I had to remind myself this novel is 200 hundred years old and likely the first of its kind, and therefore as original as a novel can ever be. Today's horror writers would not get away with the long narratives, wordy dialogue and second (and third) accounts told through various people.
But none of this really mattered. The rich and dense writing style did not get in the way of the story, which drew me in from the first. Poor Frankenstein is doomed the moment he creates the monster and immediately regrets doing so. I had to smile to myself when Frankenstein returns to see the monster gone. 'Thank heavens,' he thinks, 'my troubles are over!' As if! The monster denied a companion or of humanity returns to pick off Frankenstein's loved ones. I felt sorry for the monster that bore no resemblance to the Hollywoodized cliché we imagine. A creepy and dark tale; horror fans who omit this book from their reading list are missing out.
on January 30, 2016
Third or fourth time reading; and I would guess as many times buying a copy - maybe a couple more. Can't go wrong with this classic. This should be read instead of 'A Separate Peace' or 'Lord of the Flies'.
Almost everybody I know has heard of Frankenstein. Maybe not its original story, but various adaptations and references either in movies, music songs, video clips, television, and video games involve Mary Shelley' storyline or its two characters; Victor Frankenstein and his unnamed creature which some people or movies have even named or confused with the title of the book's title/creator's name. For me, it wasn't until I saw Ken Russell's movie Gothic that I decided to read the original story.
In this 200 pages novel, we have a story within a story where Captain Walton, in an epistolary prose, narrates his sailing toward the North Pole and his rescue of Victor Frankenstein he found strapped on a block of ice. Saving the man's life, but also learning the misfortunes that the scientist experienced as he gave birth to a creature whose existence has destroyed his life. In a story about the quest for knowledge and power, but at the terrible cost of several losses.
Of the Arcturus Edition, this novel doesn't have any illustrations apart from the front cover. The text is transcribed in its entirety, along with a summary on Mary Shelly's life. The prose is easily readable, an fusion of both the Gothic and romanticism currents. Lots of descriptions regarding the emotions, torments, and joys of the characters. Making it a very expressive and emotional read.
As such, this novel was a wonderful opportunity to uncover the original story that inspired all those adaptations. Which some have called one of the first example of Science Fiction literature.
Everyone has heard of Frankenstein's monster... or at least the Hollywood version, with green skin, boxy head and bolts in his neck.
But the original creature is quite different in Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein," which starts off rather slow but builds into a tragic, darkly hypnotic tale about tampering in God's domain, and the terrible consequences that come from it. Also: if you create a new creature out of dead body parts, don't disown him or he'll kill your family.
During a trip across the Arctic, a ship picks up a starved, half-frozen man named Victor Frankenstein. As he recovers, Frankenstein tells them his life story -- especially about how he became fascinated with science, and developed a process to reanimate dead tissue. Eventually he constructs a new creature out of dead body parts, and brings him to life.
But while the creature is intelligent and articulate, he's also hideously ugly. Horrified that he's not beautiful, Frankenstein flees... and has a nervous breakdown. Wimp.
But months later, the murder of his little brother brings Victor back to his home, where he figures out that the creature was involved. And to his horror, the creature now wants a mate. But the loathing between them -- caused by Frankenstein's disgust and the creature's increasing bitterness -- leads to even more tragedy...
"Frankenstein" is one of those rare novels that is almost beyond classification -- it's gothic horror, it's sci-fi, it's a tragedy about scientific ambition that goes where it shouldn't go. Mary Shelley was only eighteen years old when she began writing this book, but she interwove religion, science and a fiercely intelligent knowledge of human nature into it.
Her writing is a bit stuffy at times ("All praises bestowed on her I received as made to a possession of my own"), but that's because it was written in the early 1800s. Despite this, Shelley's writing skills shine in the more horrific moments of the story ("I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs"), and she imbues it with a sense of painful, grimy suspense.
But the complicated characters of Victor and the creature are what really make the story work. Victor is actually a pretty horrible person -- while he's a tragic figure whose unnatural ambitions end up destroying his wife, brother and father, he's also incredibly cruel and callous to the creature because... he's ugly.
The creature, on the other hand, instantly gets our sympathy. He's intelligent and childlike at first, but his ugliness causes everyone to immediately hate and fear him. When him becomes embittered and eventually murderous, you still feel sorry for him.
Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" is one of those few, rare horror books -- it adds a little more of that scientific gothic atmosphere to a classic tale of horror, slime and sorrow.
(Note: this review is for publisher Simon & Schuster's "enriched classic" edition of this book)
"Published [anonymously] in 1818, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's "Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus" is a model for Gothic fiction, science fiction, and all the horror novels that followed it. Weaving the Gothic elements of the supernatural, terror, anguish, and love with the Romantic values of nature and individualism, Shelley delivers a chilling tale about unchecked ambition and the consequences of disturbing the order of nature. Generations of scientists, ethicists, psychologists, feminists, and artists have been inspired and riveted by Mary Shelley's dark story."
The above comes from the supplementary (or "enriched") materials found in this book that contains the "complete and unabridged" enduring classic novel by Mary Shelley (1797 to 1851).
The structure of this book has front supplementary material (a superb introduction, chronology of Shelley's life and works, and an important historical context of the novel) and back supplementary material (very important notes or glossary, interpretive notes which includes an overview of key themes in the novel, excerpts from critics of the novel, discussion questions, and a suggested book and film list). Sandwiched between this front and back supplementary material is the unforgettable novel itself.
This is not mentioned in the table of contents but the novel in this book is flanked by a preface (written by Shelley's husband who drowned in 1822) and an introduction to the edited third edition of this novel (written by Shelley herself in 1831).
Thus, the structure of this book with no detail is as follows:
Front supplementary material, preface, the novel proper, introduction, back supplementary material.
On the back cover of this book it has the phrase "enduring literature illuminated by practical scholarship." You'll have to read the novel to find out exactly why it has endured since 1818. What I can say is that the novel is "a timeless, terrifying tale of one man's obsession to create life--and the monster that became his legacy." (By the way, the Frankenstein movies that you may have seen bear little resemblance to the actual novel.) It is the concise supplementary material that is the practical scholarship which illuminates this novel.
This book is part of the "Enriched Classics" series which has good, helpful supplementary material. This series includes such titles as "Wuthering Heights," "Great Expectations," and "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."
Finally, there were only two things that irritated me with respect to this particular book:
(1) On the cover page it states that the "supplemental material [is] written by Margaret Brantley." Who's Margaret Brantley? We're never told.
(2) We're not explicitly told the edition of the novel that's in this book. (Through doing my own research, it seems it is the original 1818 edition.)
In conclusion, this is truly a great work of literature that, as a bonus, is enhanced with helpful notes and insightful commentary. I guarantee that after reading this book, you will know the REAL story of "Frankenstein!"
(published 2009; supplementary materials published 2004; novel first published 1818; introduction; chronology of Mary Shelly's life and work; historical context of the novel; preface; the novel "Frankenstein;" Mary Shelley on her novel; notes; interpretive notes; critical excepts; questions for discussion; suggestions for the interested reader; 350 pages)
(novel "Frankenstein" in 4 letters and 3 parts or 23 chapters; 270 pages)
<<Stephen PLETKO, London, Ontario, Canada>>
on November 9, 2012
What hasn't been said about "Frankenstein"? 200 years after its publication, this book on the relation between the creator and his creature is still part of our culture. The myth that became a legend that became a myth. I loved this book, from the imagery that takes its roots in the Romantic poetry (Mary Shelley was married to Percy Bysshe Shelley, a Romantic poet) to the relation between Frankenstein and his creature, and the relation the reader entertains with the text. This Penguin Classics edition is also great for the annotations and the prefaces, if you want to go beyond the story and understand where Mary Shelley got her inspirations and why and how she wrote it. Plus it's cheap.
More than all though, I loved to read this classic because it shatters everything that has been added to the story of "Frankenstein". Forget Igor, forget the dumb green creature walking laboriously, get ready for a nice ride!
P.S.: If you have a Kindle, you can get this book for free.
on June 7, 2015
This book is absolutely great. The quality really astounded me for the price I paid, the story in their is the original, unedited version written by Mary Shelley and that's worth much more than what i paid.
on September 29, 2013
Mary Shelley has created a legend! This legend, leads us to the pure terror where science has no place there. When science is crossing over religion, something unexplainable and hrorrifying would happen.
The commentary tries to give depth and meaning to this poorly written story.
Victor grew up reading the works of Paracelsus, Agrippa, and Albertus Magnus, the alchemists of the time. Toss in a little natural philosophy (sciences) and you have the making of a monster. Or at least a being that after being spurned for looking ugly becomes ugly. So for revenge the creature decides unless Victor makes another (female this time) creature, that Victor will also suffer the loss of friends and relatives. What is victor to do? Bow to the wishes and needs of his creation? Or challenge it to the death? What would you do?
Although the concept of the monster is good, and the conflicts of the story well thought out, Shelly suffers from the writing style of the time. Many people do not finish the book as the language is stilted and verbose for example when was the last time you said, "Little did I then expect the calamity that was in a few moments to overwhelm me and extinguish in horror and despair all fear of ignominy of death."
Much of the book seems like travel log filler. More time describing the surroundings of Europe than the reason for traveling or just traveling. Many writers use traveling to reflect time passing or the character growing in stature or knowledge. In this story they just travel a lot.
This book is definitely worth plodding through for moviegoers. The record needs to be set strait. First shock is that the creator is named Victor Frankenstein; the creature is just "monster" not Frankenstein. And it is Victor that is backwards which added in him doing the impossible by not knowing any better. The monster is well read in "Sorrows of a Young Werther," "Paradise Lost," and Plutarch's "Lives." The debate (mixed with a few murders) rages on as to whether the monster was doing evil because of his nature or because he was spurned?
on October 20, 2001
Written almost two centuries ago, Shelley's science-fiction/horror novel "Frankenstein" retains its powerful messages and questions to this very day.
A devoted scientist, Victor Frankenstein, attempts to return to life a body he has constructed from various human parts. He succeeds, only to realize the hideousness of his creation, and subsequently flee.
Confused but sympathetic, Frankenstein's monster finds himself shunned by humans. Eventually, a series of tragedies turns him against humanity, and he turns his thoughts to seeking revenge on his creator for not providing him with either protection or companionship. Meanwhile, Frankenstein is determined to protect himself and his family, while removing his mistake from the world. The two spend the latter portion of the novel in a drawn-out duel, spiralling towards misery for both of them.
Shelley's work raises profound questions about the limits of science, its requirements for wisdom as well as intelligence, the responsibilities of parents, and the nature of revenge - quite an accomplishment for a novel of only 250 pgs. Highly recommended.