Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

penguin classics cover of Frankenstein
© Penguin Classics, 2003.

Synopsis:


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.” (Source: Goodreads)

Review:


Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley is famous for its horrific antagonist, a monster created by Victor Frankenstein. Hailed as one of the most influential contributors to the horror genre, Shelley’s work has been immortalized time and time again in films that are completely and utterly misleading. It is perhaps because of my love of these adaptations that I found their source, Frankenstein difficult to complete.

It must be noted, first and foremost, that though Frankenstein is catalogued as horror and science-fiction, the first of these two genres only fits because the monster that Victor Frankenstein creates within its pages is a horrid, deviant creature with an absolutely terrifying countenance and a malignant heart. Overall, the story itself is one of love and loss, wherein our protagonist, Frankenstein, falls victim to the very being he so foolishly created.

When picking up Frakenstein, I feel the need to advise potential readers that the story upon which they are about to embark does not in any way or form encompass the films we horror fanatics so deeply cherish. In fact, the closest adaptation I’ve encountered thus far on television is in the three season series, Penny Dreadful. Here, Frankenstein and his monster appear as the most accurate depiction of their literary selves.

Within the book itself, the story focuses most on Victor Frankenstein and his upcoming marriage to his cousin, Elizabeth. This element of the plot serves as the culmination of the supposed horror element of this book. It is only out of necessity to complete readings of classic horror literature that I endeavored to finish this title, and thus discovered that the genre of gothic romance most aptly fitting. That said, I feel it is not fair to rate my disdain of the book based solely on the adaptations that are crucial to the horror genre. Taking into account the heavier notes of romance, I find that the story is overall okay – and nothing more. There is no doubt that, without this book, the horror genre would be grossly different. Our ideas of the mad scientist and his abominable creations would not exist as we know it today without Shelley’s book. For that, I am grateful.

This title can be found for free on most reading devices, as the publication itself is part of public domain.

Rating: 💀💀💀