Author: Mary Shelley
Genre: Fiction, horror, gothic, science fiction, classics
Where I got the book: I purchased this book through Bokkilden.
My rating: ★★★★☆
Summary: Victor Frankenstein is a young and ambitious scientist who becomes obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life. In an unorthodox experiment, he successfully assembles and brings to life a human being from stolen body parts, but he finds the giant creature so hideous and terrifying that he immediately rejects it. Isolated and lonely, the once innocent creature turns evil and sets out to take revenge on Frankenstein, his creator.
“There is love in me the likes of which you’ve never seen. There is rage in me the likes of which should never escape. If I am not satisfied in the one, I will indulge the other.”
– Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
I started reading “Frankenstein” without knowing much about it at all. I already knew that Frankenstein was the name of the creator, not the monster (although for a long time I really did associate the name with the typical Halloween “Frankenstein” costume, you know the one). Some years back I also read the manga-adaptation by Junji Ito. If you’re familiar with Ito’s work however, you’ll know that his art and storytelling are both excellent, but also so gross that this is very often the one thing that stays with you the most – at least that’s my experience. So my knowledge of “Frankenstein” was limited – and probably warped thanks to all the different movie adaptations – which is why I really wanted to read the original.
The novel is set in the 18th century and written in epistolary form, where Victor Frankenstein’s story is documented through a correspondence between Captain Robert Walton and his sister, Margaret Walton Saville. I honestly expected this to be a scary read, and not the sad and heartbreaking tale it turned out to be.
In my opinion there are so many themes to be found and discussed in this novel other than the horror-aspect itself, and that is maybe my favorite thing about it. Usually, if I read something that’s classified as “horror”, I definitely consider it a disappointing read if I didn’t find it to be that scary after all. But in this case I didn’t even think much of it because it was so interesting and gripping all the same.
On one hand this book is about the notion of playing God, of the ambition and the intelligence and the means that somehow enables you to do something extraordinary. How far should you go in the name of science? Should you do something just because you can – and is it worth the cost and the sacrifices? On the other hand this novel is truly human at its core – it’s about the fear of the unknown and the different, it’s about how harshly a world that lacks understanding is perceived, it’s about how superficially and quickly we judge simply based on first impressions and outward appearance, it’s about rootlessness and finding purpose in life, and it’s about alienation and the need to belong, to be included. It also raises some big philosophical questions related to identity, the self, and our existence – who are we, where do we come from, why are we here? The creature is deeply human in his character – he, too, grows and learns and needs and wants, and he is the character I sympathize with the most. Things could have had a drastically different outcome if Frankenstein hadn’t outright rejected his very own creation. And this applies to almost everyone else in this story, too. In many ways, the true horror of the novel is all these things.
That said, I have to admit this wasn’t a flawless read for me. It’s impressive that Shelley was only 18 years old when she started writing this, I love the fact that this is considered to be one of the earliest examples of the science fiction genre and that it’s by a female writer, and I think the writing itself is generally beautiful and poetic. Still, it took a while for me to get into it. I honestly thought many passages lacked a certain flow and dragged on for a long time, and some parts were just much more interesting than others. And although I do sympathize with Victor Frankenstein for all the pain and the losses he suffered, I personally find him to be one of the most melodramatic characters I’ve ever read about. I also ended up not caring much for his character because of his behavior and lack of compassion and responsibility. I’m willing to look past all that, though, because the themes in this book and the portrayal of Frankenstein’s creation really stayed with me.
So overall, I enjoyed this! The imagery is great, but the emotions and the characters even more so. It’s a novel that was ahead of its time and discusses issues that absolutely are still important and relevant today.