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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More original and disturbing than any "Frankenstein" film
In the past I have read several science fiction "classics" such as "War of the worlds", "The Lost World" and several Jules Verne and it is probably been fair to say that these books have been undone by "science fact" with their enduring appeal proabably assisted by Hollywood films or BBC productions. These books have proved to be hugely disappointing and frequently very...
Published on 22 Jan. 2011 by Ian Thumwood

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a personal favourite.
This is one of those classic novels, “The Great Gatsby” is another”, that I have never been able to love. Despite many readings and having taught both at various levels, the qualities that so many admire elude me. It is not a matter of style, at least not in the sense that some find the book hard to cope with. For me the great Victorian novels of...
Published 4 months ago by Bluecashmere.


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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More original and disturbing than any "Frankenstein" film, 22 Jan. 2011
By 
Ian Thumwood "ian17577" (Winchester) - See all my reviews
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In the past I have read several science fiction "classics" such as "War of the worlds", "The Lost World" and several Jules Verne and it is probably been fair to say that these books have been undone by "science fact" with their enduring appeal proabably assisted by Hollywood films or BBC productions. These books have proved to be hugely disappointing and frequently very poorly written. Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" is saturated in the melodrama of her age but the quality of the writing and the true horror in many instances genuinely mark this book up as a classsic.

The most striking thing is just how different this book is from your perception. I was surprised just how little I actually knew of the story as it bears no resemblance to any film about "Frankenstein" I have seen. In fact, Shelley offers very little physical description of her "daemon" and the horror of the narrative stems from the fact that the monster has almost super-human powers with which to torment his creator Victor Frankenstein. I was fascinated by the first third of the book and by the time I had read with disbelief that the story could take such a turn concerning the machinations that brought about the fate of the character Justine, I was totally hooked. Oddly for a book of the early 19th Century, the story does not conclude with a totally satisfactory ending and the monster's intended fate would definately have shocked the audience of the time. Part of the book's success stems from the fact that the monster is extremely intelligent and has a strong conscience yet remains hell bent on bringing about the most terrible destruction of the things his creator holds dear.

Ultimately, my impression was why had film directors in the past taken so many liberties with the original story when this would so obviously make a powerful film with some wonderful locations and plenty of menace to produce a piece of cinema that would have such memorable scenes as to be compelling. Definately worth checking out.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dreadfully good..., 7 Sept. 2010
I was probably blessed in that, before I read this hands-down classic, I hadn't seen any film adaptations of it, not even the famous 1931 version that created the iconic Halloween costume. I had a faint inkling of the story but not much else and I'm more than glad that I began reading with little of these preconceptions, and thus finishing it made it all the more worthwhile. This is one of those books that leaves you with the "I've just read a classic" feeling.

Using the letters of Walton, captain of an Arctic vessel, as a the framing device, Shelley is able to launch the reader into her dark world of galvanism and horror that truly pigeonhole this novel into the Gothic genre. The brutality of the things inflicted upon the poor Victor Frankenstein by his creation are told with a gripping and intense voice, one that speaks often about his traumatised mind - it is for this reason that I have dropped one star from five, as at a few points in the novel I felt that these passages were a little too excessive and rambling, but it is this psychological depth that gives the book its impact. It's rare that I feel genuinely sorry for a character, but Victor Frankenstein is now an exception due to the sheer number of tragedies that befall him.

Similar to other novels of the genre such as The Monk, several of the chapters are taken up by an account given by the Monster himself, something which I never expected - I was under the impression due to Hollywood cliches that the creature couldn't talk! This narrative is in itself heartbreaking, due to the Monster's lack of human contact, his slow shunning of society and his descent into bitter twistedness that forces him to commit all manner of terrifying deeds.

The book's main argument - the consequences of playing God - does indeed seem increasingly relevant, what with the growing power of science and its need to understand everything. Perhaps Shelley considered her novel a warning, foretelling what might happen if scientists went a step too far? Perhaps the creation of robots that look and act scarily human is on a par with Frankenstein's cadaverous monster? Whole essays could be written on the subject! Lord only knows what impact this book made at the time, dealing with issues that were so ahead of its time!

So on the whole a good strong classic that is essential reading for all. And just why is it considered such a masterwork? Because it's so darn good! A little bit superfluous in places, but nonetheless a gripping, gloomy and Gothic classic.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a personal favourite., 9 Jan. 2015
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Bluecashmere. (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This is one of those classic novels, “The Great Gatsby” is another”, that I have never been able to love. Despite many readings and having taught both at various levels, the qualities that so many admire elude me. It is not a matter of style, at least not in the sense that some find the book hard to cope with. For me the great Victorian novels of Dickens, George Eliot, the Brontes, Elizabeth Gaskell, through to Henry James et al remain a source of almost unqualified delight. “Frankenstein” was published earlier, of course, but so too were the works of Jane Austen, whose novels are almost worth reading for the aesthetic rewards of style alone.

The book is grounded in a rich tradition of cultural and scientific thought and Mary Shelley could scarcely have enjoyed a more intellectually stimulating upbringing. Few books are so widely allusive. It is in fact first and foremost a novel of ideas and I suspect that most probably explains my personal difficulties in establishing a close affinity with it. It is rooted not in the rich detail of palpable actuality, but in social, political, scientific issues. That is admittedly a crude distinction, but a review here is not the place for a detailed thesis. “Brave New World” might offer some sort of more recent equivalent if the parallel is not pushed too far. Against these books I would place the likes of “Mansfield Park”, “Bleak House”, “Wuthering Heights” and much more recently the admirable work of Sarah Waters and Donna Tartt.

There is virtually no dialogue in “Frankenstein”. What we have are extended monologues, often portentous in tone and style. The shifts from what seem to me to be rather stilted narrative to extravagantly hyperbolic emotional statements are both alien to expressive modern English. The novel is fertile ground for agenda–led critics, many of whom have had a field day in using the book to advance their own partialities. Whether a novel should be judged on the quality of what is written about it is another question, and one on which it seems wise to make my exit.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frankenstein - A Review by Barry Van-Asten, 12 Feb. 2012
By 
Mr. B. P. Van-asten (London, England.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Frankenstein (Paperback)
Frankenstein, or the modern Prometheus, bublished in 1818 by Mary Shelley (1797-1851), is told through the letters of an English explorer in the Arctic, named Walton. It relates the exploits of Victor Frankenstein, a Genevan student of philosophy at the University of Ingolstadt. He discovers the secret of giving life to inanimate matter and assembles a terrifying human figure from fresh cadavers and gives it life! The creature has the supernatural strength of a super being and because of his differences and mistreatment he becomes a lonely and miserable 'monster', who turns on frankenstein, after failing to convince his creator that he needs a female companion. He murders Victor's brother and his friend Clerval and also his bride Elizabeth. Frankenstein pursues the creature to the Arctic and attempts to destroy it, but dies after telling his tale to Walton. The monster declared that his creator would be his last victim and disappears into the snowy waste.
The story is beautifully written and this 'blue-print' for all monster creations is also a cautionary tale on how nature, which is essentially good, can be corrupted by ill treatment. Those familiar with the many film versions will be surprised with the original tale and how it differs in interpretation from current perceptions of the creature. fantastic!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully presented horror classic, 2 May 2015
By 
Jason Hanrahan (Mirfield, West Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Enough has been said already about the story that I can add little. It is a classic of English literature but perhaps also very much of it's time with some of the less probable events ( the monster learns to read by observing from afar then reads some weighty treatise of philosophy, or wandering the wilderness of Central Europe just so happens upon Victor's younger brother). It is also rather bleak and melodramatic, with the main protagonist proclaiming himself the most miserable being even before the worst of his mishaps. That said, it is a very poetic and beautifully written work raising all sorts of questions about the duty of a creator to his creation. It seems odd to a modern sensibility that someone able to instill life in inanimate flesh cannot render a female creation sterile and thus unable to bear children.

These minor gripes aside this is another beautifully presented volume from Barnes & Noble and will sit handsomely on any book lovers shelf - in my case beside the sumptuously blood red Barnes and Noble edition of Dracula - the natural companion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Frankenstein, 21 April 2013
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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Having read a few books about Mary Shelley, including the highly recommended Shelley and the Maiden: The Death of Fanny Wollstonecraft and Young Romantics: The Shelleys, Byron and Other Tangled Lives, I was keen to read the novel which came about through a competition as to who could write the best horror story between Mary, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and John Polidori. It was 1816, the year without a summer, caused by the volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora the previous year. On a rainy evening by Lake Geneva, the competition resulted in a book which has created literally hundreds of Hollywood movies. Yet, not one comes close to capturing the real sense of this tragic tale. So, forget green men with bolted necks and read the original.

The story begins with letters to his sister from Robert Walton, a failed poet, who has set out to explore the North Pole. On his travels he sights a sledge carrying an immense figure and, later, pulls aboard a starving and emaciated man who turns out to be scientist Victor Frankenstein. As Frankenstein tells his tale, we learn how his obsession with succeeding in his scientific endeavours leads to his creating a 'creature' a 'daemon' which, as soon as he has managed to bring it to life he flees from in horror at what he has done. However, life is never that simple and Frankenstein soon finds that the creature he has unleashed on the world will have terrible repercussions on his life and that of his family. It is also the story of the creature himself, who suffers misery, depression and isolation. Both feel reproach for their actions and yet are unable to overcome their horror of themselves and what both have done. If you know something of Mary Shelley's life, it will certainly help you view this story in a different light but, whether you do delve deeper or not, you will almost certainly find this book is not what you expected.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frankenstein Mary Shelley, 1818, 6 Nov. 2012
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Frankenstein
Mary Shelley, 1818

Here's another classic story I'm reading for the first time! Frankenstein the novel, as I suspected, is almost nothing like the various incarnations of Frankenstein I've run across over the years. I've seen so many versions of the monster in childrens' shows, comedy specials, skits, and other forms of media, but none of the pop-culture depictions of the monster seem to accurately represent the sadness and abundant emotion of the book.

I shouldn't be surprised at it anymore, but it seems like all British or American literature from the 19th century has to be set inside a frame story--the narrative has to be told to somebody who told somebody who is telling the reading audience about it, or something equally layered. Frankenstein is actually not told by Victor Frankenstein or by his created monster, but by a third party whose main purpose seems to be praising Victor Frankenstein's character to the high heavens.

The story starts out with some guy, Captain Robert Walton, writing to his sister about the weather in St. Petersburg. He's a sea captain and he is preparing for a big voyage to the Arctic, where he hopes something amazing and purposeful awaits him. As his letters continue, it becomes clear that Walton is seriously poetic and he really wants a like-minded best friend because pouring out his heart in well-composed letters to his sister is just not doing justice to the depth of his feelings. But Walton's loneliness doesn't last for too long because his crew soon discovers a dying man floating on a big piece of ice. As the man, Victor, is nursed back to health, he admits to Walton that he has been in the Arctic chasing another person, or rather a "demon" as he calls him. Then Victor begins to share his long, tragic story with the captain.

Victor's thirst for knowledge led him to serious questions about the nature of life and souls. He was a brainiac who devoted himself to the intense study of various educational disciplines, including a few areas of spiritualism and quackery. Time passed and Victor learned how to give life to inanimate biological objects. He cobbled together an eight-fool-tall body, ran an electric current and some other stuff through it, and brought the ugly creature to liiiiiife. But no sooner does his pet project come to life, than Victor runs away from it in disgust. Strangely, it's at this point that I, as a reader, go from feeling a certain fondness for Victor and his obsessive studying to feeling outright revulsion for him because he refuses to take responsibility for something he made.

And I do feel very sorry for the monster, which I did not expect to happen. The monster does some cruel, vile things, but he had no real guidance. He didn't ask to be created and abandoned, and it isn't his fault that his own creator views him with absolute horror. Victor created a life that could have had some value if he had chosen to assign said value to it, but instead he leaves the creature alone in hopes that it will run away and just not be his problem anymore! But it becomes his problem once again when the creature kills his younger brother and frames a servant for the crime.

At one of the climaxes of the story, the creature confronts Victor and talks to him for the first time. The creature has been through a lot of painful encounters with human beings, most of which began with him trying to do something kind and ended with him doing something destructive. He wants Victor to make him a companion so he can live happily ever after with her in the wilderness, but his plans for a monster wedding don't ever come to fruition because Victor sabotages the effort. Victor and his monster proceed in a gruesome game of one-upsmanship where each tries to hurt the other horribly, and they both succeed. When this very short book is over, the body-count is about as high as your typical Shakespearean tragedy: everyone we care about (and some people we don't) has died.

What's the moral of the story, then, if you're looking for one? Perhaps that seeking after too much knowledge or pursuing science for science's sake is a bad idea. Jurassic Park has also taught us that. Another moral or lesson I see in Frankenstein is the importance of compassion and empathy--if Victor had cared for his creation as he ought to, the many, many deaths could have been averted. That's why the story is tragic; a little less obsession and selfishness from our protagonist would have changed everything. Grade: B

Favorite quotes:

-"Thus strangely are our souls constructed, and by such slight ligaments are we bound to prosperity or ruin." (pg 16)

Victor-"But now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. " (pg 26)

Monster-"I will revenge my injuries; if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear, and chiefly towards you my arch-enemy" (pg 80)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not What You Expect, 23 Nov. 2010
A great idea - how would God respond to his own creation - is fitted into a suitably melodramatic plot. No wonder it gripped the Victorian imagination.

Everyone knows Frankenstein - the movies, cartoons, take offs, stage plays and nightmares but many fewer have read the book and to do so is to be enlightened as to what the fuss is all about. Because this is a book that has a real horror at its heart, not though individual squeamish scenes - although there are several of those but by asking the very profound question of how a God should react to his own creation.

In this story Frankenstein (who is the creator not the monster) forms a man out of body parts and is so revolted by his creature that he immediately abandons it and in so doing opens the possibility of it doing either good or evil from its own free will. The genius of the novel is that it is never really clear whether the monster is essentially good or entirely evil but with incredible guile so as to appear susceptible to good, or just confused - like the rest of us. This confusion is the true horror of the book and the murders and terror that the monster enacts are simply melodrama to the reflection of our own souls.

It's not brilliant writing, but bowls along well enough, and the plot gets apace in a Victorian way. There is nothing about this book save its conceit that makes it exceptional - but that conceit is powerful and marvelous. For this theme of what it must be to create life, the responsibilities of the creator and the created, how the created understands itself and its desires and what its creator thinks of his being is marvelous stuff, that I have not come across in any other literature.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Cursed, cursed creator.", 10 Dec. 2006
By 
bernie "xyzzy" (Arlington, Texas) - See all my reviews
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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?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Long Day's Journey Into Horror, 4 Sept. 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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If you like horror, you owe it to yourself to read this book from the beginnings of the genre. You will enjoy seeing the themes in Frankenstein repeated in other horror novels that you will read in the future. The book and the movie have essentially nothing in common, so assume that you do not know the story yet if you have only seen the movie.
If you do not like horror, you probably won't like the book very much at all.
The story opens in the frozen Arctic wastes during an sea-going expedition to find a passage through the ice to the East. Aboard the ship after a strange meeting, Frankenstein tells his story. As a young man he wanted to make a splash in the sciences, and invented a way to create life. Having done so, he became estranged from his new being with significant consequences for Frankenstein and his creation. The two interact closely throughout the book, like twin brothers in one sense and like Creator and creation in another sense.
This book presents significant challenges to the reader. Like many books that relate to scientific or quasi-scientific topics from long ago, Frankenstein seems highly outmoded to the modern reader. In the era of psychological knowledge, the development of moods and character in the book will also seem primitive to many. A further drawback is that this novel takes a long time to develop each of its points (even after the eventual action is totally foreshadowed in unmistakeable terms), so patience is required as layer after layer of atmosphere and thought are applied to create a complex, composite picture. Finally, the structure of the novel is unusual, with layers of narration applied to layers of narration, creating a feeling of looking at never-ending mirror images.
So, you may ask, why should someone read Frankenstein? My personal feeling is that there are two timelessly rewarding aspects to the book that well reward the reader (despite the drawbacks described above). Either is sufficient to please you. First, the book raises wonderful ethical issues about the responsibilities of science and the scientist towards the results of scientific endeavors. These issues are as up-to-date now as they were when the book was written. Those who developed atomic weapons and biotechnology tools appear to have given little more thought to what comes next than Frankenstein did toward his creation. Second, the moods that are built up in the reader by the book are extremely vivid and powerful. The artistry of this book can serve as a guide for novelists for centuries to come, in showing how much the reader can be deeply engaged by the circumstances of the characters.
Why, then, did I grade the book at three stars instead of five? Few will fail to be annoyed by the scientific awkwardness of the story, and that is a definite drawback. Also, only the most dedicated students of style will avoid feeling like the book moves and develops its story too slowly. Less is more in novels. In this case, more is less.
I cannot help but comment that this book is perhaps the finest example of appearances being deceiving that exists in literature. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a close competitor in this regard, but that fine work definite has to fall behind Frankenstein. In this book, beings of physical beauty act in inhumane, ugly ways. Beings of great ugliness act in beautiful ways. The same being may act in both ways, in different circumstances. Looks are deceiving, and our perceptions are flawed even when our attention is fixed. If the characters could have overcome this form of stalled thinking, the horror would have been averted. So the lesson is that the misperceptions we aim at others rebound (like a reflection in a mirror) right back onto us.
If you have not yet read Paradise Lost, Frankenstein is a good excuse to read that poem. The development of the story in Frankenstein assumes a knowledge of that story about Satan leading a rebellion against God and being dispossessed into Hell.
After you have had a chance to absorb and appreciate the nice issues this book raises, ask yourself where you in your life are acting without sufficiently considering the implications of your actions. Then, commence to examine those potential consequences. You should be able to create more good results in this way, and take more comfort in what you are doing. Both will be excellent rewards for your introspection.
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Frankenstein (Clothbound Classics) by Mary Shelley (Hardcover - 3 Oct. 2013)
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