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31 of 31 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Long Day's Journey Into Horror
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.
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Published on 4 Sep 2004 by Donald Mitchell


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31 of 31 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rich and complex tale, 6 April 2013
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
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Put all thoughts of Hammer Horror to one side as Mary Shelley's intriguing and provocative tale is nothing like the rather bad films and adaptations it has spawned. Structured as an embedded series of narratives told by Robert Walton, an explorer; Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who plays god; and the significantly unnamed `creature', this tale engages with conceptions of what it means to be human in the early part of the nineteenth century.

That Mary Shelley was herself pregnant at the time she wrote this adds another layer to this rich story of creator/progeny where the `father' is horrified by the `child' he has created. But this is also a book which engages with questions about innate `human' nature vs. nurture, and the extent to which we are created by our social and cultural environments.

That the `creature' itself is well-read and comes to understand its own creation, existence and desires through Milton's Paradise Lost is only one of the complexities of this book; and the increasing mutual identification between Frankenstein and his creation turns the expected hierarchy of man and monster on its head.

So it's certainly possible to simply read this as a chilling tale of gothic horror - but an interesting number of themes put to work here foreshadow Shriver's We Need To Talk About Kevin, and Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The author at once of my existence and of its unspeakable torments", 5 Mar 2008
By 
Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a review of the Oxford World's Classics edition, edited and introduced by Marilyn Butler of Exeter College, Oxford. She explains in her note on the text why the 1818 version is preferred - "it delivers an original, specific and profound fable about the modern world in conditions of social change" - rather than the usual published text of the amended 1831 edition. I agree that the original edition has a raw edge, a directness, and a refusal to concede to societal norms that is not so prominent in the later massaged text.

I came to the novel with an open mind, but with an appreciation that Hollywood had cemented the story as a classic of gothic horror. And yet the monsters tale of his `adventures' with the de Lacey family, for example, seemed worlds away from the `traditional' tale as told by American cinema. (Hence, presumably, Kenneth Branagh's 1994 adaptation bearing the conscious title "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein".)

The novel is very well-written and conceived. It is interesting for its literary-historical and scientific context, but of far more interest to me are the philosophical issues that it (unconsciously?) raises. It is geographically incoherent in places, as is the plot, but plot is not really the reason for this novel, is it?

The actual physical creation of the monster is, surprisingly, sparsely described, covering barely two paragraphs, and even then only a vague illustration is given. Throughout the novel, there are only indistinct allusions to his form. Captain Walton, for example, merely says that he was "gigantic in stature, yet uncouth and distorted in his proportions. ... his face was concealed by long locks of ragged hair; but one vast hand was extended, in colour and apparent texture like that of a mummy".

Frankenstein's rejection of his creation so soon after having given life to it - indeed, at the very point of giving life to it - after so determined and intense a devotion to the cause, seems to me to mirror the immense shame and repugnance that civilisation can inculcate at the moment of sexual orgasm in `inappropriate circumstances'. Or, given the gender of the book's author, perhaps a more relevant analogy would be giving birth to a child conceived in shameful circumstances. His rejection of his act is absolute and unyielding. He does not return to his studies to rectify his mistakes in the creation of another, or seek to modify the result that he has created. Instead, he turns his back and falls into a great depression.

Meanwhile the monster plays the part of an extraterrestrial. Initially completely alien to his surroundings, Mary Shelley uses this position to allow him to comment as an outsider on the nature of humanity. The monster says how the de Lacey cottage was "the school in which I studied human nature." Thus, he who was the experiment has now become the experimenter. "Perhaps [he remarks], if my first introduction to humanity had been made by a young soldier, burning for glory and slaughter, I should have been imbued with different sensations", than those provided by the de Laceys and their humanistic literature.

On one level the story is akin to `Beauty and the Beast', `Cyrano de Bergerac', the `Elephant Man', or `E.T.'. But why did not Frankenstein simply learn to accept his creation? He is the creator, he is the monster's god. Is this a metaphor on man's place in God's creation? (At one point, he compares his situation explicitly with Adam.) Is this a comment on the Christian religion, when the monster describes Frankenstein as "the author at once of my existence and of its unspeakable torments" in a time of upheaval and speculation in post-Enlightenment but pre-Darwinian educated circles, when deism was becoming a reputable opinion? The monster again: "The fallen angel becomes a malignant devil."

Marilyn Butler's 42-page introduction, is of the usual high standard that one comes to expect from this publisher. She details Mary Shelley's beginnings, her family and her relationship with her husband. She goes on to describe their relationship with the radical science of the period in which they lived. She explains the ghost-story competition context from which the novel arose. There then follows a critique of the novel itself.
There are three appendices to this Oxford World's Classics edition. The first is Mary Shelley's preface to the amended 1831 edition, where she gives details about the inspiration for the tale and the story behind its creation. The second details the changes made to the text, or rather denotes the additions thereto but not (for some reason) the omissions. ... lists these changes and the reasons for them. The third and final appendix is an extract from an 1820 edition of the Quarterly Review, a nineteenth-century Tory version of the London Review of Books. The extract is not a review of Mary Shelley's `Frankenstein', but is principally concerned with the lectures of William Lawrence FRS and whether the life-force and greater mental capacities of humans (compared to other animals) is inherited or `super-added'. It is these extras - and the use of the 1818 text - that make this edition superior to others.

As with all reprints of classic works of literature, I recommend that the so-called introduction (which is really more of a commentary) is best read after the novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Overall, worth reading, 7 May 2009
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Ever since Mary Shelley had the nightmare that gave birth to the idea of Frankenstein, it has become a very well known, and popular horror story, through film and book. As the original thoughts were preserved in the book, I gave it a read, and was not disappointed.

Thematically, the book is enjoyable and a must-read for its originality, Shelley examining the themes of life and death, curse, ambition and revenge. If you can put it into its 19th century context, the idea of creating a life out of death would be regarded as irreverent and horrific, and at the time would have been a true horror story, maybe more appreciated than it is now. It is a story using an epistolary technique that takes you through the rise and fall of Victor Frankenstein (NOT the monster!), whose creation has caved in on himself. Mary Shelley fills the main plot with many intricacies, and slight surprises, which adds to the excitement of the story.

Shelley writes in a very eloquent style that represents more the feelings of Frankenstein than external descriptions, the descriptions are normally perceived through his own eyes. The character of Frankenstein is thereby greatly explored, in an interesting way.

The reason why I have this book 4 stars is because Shelley's writing can be rather verbose at times, which at times can make small parts of the book unnecessarily described and on the edge of being tedious.

Notwithstanding this relatively minor problem, the book is a classic, and for the good reasons above for reading it, it remains a book that you should read.
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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 Sep 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dreadfully good..., 7 Sep 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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great edition, helpful essays!, 12 Nov 2001
As I'm sure most of you know the story of Frankenstein, I'd just like to say a few words about the essays. This is a great edition for students, as you can read both modern responses to the text and those from Shelley's contemporaries. I found the essays on feminist and psychoanalytical responses invaluable; the commentary on the text is top-quality. I know it''s an expensive edition, but trust me, it's worth it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Focus on Emotional Tragedy and The Personal Responsibility of The Scientist, 4 Aug 2008
This book is a "must read" for all science fiction / horror lovers, as you will be able to, as previously pointed out by other reviewers, trace the roots and themes of the genre back to its beginnings.

The depth of the book, however, lies in the poignant questions Shelley raises about scientific discovery and creation. These issues are as valid today as they were at the time and have been literary motifs ever since. Shelley's discussion of these themes makes this book a classic, and as such it should be understood.

If you are only familiar with Frankenstein's monster through film adaptations, you will discover an entirely different story, depicting the monster as a tragic and unloved hero, who turns into a brute following the betrayal by his creator, Victor Frankienstein.

Shelley's story centres around the emotional tragedy endured by the monster rather than on the depiction of his crimes or his outward appearance. In this context, we have to mention that the reader does not even find out how Frankenstein assembled his monster or how he infused him with life. This aspect of the story is entirely left to the reader's imagination.
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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 dark classic, 5 Sep 2010
This review is from: Frankenstein (Kindle Edition)
Having seen many film versions, I wanted to return to the source material to make my own comparisons. Whilst the language has obviously dated a little, the story of a man reaching for the sun and burning his hand is a timeless one. The pace of the story is slower than I expected and much of the description focuses on the lead character's inner conflicts rather than their actions. A brooding, gothic tale and essential reading for any student of the genre.
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