Nearly 200 years ago, the first true work of science fiction was written by a 19 year old woman in Bellerive, Switzerland. It has inspired horror in many and is one of the greatest prevailing works in literary history. That book is, of course, Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley.
Although published officially in 1818, the book was written during the Summer of 1816 – making this year the 200th since its creation. I had never read Frankenstein prior to this read-through, although it’s long been on my list of classics to get around to, and it was my original intention of reviewing it, as per all my other reads. Honestly, I have no critique’s to level against the book, none that would be fresh criticisms that haven’t been leveled thousands of times already anyway. I truly loved this story.
What surprised me most was its complete divergence from any reenactment or film since. When one thinks about the lumbering oaf that is the typical Hollywood representation of the Frankenstein monster, it couldn’t be any further from the source material the character was inspired from. Mary Shelley’s creature had yellow tinted skin, first off. No bolts in his neck. No flat head. He was extremely dexterous and fast, as well as fast learning. By the time we meet the monster halfway through the book, he speaks more eloquently than you or I ever will. And that’s only the monster himself. The novel doesn’t have an Igor character, nor is the synonymous line “IT’S ALIVE,” ever mentioned.
That said, the beauty of the language and prose used is something rarely seen in today’s literature – especially in speculative fiction, which has so seamlessly blurred the lines between YA and adult works. I was enraptured by the poetic nature of it all.
The monster is a creature so equally detestable and pitiable, I don’t know where I stand in my thoughts toward the creature after the first reading. Many of his acts were truly grotesque, and monstrous actions. But you also have the predisposition to feel for the character, as you learn about his tale. Shelley’s ability to make you feel for not only the creature, but Victor, in equal and opposing measures, is brilliant and unequalled.
This book is truly a treat, and it never feels outdated. The science behind the creature is never questionable either, as the author never gives us enough information to dissect any discrepancies. 200 years later, this novel works with all the intense and emotional vigor it had upon its being written. Even the moral dilemmas thrown our way are relevant and inspiring.
If you haven’t read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, that’s alright. There’s no rush. It’ll be as relevant a decade from now as it is today. All I hope is that we get a serious adaption of the source text – something true to the actual book, and not just another romanticized look at what Hollywood did wrong with the story decades ago. I recommend listening to the audiobook narration by Dan Stevens, as his portrayal of the monster is heartrending.