the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Mary Shelley’ Category

This book is 200 years old. This post will have spoilers.  I also might be spoiling a very early scene in an even older book, so there’s that.

 

It’s a famous story,  how Frankenstein came to be created:  simplified greatly, Mary Godwin, Percy Shelley,  Mary’s step-sister Claire Clairmont, and Lord Byron spend the summer together.  A “ghost story” contest is hatched. Mary has a terrible dream, starts writing what she dreamed,  and the rest is history.

 

(hey, have you read The Stress of Her Regard, by Tim Powers? I think I really need to!)

 

I’ve had this particular paperback of Frankenstein since high school. Younger me wrote notes in the margins, and underlined words I didn’t know. Lol, I haven’t changed a bit, I still do that.

 

You know how I can tell these notes in the margin were written when I was in high school?  So, there’s a scene where Victor is off to college, and he, well, takes a break for a few months.  The note I wrote in the margin was “didn’t his profs miss him?” . Only a high school junior would write that!

 

My high school was Frankenstein-crazed.  The film starring Kenneth Branagh and Robert De Niro came out in 1994, and a year or two later our drama club put on a play that was a post-apocalyptic re-telling of Frankenstein (best high school memory? The scene where the kid who played Igor had to get the abnormal brain and bring it back to the lab. Our “brain” was a cauliflower covered in green jello.  As Igor carried it around, he licked it. A lot. It was hilarious!)

This paperback that I have, it makes a big deal that the book’s subtitle is “The Modern Prometheus”,  so I hadn’t realized until I did some research that when you buy a copy of Frankenstein at the bookstore, it will rarely have this subtitle.  As a kid, I didn’t get the whole Prometheus connection, he’s the guy who stole fire from the Gods and gave it to man, right? Who cares about a little bit fire?

 

Prometheus did more than steal fire from the gods.  Prometheus gave humanity some of the powers that until then, only the gods had had – the power to create fire, and more importantly, the power to create life.   In contemporary western culture, Prometheus has equally become a symbol of quests for scientific knowledge as it is a cautionary tale of over-reach and hubris.

 

Hubris causes all sorts of entertaining science fictional stories to happen, doesn’t it?  But where’s the line between entertaining and cautionary?

 

Anyway.

 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 200 years, you know the plot of Frankenstein.

 

And thanks to the fact that Shelley revised the text in 1931 to drastically change the themes, Hollywood, and pop culture, the original story has gotten all mashed up.

 

Victor Frankenstein was not a mad scientist who had a lab in a castle.  He never had an assistant named Igor. The creature isn’t stupid. The creature is never specifically referred to as “Frankenstein’s monster”, he’s referred to as a monster, a creation, a wretch, an abortion.

 

And those movies, where the monster gets a bride?  That’s actually the happiest possible ending.

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Please welcome today’s guest poster, Allison, from Geek Banter. Allison is a huge science fiction fan, a writer, a gamer, and an all around geek.  When it comes to anime, scifi, and gaming, this is the woman who walks the walk.  On her blog she talks all things speculative – books, movies, tv shows, video games, everything that makes geeks smile.

When I started talking to bloggers about guest posts, I pretty much left the topic up to them.  Allison chose something near and dear to my heart: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  Here’s Allison’s thoughts on and experiences with this beloved early science fiction novel:

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frankenstein-cover-barry-moserFrankenstein
by Allison from Geek Banter

Before I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in high school, I believed all the misconceptions the parodies and movie adaptations led me to. Frankenstein, of course, was a greyish-green monster with bolts coming out of its neck that comes alive and kills the mad scientist who created it. Little did I know how much more interesting and terrifying the original story is.

Mary Shelley came up with the idea for Frankenstein when she was visiting with Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and her husband Percy Shelley. They were reading a book of ghost stories together, and Lord Byron challenged everyone to write their own horror story. Mary wanted to come up with a story that “would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature, and awaken thrilling horror–one to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart.” I would say she succeeded, because Frankenstein is creepy. It is just a different sort of creepy than I was expecting.

frankenstein_1 copy

The book begins with a series of letters from the seafaring explorer Robert Walton to his sister as he heads out on a dangerous voyage to the North Pole. Of course, this confused me, and I immediately checked the cover to see if I was reading the right book. This was a story about a man who created a monster, wasn’t it? Where was the scientist, the lightning, the lab, and Igor? Well they were all to come (except the Igor part–that character comes from the 1931 film and isn’t from the original story), but Mary had other things to tell about first.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.