When two nineteenth-century Oxford students--Victor Frankenstein, a serious researcher, and the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley--form an unlikely friendship, the result is a tour de force that could only come from one of the world's most accomplished and prolific authors.
This haunting and atmospheric novel opens with a heated discussion, as Shelley challenges the conventionally religious Frankenstein to consider his atheistic notions of creation and life. Afterward, these concepts become an obsession for the young scientist. As Victor begins conducting anatomical experiments to reanimate the dead, he at first uses corpses supplied by the coroner. But these specimens prove imperfect for Victor's purposes. Moving his makeshift laboratory to a deserted pottery factory in Limehouse, he makes contact with the Doomsday men--the resurrectionists--whose grisly methods put Frankenstein in great danger as he works feverishly to bring life to the terrifying creature that will bear his name for eternity.
Filled with literary lights of the day such as Bysshe Shelley, Godwin, Lord Byron, and Mary Shelley herself, and penned in period-perfect prose, The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein is sure to become a classic of the twenty-first century.
Peter Ackroyd on The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein
It is of course obviously true that Frankenstein is a wonderful story, and I was eager to see if I could extend it in other directions. It is a myth and a history, an allegory and a nightmare. I wanted to see if it was possible to maintain all those elements in a re-interpretation of the original text.
I had been greatly impressed by Mary Shelley’s original, but I was eager to tease out some of her assumptions and themes.
I had always been interested in the Romantic movement of English poetry, in the early nineteenth century, and the story of Victor Frankenstein allowed me to explore all the possible meanings of "romantic" in that context. This also meant that I could discuss the worship of electricity and new science in the period. But it also allowed me to introduce the "real" characters of Byron and others into the plot. I wanted to set the story in London, as a way of re-imagining and re-creating the nineteenth-century city. I also wanted to see if I could recreate the language and texture of the period so that the reader would feel connected in an intimate way with a culture and civilization that have now disappeared.
In that I was greatly assisted by the fact that I wrote and presented a series on BBC Television, entitled The Romantics, which allowed me to suggest the lines of continuity between Coleridge, Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Keats, and of course Mary Shelley herself. All of these people appear in the novel itself. I was also helped by the fact that in the course of filming I went to all of the sites that appear in the novel itself, particularly the Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Geneva where Mary Shelley had the original inspiration for her novel. We spent one night filming there, and on the balcony of the house I had an intimation of the novel I was about to write.--Peter Ackroyd
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Medical student Victor Frankenstein imbibes fellow student Bysshe Shelley's belief in the perfectability of mankind and strives to create a being of infinite benevolence in this recasting of Mary Shelley's horror classic from Ackroyd (First Light
). When Victor reanimates the body of acquaintance Jack Keat, he's so horrified at the implications of his Promethean feat that he abandons his creation. Outraged, the Keat creature shadows Victor as an avenging doppelgänger, bringing misery and death to those dearest to him. Ackroyd laces his narrative intelligently with the Romantic ideals of Lord Byron and Percy Shelley, and deftly interweaves Victor's fictional travails with events of the well-known 1816 meeting between the poets that inspired Mary to draft her landmark story. His hasty surprise ending may strike some readers as a cheat, though most will agree that his novel is a brilliant riff on ideas that have informed literary, horror and science fiction for nearly two centuries. (Oct.)
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