A man made of the dead,
This review is from: Frankenstein (Paperback)
Everyone has heard of Frankenstein's monster... or at least the Hollywood version, with green skin, boxy head and bolts in his neck.
But the original creature is quite different in Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein," which starts off rather slow but builds into a tragic, darkly hypnotic tale about tampering in God's domain, and the terrible consequences that come from it. Also: if you create a new creature out of dead body parts, don't disown him or he'll kill your family.
During a trip across the Arctic, a ship picks up a starved, half-frozen man named Victor Frankenstein. As he recovers, Frankenstein tells them his life story -- especially about how he became fascinated with science, and developed a process to reanimate dead tissue. Eventually he constructs a new creature out of dead body parts, and brings him to life.
But while the creature is intelligent and articulate, he's also hideously ugly. Horrified that he's not beautiful, Frankenstein flees... and has a nervous breakdown. Wimp.
But months later, the murder of his little brother brings Victor back to his home, where he figures out that the creature was involved. And to his horror, the creature now wants a mate. But the loathing between them -- caused by Frankenstein's disgust and the creature's increasing bitterness -- leads to even more tragedy...
"Frankenstein" is one of those rare novels that is almost beyond classification -- it's gothic horror, it's sci-fi, it's a tragedy about scientific ambition that goes where it shouldn't go. Mary Shelley was only eighteen years old when she began writing this book, but she interwove religion, science and a fiercely intelligent knowledge of human nature into it.
Her writing is a bit stuffy at times ("All praises bestowed on her I received as made to a possession of my own"), but that's because it was written in the early 1800s. Despite this, Shelley's writing skills shine in the more horrific moments of the story ("I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs"), and she imbues it with a sense of painful, grimy suspense.
But the complicated characters of Victor and the creature are what really make the story work. Victor is actually a pretty horrible person -- while he's a tragic figure whose unnatural ambitions end up destroying his wife, brother and father, he's also incredibly cruel and callous to the creature because... he's ugly.
The creature, on the other hand, instantly gets our sympathy. He's intelligent and childlike at first, but his ugliness causes everyone to immediately hate and fear him. When him becomes embittered and eventually murderous, you still feel sorry for him.
Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" is one of those few, rare horror books -- it adds a little more of that scientific gothic atmosphere to a classic tale of horror, slime and sorrow.