Monday, November 3, 2014
Author: Mary Shelley
Publisher: Signet Classics (Penguin)
Pub. Date: March 11, 1818
Jason and I chose Frankenstein as our Halloween/October/Fall read-a-long this year. (I read the signet classic mass market paperback version pictured at the top, but Jason read a really nice hardcover that included illustrations which is pictured on the right).
Overall, it was just okay. It certainly was not one of the scariest books ever, as many lists online try to say. Maybe in 1818 the thought of it was scary. I think maybe the theme itself was sort of scary, more so than the actual plot. The theme being how sometimes we get carried away and the decisions we make will haunt us and create horrible consequences.
In case you weren't aware of the origin of this story, Victor Frankenstein is a scientist who decides he can create a living creature, so he toils away in his laboratory until he creates a living being. This creature, who remains nameless, (yes, Frankenstein refers only to the scientist who created the monster), is a gruesome being who scares people in his image alone and whose actions taunt Frankenstein.
This was a pretty sluggish read. Even though it was less than 250 pages, and even though the story itself is interesting enough, it was so drawn out and could have used some editing... Part of this is that it was written in 1818 and maybe that's just how people talked?? (The story is all told in first person, though there are a few different narrators)... but I've read other older classics and didn't always feel this way. I wanted to shout at it to "move on already!" Jason felt the same way. It became a running joke that we each had to sit down and push on through. In fact, the last night I was reading it I only had about seven pages left and just could not stay awake for them, and it felt like it took me forever the next morning to finish those pages!
I mentioned earlier that parts of it were so ridiculous. Frankenstein is considered one of the first science fiction novels ever written. But the science fiction part of it, such as when the monster is created, had me laughing with the lack of reality. Whereas nowadays, even a fictional story would have to have some type of rationality that even if unreal makes sense in the story, in Frankenstein, it was more like... he wanted to create a living being, so he worked hard in his laboratory, and voila! a monster is made! Many parts of the book lacked the kind of detail and polish that could have more thoroughly illustrated the scene; this is despite feeling in other ways that the book was sluggish with over narration.
All that being said, Frankenstein really wasn't horrible... it is just definitely outdated. It was still interesting to read the origin of the story that has become so well known today. I won't even say that I would never read it again... I do think that talking about the themes of the book etc. would make it a good group read. And with Jason and I reading it together, there were many times we were able to talk about the plot and laugh at something ridiculous or be confused together about when something happened or exclaim at a plot point together. It was also very interesting to see how the modern interpretation of Frankenstein differs so dramatically from the original one created by Mary Shelley. Jason feels that reading the illustrated version improved his experience of the book, though that one is a heavy copy so you would need to plan on keeping that one at home!
I give this one 3 out of 5 stars.