Click to Subscribe
Book Review
© 2012 James LaFond
Or, The Modern Prometheus
Mary Shelley
First publication in 1816
A review by James LaFond from June 2012
I have been slogging through this classic for four years, and finally, with a sigh of relief, earned the right to close the book on page 211, and promised myself that I would next read something that was written to entertain. That is the problem with a modern reader delving into such an old classic. In Mary’s time books were supposed to inspire the reader to the heights of introspection and the depths of contemplation. Entertainment was strictly secondary. The 3-star rating takes this into account. For pure plotting and readability it deserves no better than 2-stars. One must also keep in mind that this was a nineteen-year-old woman’s first effort, and that she was an intellectual, raised by intellectuals, and married to an intellectual, in a time when a woman had to fight tooth-and-nail to get something published under her own name.
The book is a romantic horror story that evokes dark settings and delves into the psyche of doomed and tortured characters at length. If you have depression issues break out the Prozac and lock up the handgun before reading. This is a very important look at man’s relationship with his yearnings and his creations. It has been suggested as a precursor to science-fiction. However, Mrs. Shelley astutely avoided any mention of the technology by which her fictional mad scientist—the first in a long line—created his monster. This was a fortunate choice and permitted the novel to stand up over the intervening ages.
The book is structured as letters, about a dozen of them, to provide context and perspective, and a series of recollections as often as not related by an intermediary character. Chapter 3 has some very insightful passages on education and ambition. The best scene is at the end of Chapter 15 when the monster befriends ever-so-briefly a blind man. The monster is really a mythological-philosophical construct: a platform for the deeply pondering author. An eight-foot-tall creature made of sewn-together corpses educating himself by spying on a family so closely that he learns their language—without being seen—and through reading a volume of Plutarch after somehow teaching himself Latin in the wilderness, to the point where his level of discourse exceeds that of his creator, is a hard pill to swallow.
The book is, in a brutal way, a search within the human mind, written at a point in history when the produce of that mind was poised to submerge entire cultures and call into question the belief in a higher power that had so long been taken for granted by the majority of mankind. It is worth reading after the fact, largely because of the disturbing course chosen by the author. The actual reading of it however, is a job. Just think of it as research into that unasked question in the back of your mind.
The Spawn of Big-Headed Yakub
book reviews
Surviving on the Streets: a Loompanics Classic
barbarism versus civilization
the combat space
plantation america
america the brutal
the gods of boxing
solo boxing
by the wine dark sea
Akshat Jiwan Sharma     Aug 2, 2013

Really it took you four years to read this!

Well if it took you so long then no wonder you did not enjoy it. I would argue that Frankenstein is in in fact a book that is written to entertain.

The opening chapter is one of the best that I have ever read. I can also fondly remember the passage that the scientist took on his way back home(before the monster started following him). The author described those scenes so beautifully. It felt like I was there.

One could say that this book is an introspection of human psyche and it would be right to treat it as such.

However I like to think of it as the only way Frankenstein could have been written. What other way would a scientist deeply absorbed in his work cut off from his loved ones perceive the world around him?

Or what other way would a creature stranded by his creator behave?

No other way!

I believe that if you take too long to read a book you will loose the atmosphere. I have been trying to read war and peace for four years and I can't bring myself to complete it anymore.
James     Aug 3, 2013

The first chapter was the best, and you are right about me taking too long and letting the atmosphere fade. I must also keep in mind that this woman was very young, and wrote from a perspective that was much more limited than ours. I think the best thing she did as a writer was to not get into the science, keeping her work relative to this day.

Thanks Akshat, and you might want to read VJ Waks' Tau4. My review is on this page.
  Add a new comment below: