Richard Houchin's Reviews > Frankenstein

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
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's review
Jun 04, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: fantasy, horror, science-fiction, revenge
Read in May, 2011

What a surprise this book was! It's not a bit like the Hollywood films of the same name. Frankenstein's monster is a sensitive, massively intelligent, well-read, poetry-quoting genius. He just, you know, looks like a 9-foot tall zombie. Scares women, but he can read poetry!!

I loved the descriptions of how the monster learned about human society, and tried so hard to make friends, but couldn't because of his hideousness. I found the scientist Frankenstein's melodrama to be at times amusing and at others tedious. He was fainting every five minutes, whined incessantly, and while he felt terrible guilt, he never did anything to set things right. What a jerk!

I didn't actually read this book -- I listened to the audio book narrated by Tom Casaletto, and he did a fantastic job with the monster's voice. So erudite!

The theme of science is complex in this story. Towards the end it has the cautionary, anti-science spin of warning scientists not to meddle in things unknown, lest a monster be born that destroys them. But really, scientist Frankenstein's personal failings of character and morality are so immense as to make that cautionary warning difficult to take at face value. Yes, if you are a cowardly, bumbling, lying, screw-up who thinks the best solution to any problem is to shut your eyes and hope it goes away, then yes maybe experimental science isn't for you.

On the other hand, the first half of the story is pro-science and anti-superstition to an impressive degree. I particularly like the way science is shown to, at first glance, be a let down from the ancient promises of superstition. Superstitions promise fantastical powers, seances with the dead, and transcendent experiences. But on closer inspection, science is revealed to be so much more than any of those empty promises -- and not just because the promises of superstition are empty! The promises of science are sometimes less flashy, but only because they are gradual. Take a broader view of science and going from writing detailed descriptions of magnets in crude labs in ancient castles, to (some centuries later) city-sized power plants, electric cars, and flash lights is every bit as magical and unbelievable as superstition -- but more real.

Fun story!
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