Susan's Reviews > Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus

Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley
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's review
Nov 08, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: droids-n-dragons, genre-classics, genre-sff
Read in October, 2009

This book, it has so many words in it.

This is one of the first science fiction idea stories ever written, and the ideas in it still chill the soul. It hearkens to more modern stories of about the humanity of human clones.

But the writing here is incredibly amateurish, even when you take its age into account. I looked it up; this book was published the year Jane Austen died. We did have an idea of what made good prose back then. In her defense, Mary Shelley was apparently very young when she wrote it, and her husband, romantic poet Percy Shelley, spent a lot of time back seat driving.

Some of the problem really is the era; Victor Frankenstein's manliness is from an entirely different ideal than ours. A modern reader simply cannot handle a hero (or heroine for that matter, damnit) whose consistent reaction to danger is to fall into a swoon or spend a week raving feverishly. But even so, Victor's actions are consistently illogical and involve page after page of circular navel-gazing. I would like to do a word count on "horror," "despair," and "misery." Those words seems to make up half the book.

The most compelling part story is always the glimpses we get of the monster. And I'm sure that at least is what Shelley intended. The monster is the victim here, even as he becomes horrible and terrifying, and Shelley never lets us forget it. And I'm sure that picture is what captured the the hearts of contemporary readers and made it a classic -- the picture of an irresponsible, glory-driven scientist creating a man and driving him to such despair that he becomes a monster. If you can dig your way out of the prose, you can feel it.
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message 1: by Christopher (last edited Nov 08, 2009 09:17AM) (new)

Christopher Ha! Inspired by your post, I dropped the whole text of Frankenstein into Wordle (I love Wordle!)!If you're not familiar, it's an application which takes a text and makes a cloud with the most common words being the largest, ect. Misery and miserable both impact the cloud, though MAN and ONE make bigger impacts. I was surprised, actually, at how FEW words there were. She was apparently writing with a limited vocabulary -- even my short stories usually get a larger cloud than this. (I always run my text through here and check the most common word to make sure I haven't overused it.) Then again, maybe I'm misremembering....

Check the cloud out here: I think this link will work....

I'm always ashamed to admit that I've never slogged through this. Your review doesn't motivate me at all, sadly.

(Oh, hey, this is Amanda. I'm apparently logged in as Christopher.)

Susan I've never heard of Worldle! It sounds very useful. I kept intending to do some kind of word analysis on Frankenstein b/c the repeated words stand out so much. She can use "misery" and "horror," both together, several times in the same paragraph. "Man" doesn't surprise me, though "one" kind of does. Neither of those words jumped out as being overused.

I honestly think that you can do perfectly well reading a synopsis of this book. I'm sure someone has written a modern retelling, and I think the concept is strong enough that it might be worth seeking one out to see the subject handled by an author with the chops for it. We read this for our book club, and we followed up by watching Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The movie does a pretty good job smoothing out the narrative and making Victor into a believable character. And it manages to do so while being faithful to the concept, except for one protracted scene involving Victor's true love Elizabeth that still makes me go "Hmmmm...."

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