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Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
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Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  177 ratings  ·  64 reviews
The year 1818 saw the publication of one of the most influential science-fiction stories of all time. Frankenstein: Or, Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley had a huge impact on gothic horror and science fiction genres. The name Frankenstein has become part of our everyday language, often used in derogatory terms to describe scientists who have overstepped a perceived moral l ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 6th 2018 by Bloomsbury SIGMA
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Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Subtitled, “The Science Behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,” this is a really interesting mix of biography (both of Mary Shelley herself and her novel), combined with a look at the scientific achievements of the time. The early 1800’s were a time of great scientific advances, when science itself was beginning to break into different branches. In fact, the term, ‘scientist,’ was, in itself, new and evolved from the word ‘artist,’ to describe what someone interested in science actually was.

This bo
Nancy Oakes
When this book is actually released in a couple of days, you will definitely want to read it.

Making the Monster, as the dustjacket blurb says, "explores the scientific background" behind Mary Shelley's masterwork, Frankenstein: Or, Modern Prometheus, first published in 1818 and then again in 1831. The book examines the "science behind the story," but it also pieces together the "political, social and scientific world" in which Mary Shelley grew." The question that the author poses at the outse
Missy (myweereads)
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
“I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation lifeless matter.”

Making The Monster - The Science Behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Kathryn Harkup is a fascinating read for fans of the classic story and even those who haven’t read it yet. The book takes us through Mary Shelley’s life prior to her writing her iconic novel. As we know the story of Frankenstein began at a gathering with Lord Byron and other close family and
Natalie (CuriousReader)
This year marks the 200 year anniversary of Mary Shelley’s novel ‘Frankenstein’, and with the anniversary came a plethora of titles about the author and the novel in question, as well as a brand new Penguin Black Spine edition of the original 1818 text. Among this multitude of new releases, this one is perhaps the most scientifically leaning, as the title implies: "Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein". It is written by the author whose first book gave the same trea ...more
Kristy K
Feb 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Whether or not you’ve read or liked Frankenstein, this is an extremely interesting book about Mary Shelley, her life, and the science of her time. I enjoyed the detail Harkup went into and how she was able to make it so informative while keeping it interesting.

I own Harkup’s other novel (A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie) and it will be moving up on my tbr after reading this.
Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)
This review and others can be found on BW Book Reviews.

I was provided an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my rating. Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for the advanced copy!

When I saw this book on NetGalley, I basically jumped at the chance to read it because I, admittedly, really enjoy Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I wasn't raised watching the original Boris Karloff movie, but I loved Young Frankenstein and anything horror related. I was in high school by the time I
Salla (Booksonal)
Dec 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Full review at
*ARC kindly provided by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*


Like Harkups last novel A is for Arsenic based on Agatha Christie and the poisons she used (link to my review), this book was filled with science.

This book went through lots of aspects including science at that time and to my great interest: things that might've inspired her.

The thing is though, Frankenstein has such a rich history because though it's science fiction,
Mar 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I confess, I still haven’t read Frankenstein. It’s on my list – especially after how much I loved Romantic Outlaws about Mary Shelley and her mother Mary Wollstonecraft. But I admit I’ve spent most of the last 18 months reading fluff and I’m not ashamed. In the future though – Frankenstein and Anna Karenina – I’m coming for you! So, back to Mary Shelley, when I received a message about Making the Monster I was completely intrigued. How closely did she follow the science at her time?

I admit I tho
lacy [a ravenclaw library]
A special thank you goes to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Sigma for the eARC of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

This book was a monster. (haha, did you see what I did there??) It took me over a week to read this book and it wasn't even that long, which is unheard of for me. The last time I took that long to read a book, I read Roots which took me a month and was back when I was in high school.

Basically, the premise of this book was conveyed in two fold. First, we have the somewhat bio
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
2018 marks the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley's gothic masterpiece-- Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus. Widely recognized as one of the first works of science fiction, this revolutionary novel has truly withstood the test of time (and continues to haunt middle school literary criticism to this day!). Some may already know the broad strokes of how this story came to life: on a dark and stormy night (of course), 18 year old Mary joins her friends in a competitive game to see who can write ...more
Shannon (Mrsreadsbooks)
I found Making the Monster to be a really interesting book. It is both a biography of Mary Shelley, as well as an exploration of the scientific achievements of that time. The book also explores Shelley's famous novel, Frankenstein. This book goes into all of these aspects in trying to explain how such a young woman wrote a book in the early 1800's that is still very popular today. Anyone familiar with pop culture knows that this book has not only inspired other books, but television characters, ...more
Brian Clegg
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Subtitled 'the science behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein', what we get here is a mix of a biography of Mary Shelley and historical context for the various aspects of science that feature in Frankenstein, from electricity to preserving organs after death. I found this a much more approachable work than the annotated Frankenstein - in fact the perfect title would probably have been a combination of the two, with annotation based on Kathryn Harkup's words plus the text of the original.

I have given
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, ebook
Kathryn Harkup doesn't seem to have missed much in this thoroughly researched and insightfully arranged work. *Bonus: the Timeline of events appendix is a glorious addition rather than a necessary element to help readers understand the vast amount of information that is packed into the pages, which is not always the case when a book is as dense with dates, names, and scientific exploration.*

"Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" explores the life of Mary W. G. Shel
LAPL Reads
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
2018 is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein: Or The Modern Prometheus. In the intervening two centuries, Shelley’s novel, originally published anonymously, has become her most famous and well-known work and an international icon. The name Frankenstein has become shorthand for both mad scientists running amok and their monstrous creations (which also tend to run amok!). So, it is fitting that during this bicentennial year, Dr. Kathryn Harkup, a U ...more
Katherine P
Aug 14, 2018 rated it liked it
I don't think I realized just how little I knew about Mary Shelley and her husband, Percy Shelley or what was going on around Mary when Frankenstein was being written. Shelley's childhood was chaotic and lacking in any kind of formal education yet she was incredibly curious and well read. What little I knew about Mary Shelley I knew even less about what was going on in scientific world at the time and was very surprised about the number and scope of experiments involving electricity.

This book wa
Mar 23, 2018 rated it liked it
When I saw another book by Harkup I immediately requested it, as A is for Arsenic made it to my top reads of 2016.

The title is a little misleading as it goes quite a bit in-depth into Shelley's life, as well at a look starting from the Enlightenment era to the beginnings of alchemy and chemistry. The bulk of the book is, of course, the inspiration behind the classic novel of Frankenstein.

I found this to be a very interesting read and thought that Harkup did a great job at making this interestin
Becky Loader
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am *ahem, ahem* kind of a science geek.

Harkup wrote another book which talked all about poisons. It was fascinating.

Now Harkup has turned her attention to 19th century science and how a very smart young woman used her brain to come up with a very clever idea about re-animation of corpses. I really enjoyed all the detail about science, electricity, and the experiments that led to discoveries that laid the groundwork for future developments.

Great read.
Patrick DiJusto
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Insanely detailed analysis of the background of the novel Frankenstein, celebrating it's Bicentennial this year.

The book starts by looking into the background of Mary Woolstonecraft Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. What was it like growing up in the shadow of a pioneering feminist mother who died giving birth to her? What was it like being raised by her father, William Godwin, a political radical? What was it like to be a teenage girl, hiding under the table at one of her father's salons. ju
Allison O'Toole
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this survey of scientific topics related to Frankenstein, it's a fast read for such a big topic. However, it covers so much that it skims across the surface of most topics without depth.

My full review is up at Rogues Portal:
This was the second book in my birthday haul from my mother this year. The first was... not as good as I had hoped. Happily, this did not fall into the same trap.

The idea behind Harkup's book is to look into the science that was happening around the time of Shelley writing Frankenstein, to explore what ideas influenced her. I was slightly concerned that this could go down the route that Russ identifies of suggesting Shelley was nothing but a conduit for the ideas of the time, but she does nothin
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: frankenstein
This work is well done and has covered the topic well enough to have done a commendable job on tackling this topic. (Basically, the Science of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein.) If you are familiar with Mary Shelley and the book "Frankenstein" the first half of this is not going to really tell you anything you really want to know. The second half of the book delves into the entertaining idea of how the work "Frankenstein" is mirrored in science. It answers some good questions and if you are a collecto ...more
Pages & Cup
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Was sent a review copy from Bloomsbury.
Emma Hollen
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
My only regret with this book is how short it was. Considering the unbelievable amount of research Kathryn Harkup has been going through, it could have easily been 700 pages long and still be captivating! :)
Warren Benton
Dec 22, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is bookended by the life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.  From her parents who were way ahead of their time with what could be considered hippie thinking.  They instilled a forward-thinking, and love to write in their young daughter.  Mary was a huge fan of science and her husband Percy was also an author.  Most of Mary's life was in and around author's circle.  From her time when with Lord Byron and the beginnings of Frankenstein as a friendly competition.  

The lion's share of this bo
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
This unique book, commemorating the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein, doesn't just summarize the scientific advancements that led to the classic tale, it meticulously pieces together the methods and means that Victor would have used to accomplish this feat. Equally entertaining and disturbing, this book provides all the gory details behind grave robbing, criminal dissection, and the evolution of surgical advancements and organ transplants.
Brice Fuqua
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This year marks 200 years since the publication of Frankenstein. There are a number of books being released this year to mark the anniversary of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s iconic novel. One of the more unusual is Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein by Kathryn Harkup.
It is a curious hybrid, being part biography, part popular science and part literary analysis. Harkup sees Frankenstein as being as much a reflection of the emerging scientific revolution as it is of
Allen Adams

Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus” was published in 1818. In the two centuries since, it has taken its place as one of the most iconic works of science fiction and gothic horror in the history of Western literature. It has become a cultural touchstone, a familiar landmark for anyone navigating the realm of popular culture. When you say “Frankenstein,” everyone knows to what you’re referring.

But while the novel is a work of pure invent
Oct 20, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5/5 stars

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is one of my favorite books of all time, and definitely in my list of top ten classics. So when I saw Kathryn Harkup's Making the Monster beginning to make its rounds on Twitter and Instagram, I added it to my TBR and wishlist and waited for a good sale because based on the cover and title alone, I wanted it for my own collection.

I love literary histories like these that give the reader an insight into the creation of the novel while also providing context
Dec 15, 2017 rated it liked it
"Making the Monster" is about the science and people that influenced the making of the story "Frankenstein." The book started with a biography of Mary Shelley's life, focusing on the people and events that probably inspired parts of the novel. It ended with this biography, briefly talking about Mary Shelley's life after "Frankenstein" was published. The author also compared the books (the original and the 1831 revised version) and the books to the various play and movie adaptations of the story. ...more
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
Making the Monster is part biography, part literary analysis and part history of science, all linked to the book, Frankenstein. I think that it may be quite a unique audience that enjoys reading all three parts. Personally I enjoyed bits of all three but there were points where the book dragged and at times, the author’s thought exercise of ‘let’s pretend that Frankenstein really did make the Monster, what science would he have used?’ was stretched way too far, making me want to yell at the book ...more
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