A scary thought: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The book that founded science fiction had been on my reading list for some time. But it wasn’t until I came across a copy of Shelley’s classic wedged in between all the Dracula books in a shop in Whitby that I decided to embrace my inner demons and tackle Frankenstein.

Above all else, Frankenstein defined a new genre. Shelley used both the wonder and horror science as a way of exploring deeply philosophical themes from identity to family to discovery and, classically, existentialism. But not only this novel profound, it is also deliciously readable: Frankenstein is as startlingly original as it is enchanting. From the opening section, in which Walton describes to his dear sister his arduous journey and discovery of Victor Frankenstein, through that character’s misendeavours and terror, this novel holds the reader’s attention in a grasp not unlike that used by its monster to throttle his victims.

The novel also achieves a great structural success. When Victor is found by Walton, I had certainly forgotten that I was reading his account and that this would inevitably catch up with the present. It was perfect timing. Like Victor, Shelley crafted something that will stay around for a long time, as it underpins the ever-growing sci-fi genre. Goodness knows what would have happened without Frankenstein. That’s a scary thought indeed.

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