I’m glad this project finally gave me a kick in the pants to actually read Frankenstein, which is often hailed as one of the first-ever science fiction books. It’s a grandmother of the genre, and for good reason: the ideas and moral implications that it grapples with are enormous, and it has a really nuanced and intelligent approach to them. But is it worth reading? Well….
The Book: Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley/Wollstonecraft
Genre: horror, scifi
First impressions: Man, can Victor Frankenstein talk. Something many people don’t realize about this book if they haven’t read it is that the whole story is told verbally by Dr. Frankenstein to a man he met on an arctic voyage in his pursuit of the monster. The whole book is contained inside several letters that said man is sending home to his sister, detailing the account of his great (and foolhardy) trek to the North Pole. This conceit wears thin rather quickly, and you end up sort of forgetting that there is a meta-story at all, until you get to the end of the book and suddenly you’re like wait, who’s Robert Walton?
This story also suffers somewhat from the change in culture between when it was written and now. Lots of the plot is built around people deciding obviously they must go to X place or do Y thing, and as a reader it’s like…well, no. No you don’t have to do that thing. How about you not do that thing? That thing sounds like probably it would get you killed. Also I know that the monster is suppose to be this misunderstood creature, but he’s kind of a huge dick. Like, 80% of the shit that befalls him happens because he was totally unreasonable in his expectations of people, and then flipped out and murdered them for it. SEEMS A LITTLE SILLY IF YOU ASK ME.
Ultimately, though, still a classic of the genre and well worth reading. Just don’t get too attached to anybody, because *spoilers* EVERYONE DIES
Will it adapt?: Yes. Frankenstein has already been adapted thousands of times in dozens of different formats, including an absolutely brilliant staged version starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller, and a gender-swapped webseries from the same people who did Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Over the years, however, many of those adaptations have picked up elements that never happened in the original book. Frankenstein’s sidekick, Igor, for instance; and also the addition of the lightning storm, which very much does not happen; and also the maniacal “IT’S ALIVE” laughter, which replaces the original “oh shit RUN AWAY” depicted in the book. I’d like to see a faithful rendition of this book, actually (maybe minus the Robert Walton frame). A lot of its more nuanced ideas have been lost to the drama of subsequent adaptations, and it would be nice to see those emerge again.
Should I read it?: Yes, you should! Maybe skip the letters at the beginning, though. And don’t feel bad if you have to skim a few bits, because some of them are boring as fuck.
P.S. Some brief live-tweeting here.
This post is part of my I Read It First series.