Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

“Frankenstein” is not at all what I expected.  And, yes, I was well aware that the popular fiction versions of the movie were nothing like the original book.  The novel reads more like a travelogue than a story about a man who created a monster and reaped what he sowed.  It is a well written travelogue to be sure, but a good portion of the prose is spent describing the journeys from place to place.

Interspersed in between the travelogue are some fascinating psychological insights into both Victor Frankenstein and his Monster.  I’m sure massive bottles of ink have been spilled arguing back and forth on the plight of both Victor and his Monster.  If anyone can recommend a good one, I’d happily accept your recommendation.  They are both interesting characters and, while I sympathize somewhat with both, I think Victor is much more of a dick than the Monster.  The monster’s motives make sense throughout, while Victor warbles back and forth feeling both sympathy and hatred for his creation.

All that’s great stuff, but the story itself is lacking a good editor.  It inexplicably begins with a long introduction to a character, Captain Walton, who plays zero role in the book whatsoever except to accidentally meet Victor while trapped in his boat on the icy Arctic.  Again, it’s kind of cool and well written, but why is it even there?

I was also surprised at how little time was spent establishing Victor’s abhorrence for the Monster.  Man brings body parts together.  Man animates body parts.  Man can’t stand the sight of what he’s created.  Run away!

Another thing that bothered me was how much of the story was left to simple chance and willful ignorance.  There are many times when Victor could have easily created a pitchfork mob (but with guns!) and hunted down the Monster.  (And, by the way, there is not a single pitchfork mob to be had in this book.  Oh, popular culture, how far astray you have led me!)  But the biggest problem for is Victor’s complete misreading of the situation when all evidence both past and present point to a very obvious conclusion.  I guess it could be argued that Victor’s path to insanity lead him to believe what he did, but the only acceptable conclusion that I can come to is that Victor is a narcissist of the highest order.

“Frankenstein” was not an enjoyable read, but neither was it horrible.  There is a lot of literary juice to be squeezed from it for those with the propensity to do so.  It is a rare book that makes me want to read literary criticism of it and “Frankenstein” succeeded in doing that.  In the end, though, I read for enjoyment, and this book was only a moderately enjoyable one.