This month's review (albeit late) is one of classic horror, a novel that has a thousand times been rendered for us by countless directors of the silver screen, many with more than a modicum of poetic license for which they have been praised, but have failed to touch the true heart of this wonderful story of creativity, toil, despair, passion, revulsion, horror, and redemption. It is one that can be enjoyed on many levels, and one I think you might enjoy.

Mary Shelley

This is a novel we tend to think we know well from the works of the aforementioned directors (only one who came close to rendering its true glory), but oh, my dear readers, it is not so. Even in this, it only barely touches the surface. The story of Victor Frankenstein is fairly straightfoward: found by a ship in the far reaches of the North Pole, he sets out to tell his story: of how, having grown up in the lap of luxury and delight, he becomes striken, in his early adulthood, by the severe agony of loss when his beloved mother succumbs to the ravages of Scarlet Fever. He therefore endeavored, through his studies at the University of Ingolstad, through his ravenous readings of the Ancient Philosophies of Paracelsus, Agrippa, and the like, to overcome death; to create a being stronger and less susceptible to the ravages of death, decay and disease than we ourselves are, putting aside even the love of his family an friends, even disregarding his soon-to-be wife Elizabeth.

And of course you know well that he succeeds, but does not deign to tell us how, so sickened is he by his folly. But in succeeding, he reviles his creation, sickens and loses track of he monster and of himself; his drive to create something to which he can place his name shows not only the horror of what can become of one so driven, but what can happen when his creation gets out of hand, and what that work can do to the creator.

And yet it is called a monster, this thing that stumbles out onto the world, must care for and teach itself, this thing that seeks only to do good. This thing that is so feared that it must do its good deeds in secret. And yet what does the monster want? Nothing more than a friend, and the companionship of his father, or at least, that of a being like himself. Yet he kills, and more than once, laying waste to Victor's family (the first victim being a child dear to Victor, the waste for which an innocent woman hangs), his life and loves, his peace of mind, that which might have brought him peace. Victor rightly shuns him, and refuses his requests. The two pursue each other to the ends of the Earth, having only one ending before them.

Which succeeds? How does the tale unfold? I'll leave that to your discovery. This, a story written by an 18 year old girl, in the late 1800s spans down through the ages, I think, not because it is a tale of wicked horror, but because it speaks to that spark of creativity in all of us. I would caution you not to let the impressions of the silver screen get in your way when reading this novel. There is much more to be discovered here than monsters, mad scientists, and ghouls. Enjoy it for what it is: A Classic tale of unbridled imagination and brilliant creativity, of deep despair, redemption and hope.

*published 1818, according to The Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Chronology & Resource Site

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