The first sci fi book ever written! (5 stars)
Published in 1818, Frankenstein is considered the first work o science fiction. It tells the story of one Victor Frankenstein, scientist that creates a living being out of dead body parts.
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS
The unnamed creature of the book – commonly called Frankenstein in pop culture – is a very different than how it was portrayed in film. He is mentally and physically agile, by far the most articulate character in the book. He is even prone to citing passages from Paradise Lost, as he finds an uncanny likeness between his own social exile and that of Lucifer in Milton’s epic poem.
It is also worth pointing out that the creature is not a monster initially. He has good impulses, but becomes aggressive after being constantly attacked and ostracized. Abandoned and left confused with no answers by his own creator after his “birth”, the creature is even shot after saving a woman and is later chased by a family of peasants that he secretly helped for months. He becomes a monster because he is treated as such by humanity.
The book is an example of the popular 19th century motif of the doppelgänger – like Edgar Allan Poe‘s short story William Wilson, Oscar Wilde‘s The Picture of Dorian Gray and Louis Stevenson‘s Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, to name a few. These are stories about the existence of a “evil side“ to every person. A dark, bestial and primal side, hiding behind our appearance of reason and control. A precursory representation of psychoanalysis‘ Id.
One can see a clear change in Victor Frankenstein‘s character after the creation of his monster. He was obsessed with his scientific pursuits and shun away his family and friends. As soon as his monster is created, his personality shifts and he starts again to value human contact. Is like he is “exorcised“ of that evil. Frankenstein‘s lust for vengeance later on in the story mirrors the creature at the beginning. He is first the hunted and then the hunter.
Frankenstein is a book about that madness that comes when science is not mediated by moral, and perhaps this is why the book is still relevant almost two centuries after it was published. Human beings have created a nuclear arsenal that can destroy the planet many times over. Just an example of how such an insanity remains alive and well today.