'I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion.' A summer evening's ghost stories, lonely insomnia in a moonlit Alpine's room, and a runaway imagination -- fired by philosophical discussions with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley about science, galvanism, and the origins of life -- conspired to produce for Mary Shelley this haunting night specter. By morning, it had become the germ of her Romantic masterpiece, "Frankenstein." Written in 1816 when she was only 19, Mary Shelley's novel of 'The Modern Prometheus' chillingly dramatized the dangerous potential of life begotten upon a laboratory table. A frightening creation myth for our own time, "Frankenstein" remains one of the greatest horror stories ever written and is an undisputed classic of its kind.
Frankenstein, loved by many decades of readers and praised by such eminent literary critics as Harold Bloom, seems hardly to need a recommendation. If you haven't read it recently, though, you may not remember the sweeping force of the prose, the grotesque, surreal imagery, and the multilayered doppelgänger themes of Mary Shelley's masterpiece. As fantasy writer Jane Yolen writes of this (the reviewer's favorite) edition, "The strong black and whites of the main text [illustrations] are dark and brooding, with unremitting shadows and stark contrasts. But the central conversation with the monster--who owes nothing to the overused movie image … but is rather the novel's charnel-house composite--is where [Barry] Moser's illustrations show their greatest power ... The viewer can all but smell the powerful stench of the monster's breath as its words spill out across the page. Strong book-making for one of the world's strongest and most remarkable books." Includes an illuminating afterword by Joyce Carol Oates.