Frankenstein is a masterpiece of nineteenth-century Gothicism and the prototype of the twentieth-century science fiction novel. The novel was conceived in 1816, after Mary Shelley's late-night conversation with Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron about bringing corpses to life and her subsequent nightmare about a student who built a human being and "woke him up" with machinery. The monster's culpability for various horrific acts and his powerlessness in the face of ostracism from society, combined with Dr. Frankenstein's lies and abdication of responsibility, raised chilling questions that made the novel both an instant bestseller and a timeless classic.
Alan Cheuse is a novelist, essayist, short-story writer, and literary critic. His most recent short-story collection is The Tennessee Waltz, and he is the author of the memoir Fall out of Heaven. He is the producer and host of the Syndicated Fiction/National Public Radio short-story magazine of the air The Sound of Writing, and he serves as book commentator for NPR's evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. He is a member of the writing faculty at George Mason University.
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.