Frankenstein is a masterpiece of nineteenth-century Gothicism and the prototype of the twentieth-century science-fiction novel. It was conceived in the Swiss Alps in mid-June 1816 after a conversation about bringing corpses to life provoked a nightmare, and was written over the next eleven months in largely morbid circumstances. Death and the terrors of childbirth--as much as Romanticism, a burgeoning awareness of unconscious drives, and contemporary ideas of atheism, the collapse of the social contract, and the corrupting influence of society on human nature--inform this story of a man (or monster) built by Dr. Victor Frankenstein and brought to life by electricity. The monster's culpability for various horrific acts, his powerlessness in the face of his complete ostracism from society, and Dr. Frankenstein's lies, abdication of responsibility, and the pain he inflicts on his creation raised chilling questions that made the novel an immediate bestseller.
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.