2009 reprint of the original 1818 edition. Paperback 131 pp. Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, generally known as Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, was published in London in 1818 in three volumes. Shelley started writing Frankenstein when she was 18 and finished when she was 19. The first edition was published anonymously in London in 1818. Shelley's name appears on the second edition, published in 1831. The title of the novel refers to a scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who learns how to create life and creates a being in the likeness of man, but larger than average and more powerful. In popular culture, people have tended to refer to the Creature as Frankenstein, despite this being the name of the scientist. Frankenstein is infused with some elements of the Gothic novel and the Romantic Movement. It was also a warning against the expansion of modern man in the Industrial Revolution, alluded to in the novel's subtitle, The Modern Prometheus. The story has had an influence across literature and popular culture and spawned a complete genre of horror stories and films. It is often considered the first fully realized science fiction novel due to its pointed, if gruesome; focus on playing God by creating life from dead flesh. Critical reception of the book was mostly unfavorable, compounded by confused speculation as to the identity of the author. Sir Walter Scott wrote that upon the whole, the work impresses us with a high idea of the author's original genius and happy power of expression, but most reviewers thought it a tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity. Despite the reviews, Frankenstein achieved an almost immediate popular success, which exists to this day.
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.