Swiss medical student Victor Frankenstein discovers the secret of life (which he never reveals, lest someone repeat the mistake). He then puts together a body, essentially a man, from various corpses. He then becomes horrified by the creature he has built, and abandons. The creature, suffering a great deal of neglect and abuse, still manages to get a thorough education, and learns of his lineage. After murdering Victor's younger brother, and framing the family maid, the creature tells his (admittedly) sad tale to his "father", and then demands a mate. Victor, in a panic, agrees, then thinks better of it at the last moment, destroying the new bride. In retaliation, the creature murders all of Victor's loved ones (including his wife), and leads Victor on a merry chase across the world.
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.