I thought I knew this one. Jacob’s ladders with crackling electricity. Lighting flashing around dark turrets. Hunch-backed assistants. Stumbling, rambling, helpless monsters. And, of course, “IT’S ALLIIVVVEEE!”
My niece got me to read this, as detailed HERE. Never read it but if a kid demands you read a classic, you really need to follow up.
Okay, first misconception – that the monster is named “Frankenstein”. Actually, that I knew but most people don’t (technically, he might adapt the Victor Frankenstein’s surname, but I rather doubt it. Demon. Monster. Those are more appropriate).
So the book starts with letters from a whaler captain nosing through the northern ice. I read this for a bit then flipped back to the cover to check. Am I reading Moby Dick? Then, the mysterious dogsled pursuit, the passion-racked man recovered off a flow. How strange. How very, very strange.
And then the story wrenches into overdrive and nothing is the same.
The movie idea of Doctor Victor building his monster in his laboratory is a cliché. The book’s image of medical student Victor doing something not quite described in a loft at Ingolstadt, something in inanimate tissue, with chemicals and traces of alchemy, that is a thought that will stay with me. Image stepping through his door, the reek of chemicals, the arrangements of molded flesh, the harried, half-crazed student. You get the picture (I sure did).
And then the thing he builds, how ugly it is. And when he flees the laboratory when it flickers alive. And how it shambles after him in the moonlight; ugh, ugh, ugh. He escapes into the street and when he finally returns, the thing is gone.
Oh, we wish.
It isn’t gone. No, it’s out there, out in the woods, shambling around, lonely, rejected, and learning. Imagine an Alien that can read, one that can comprehend its human isolation, one that feels not only hunger but loneliness and denial. A creature fast and strong and hideous, who can track with equal ability through wastelands and urban areas, who cannot be shaken and cannot be denied.
And what does Victor do when the demand is for a companion, a mate?
The fact that this monster kills to make its point, slaying those Victor cares for (as well as an occasional innocent) has caused two long arguments between myself and my niece and my friend, long discussions of the justification of killing and the rejection of self. Me? I think the monster was just that, a creature of vast strength and vindictiveness that chose the atrocities it committed, and in that, is responsible for them. In the multiple wakes of all our deranged shootings, how can one justify the killing of innocents as a rage against isolation?
But that’s just my take on it. You should see what yours is. But for God’s sake (and for Victor’s, and his poor, abandoned monster) read this book. A real eye-popper.