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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus (1818)

I don't think a true fan of the horror genre would neglect to appreciate the historical development of horror in literature as it grew from simple folklore in the form of fairy tales (let's face it- Grimms' Fairy Tales are downright scary in their original forms) to a stories specifically created to entertain in the form of books.  One of these such tales is, "Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus".

Victor Frankenstein has been obsessed since childhood with the desire to discover the secret of Life.  After having used parts disected from human corpses... and possibly animal as well, he is finally ready to test his theories and attempt to bring his creation to life.  As he looks upon his creature, the reality of what he's done horrifies him- causing him to abandon his creation and flee.  Racked with anger, Frankenstein's creation begins a campaign of terror against his creator... and dogs his every step to the ends of the earth.

Those that are fans of "Frankenstein" will already know that in 1816, while Mary Shelly and her husband, Percy were staying with Lord Byron on Lake Geneva, it was suggested that those attending should write a supernatural story each.  John Polidori's classic, "The Vampyre" (1819), and Shelly's "Frankenstein" were the results.

This book would be enjoyed more for fans of the genre that have an interest in gothic horror, and older, more historic pieces of literature.  Those that are used to the classic Universal Studios movie may not enjoy it as much.

Personally, I enjoyed it- even if the style of writing can be a bit much to wade through.  The tone is moody and atmospheric.  The tension is good, and the flow well crafted.  The story is quite different than the classic Boris Karloff movie, and is actually quite in depth when it comes to character, and themes.

The characters are well thought out, and realistic.  None of them are so much villians as sympathetic characters.  You sympathise with Victor as he tries to flee what he sees as a mistake and attempts to create a new life.  At the same time, you feel empathy and sympathy for his creation as well as he tries to get Victor to accept responsibility for bringing him to life.  There is depth to both of the characters- especially the creation since, unlike the movie portrayal, is actually quite intellegent and articulate.

The novel's sub-title, "The Modern Prometheus" supplies part of the theme as the story is similar to that of Prometheus- the Greek Titan that created man, then stole fire from Olympus to give to man.  For this theft, Prometheus was punished.  In the same way, Frankenstein steals from God, the secret of Life and creates a man... only to be ultimately punished.

Another theme is about accepting responsibility for the lives we bring into this world.  Too often, people bring a child into the world, and then abandon, or neglect them- much the same way Frankenstein did with his creation.  By refusing to accept responsibility for his actions and the life he created, he set up a slippery slope of destruction that ultimately leads to his own.

As a fan of the horror genre, and of classical horror literature, I would definatly recommend reading, "Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus".  I'm giving this book a spot in, "The Good".

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