NOTE: I have chosen to look at each of the books in the Penguin Horror collection in the order described by series curator Guillermo del Toro in his Introductory essay Haunted Castles, Dark Mirrors: on the Penguin Horror Series.
Okay, so let’s talk about the book a little first.
For those who have not come in contact with the Frankenstein story, it’s pretty simple (sorry for the 195-year-old spoilers, but seriously what can you do?), you have a doctor who decides to create life, he does this by putting together parts for a variety of human bodies and creates an eight-foot tall monster that disgusts him so completely that he abandons it almost immediately after creating it. The rest of the book follows his attempts to remove himself from any responsibility for the creature and the creature’s attempts to live in our world, and failing that, get some understanding from its creator.
Let's just say things do not work out well.
If you've never actually read the original novel, you are in for a huge treat – the story moves along incredibly quickly, is very readable and the tension that builds throughout is second to none. As this was my fourth or fifth read through, I was pretty happy to come across this description that the doctor gives of his own upbringing (which to be fair, many a first-year English major has likely made this comparison before me):
I was [my parents] plaything and their idol, and something better – their child, the innocent and helpless creature bestowed on them by Heaven, whom to bring up to good, and whose future lot it was in their hands to direct to happiness or misery, according as they fulfilled their duties to me. With this deep consciousness of what they owed towards the being to which they had given life, added to the active spirit of tenderness that animated both, it may be imagined that while during every hour of my infant life I received a lesson of patience, of charity, and of self-control. (Chapter 1)
And with this sort of upbringing, you would think he would treat his own creation better, but if he had, where would our story be?
First of all, the fact that the book is a sturdy hardcover, with a wonderful cover by Paul Buckley, ensures that it has a prominent location on my living room bookshelf. The Book comes with an introductory essay by del Toro, a wonderful introduction by author Elizabeth Kostova, and then a great number of extras, including a reading guide, a chronology of author Mary Shelley’s life, and a filmography looking into 21 selected Frankenstein films (more on this Monday)