The Thirty Day Book Challenge: Day Nine

“How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form?”

Mary Shelley

Happy Hallowe’en, everybody! I hope you’ve all had an appropriately spooky evening, and to round it all off, a vaguely topical post for my Thirty Day Challenge.

Day Nine: A Book You Thought You Wouldn’t Like But Ended Up Loving

Frankenstein, actually. The Oxford World Classics cover makes it look astonishingly dull, and, being a Victorian novel, it doesn’t really seem like it could possibly scare a modern-day audience…

…but it does. Completely. And not because there is anything inherently terrifying about a monster made up of dead people, because we’ve all seen that in horror films and in fantasy novels (Terry Pratchett’s Igors, anyone?) and even in the gorier class of Murder Mystery these days, but because of what it implies about humanity. There are people who’ll just try things Because They Can, and not really plan for what comes after. I’ve always been of the opinion that the world will eventually end (touch wood) with someone saying “I wonder what this does?”, and in Frankenstein you can see why.

In a way, it’s also the earliest horror story about science – how far are we prepared to go to understand the world? Gandalf once said that “he who breaks a thing to find out what it is has strayed from the path of wisdom”, but isn’t that what scientists do every day? And in a world where the scientific method is placed higher than anything else, what happens to justice, and truth, and humanity? Are they to be sacrificed for the sake of knowledge?

I also love Frankenstein because it’s so damn tragic. Frankenstein himself – that’s the scientist, not the monster – vacillates endlessly between alternative courses of action and dooms both himself and his family because of that hesitation. And the monster – well, let’s just say that in the novel, unlike any of the film adaptations, the monster has a voice and a heart and a mind and it is angry. For reasons that are good and valid. Frankenstein is a book that will make you weep for the world, and probably freak you out for a while too, and really there is no substitute for reading it.

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