Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

Frankenstein Bantam cover Frankenstein
Or, The Modern Prometheus
(1818, revised 1831)

1967 Bantam paperback
cover art by James E. Bama
206 pages (left)

1988 Tor paperback
cover art uncredited
233 pages (right)
Frankenstein Tor cover

From the back cover of the Tor paperback:
       Dr. Victor Frankenstein wanted to create perfection.  Mixing science and alchemy, he wanted to stitch the rotting remains of the stolen dead into a living giant of superhuman strength and beauty.  He almost succeeded.
       The thing breathed, it moved, it opened its eyes...and at the sight, the young doctor fled into the night, shrieking with horror.  When Frankenstein returned to his lab, the creature was gone.
       But it was still alive.  Seeking friends, the fiend found enemies: seeking hope, it found hate.  Loathed by humanity, shunned by its own maker, the monster vowed to get revenge for having been born.  Unstoppable, unholy, it would travel to the ends of the earth to destroy its creator --
       By destroying everyone Frankenstein loved...

From the back cover of the 2000 Signet Classic paperback:
       The story of Victor Frankenstein and of the monstrous creature he created has held readers spellbound since its publication almost two centuries ago.  On the surface, it is a novel of tense and steadily mounting horror; but on a more profound level, it offers searching illumination of the human condition in its portrayal of a scientist who oversteps the bounds of conscience, and of a monster brought to life in an alien world, ever more desperately attempting to escape the torture of his solitude.  A novel of hallucinatory intensity, Frankenstein represents one of the most striking flowerings of the Romantic imagination.

Read for group discussion on November 12, 2003

Frankenstein signet cover More book covers:


2000 Signet Classic paperback
Foreword by Walter James Miller
Afterword by Harold Bloom
198 pages (left)

1953 Lion Books edition
(first paperback edition)
cover art uncredited
222 pages (right)
Frankenstein lion books cover

How we each rated this book
Dan - Amy 8 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri 7 Barb -
Aaron 9 Cynthia -
Jackie 8.5 Ron 8
Christine - Mitch -

Aaron's Commentary  Mary Shelley - Frankenstein

Frankenstein was a huge influence on both the horror and science fiction genres.  As a horror novel, the image of the monster is powerful even today, and must have been shocking to a Nineteenth Century reader.  Shelley very effectively builds a sense of dread over Frankenstein's impending doom.

More importantly (at least for purposes of our science fiction book group), Frankenstein is arguably the first modern science fiction novel.  Shelley is careful to try to justify the tale scientifically, and this plausibility adds impact to the story.

Shelley addresses many of the issues that still remain central to science fiction.  One is the examination of the alien.  The monster is frightening and non-human (as indicated by the fact that he never receives a name), yet he is not evil.  He commits terrible acts, but only from rage at being left alone and miserable, the same rage that grips Frankenstein by the end of the novel.

A second is the potential effects of new technologies.  Frankenstein raises moral issues about the use of technology, such as the morality of building a mate for the monster, and shows the danger of cold rationality, symbolized for example by the frozen wastes where the story culminates.  Yet anyone who thinks this novel is just a warning that "there are things that man was not meant to know" is not reading carefully.  Frankenstein's passionate speech toward the end suggests that the novel is not meant to condemn scientific progress.  The subtitle, The Modern Prometheus, indicates directly to the contrary.  It was a good thing for Prometheus to give mankind fire, even if, like Frankenstein, he was tortured for it.

Aside from its historical importance, Frankenstein holds up to this day as engaging reading, even if it moves a bit ponderously by modern standards (largely because of some overly detailed stories-within-stories).  Both Frankenstein and the monster are sympathetic figures and the scenes where they confront each other are especially effective.  In the end, neither has any avenue of escape from his tragic fate.

What do you think? Your comments are welcome. Please send them to

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851) was a UK writer. Her gothic novel Frankenstein, which is considered a proto-science-fiction book, is the most famous English horror novel, although perhaps not the most widely read. Many modern readers are more familiar with the films inspired by the book than the original book.

From 1983 Signet Classic:
Born in London in 1797, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was the daughter of William Godwin, a noted social theorist, and Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the leading woman literary figures of the day.  Her mother died soon after her birth, and Mary was raised first under the care of servants, then by a stepmother, and lastly in the advanced intellectual atmosphere of her father's circle.  In May, 1814, she met Percy Bysshe Shelley, and in July of that year eloped with him to the Continent.  Two years later, after the death of Shelley's wife, the poet and Mary were able to marry.  It was in Switzerland in 1816, as a result of a story-writing competition among the Shelleys and Lord Byron, that Mary began Frankenstein, her first and most famous novel.  Published in 1816, it was followed by such works as Valperga (1823), The Last Man (1826), Lodore (1835), and Falkner (1837).  In 1823, after the death of her husband, she returned to England; there she devoted herself to the upbringing of her son and the securing of his right to the Shelley family title.  She died in 1851.

Mary Shelley - Wikipedia
Online Literature Library - Mary Shelley - Frankenstein : Frankenstein Summary, Essays, Quotes, and Pictures
Watershed Online: A Frankenstein Study
Mary Shelley Biography
Frankenstein Films - Frankenstein Movie and Horror Film Site

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This page was last updated October 21, 2008