Frankenstein available in Paperback
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The timeless cautionary tale of man's overreach with tragic consequences for all. Victor Frankenstein, obsessed with scientific studies, creates and brings to life a creature made from scavenged body parts. However, unable to deal with the hideous "monster" he has created, Frankenstein flees, setting in motion a series of events that ultimately destroys everything he holds dear.
This edition includes critical essays by acclaimed author and senior lecturer (Arizona State University) Paul Cook and by Alexei and Cory Panshin (adapted from their Hugo-winning work on science fiction, The World Beyond the Hill).
About the Author
Mary Shelley was only eighteen when Lord Byron challenged a group of friends to write the best horror story. She fleshed out her original and this was accepted for publication when she was just twenty. Shelley wrote several novels after Frankenstein but none of them has stood the test of time, although in her lifetime she was taken seriously as a writer, especially of biographies. She died in 1851, thirty years after the tragic early death of her husband Percy.
Read an Excerpt
To Mrs. Saville, England St. Petersburgh, Dec. 11th, 17
You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings. I arrived here yesterday; and my first task is to assure my dear sister of my welfare, and increasing confidence in the success of my undertaking.
I am already far north of London; and as I walk in the streets of Petersburgh, I feel a cold northern breeze play upon my cheeks, which braces my nerves, and fills me with delight. Do you understand this feeling? This breeze, which has travelled from the regions towards which I am advancing, gives me a foretaste of those icy climes. Inspirited by this wind of promise, my day dreams become more fervent and vivid. I try in vain to be persuaded that the pole is the seat of frost and desolation; it ever presents itself to my imagination as the region of beauty and delight. There, Margaret, the sun is for ever visible, its broad disk just skirting the horizon, and diffusing a perpetual splendour. Therefor with your leave, my sister, I will put some trust in preceding navigatorsthere snow and frost are banished; and, sailing over a calm sea, we may be wafted to a land surpassing in wonders and in beauty every region hitherto discovered on the habitable globe. Its productions and features may be without example, as the phenomena of the heavenly bodies undoubtedly are in those undiscovered solitudes. What may not be expected in a country of eternal light? I may there discover the wondrous power which attracts the needle; and may regulate a thousand celestial observations, that require onlythis voyage to render their seeming eccentricities consistent for ever. I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man. These are my enticements, and they are sufficient to conquer all fear of danger or death, and to induce me to commence this laborious voyage with the joy a child feels when he embarks in a little boat, with his holiday mates, on an expedition of discovery up his native river. But, supposing all these conjectures to be false, you cannot contest the inestimable benefit which I shall confer on all mankind to the last generation, by discovering a passage near the pole to those countries, to reach which at present so many months are requisite; or by ascertaining the secret of the magnet, which, if at all possible, can only be effected by an undertaking such as mine.
These reflections have dispelled the agitation with which I began my letter, and I feel my heart glow with an enthusiasm which elevates me to heaven; for nothing contributes so much to tranquillize the mind as a steady purposea point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye. This expedition has been the favourite dream of my early years. I have read with ardour the accounts of the various voyages which have been made in the prospect of arriving at the North Pacific Ocean through the seas which surround the pole. You may remember that a history of all the voyages made for purposes of discovery composed the whole of our good uncle Thomas's library. My education was neglected, yet I was passionately fond of reading. These volumes were my study day and night, and my familiarity with them increased that regret which I had felt, as a child, on learning that my father's dying injunction had forbidden my uncle to allow me to embark in a seafaring life.
These visions faded when I perused, for the first time, those poets whose effusions, entranced my soul, and lifted it to heaven. I also became a poet, and for one year lived in a Paradise of my own creation; I imagined that I also might obtain a niche in the temple where the names of Homer and Shakespeare are consecrated. You are well acquainted with my failure, and how heavily I bore the disappointment. But just at that time I inherited the fortune of my cousin, and my thoughts were turned into the channel of their earlier bent.
Six years have passed since I resolved on my present undertaking. I can, even now, remember the hour from which I dedicated myself to this great enterprise. I commenced by inuring my body to hardship. I accompanied the whale-fishers on several expeditions to the North Sea; I voluntarily endured cold, famine, thirst, and want of sleep; I often worked harder than the common sailors during the day, and devoted my nights to the study of mathematics, the theory of medicine, and those branches of physical science from which a naval adventure might derive the greatest practical advantage. Twice I actually hired myself as an under-mate in a Greenland whaler, and acquitted myself to admiration. I must own I felt a little proud, when my captain offered me the second dignity in the vessel and intreated me to remain with the greatest earnestness so valuable did he consider my services.
And now, dear Margaret, do I not deserve to accomplish some great purpose? My life might have been passed in ease and luxury; but I preferred glory to every enticement that wealth placed in my path. Oh, that some encouraging voice would answer in the affirmative! My courage and my resolution is firm; but my hopes fluctuate, and my spirits are often depressed. I am about to proceed on a long and difficult voyage, the emergencies of which will demand all my fortitude: I am required not only to raise the spirits of others, but sometimes to sustain my own, when theirs are failing.
This is the most favourable period for travelling in Russia. They fly quickly over the snow in their sledges; the motion is pleasant, and, in my opinion, far more agreeable than that of an English stage-coach. The cold is not excessive, if you are wrapped in fursa dress which I have already adopted; for there is a great difference between walking the deck and remaining seated motionless for hours, when no exercise prevents the blood from actually freezing in your veins. I have no ambition to lose my life on the post-road between St Petersburgh and Archangel.
I shall depart for the latter town in a fortnight or three weeks; and my intention is to hire a ship there, which can easily be done by paying the insurance for the owner, and to engage as many sailors as I think necessary among those who are accustomed to the whale-fishing. I do not intend to sail until the month of June; and when shall I return? Ah, dear sister, how can I answer this question? If I succeed, many, many months, perhaps years, will pass before you and I may meet. If I fail, you will see me again soon, or never.
Farewell, my dear, excellent Margaret. Heaven shower down blessings on you, and save me, that I may again and again testify my gratitude for all your love and kindness.
Your affectionate brother, R. Walton
From the Paperback edition.
Table of Contents
Monsters, Visionaries, and Mary Shelley.
Edmund Burke, “On the Sublime and the Beautiful,” from A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful.
Mary Wollstonecraft, from A Vindication of the Rights of Men.
William Gilpin, from Picturesque Travel.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, from The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere, 1798.
Mary Wollstonecraft, Jemima's Story from Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman.
Mary Godwin (Shelley), journal entries.
Percy Shelley, from Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude.
Mary Shelley, from History of a Six Weeks' Tour.
Percy Shelley, Mont Blanc.
George Gordon, Lord Byron, Canto 3 from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage III.
George Gordon, George Gordon, Lord Byron, A Fragment.
Richard Brinsley Peake, from Frankenstein, A Romantic Drama.
Mary Shelley, from a letter to E. J. Trelawny.
Dr. Benjamin Spock, “Enjoy Your Baby,” from Baby and Child Care.
Milton's Satan and Romantic Imaginations.
The King James Bible, Genesis, Chapters 2 and 3.
John Milton, from Paradise Lost.
William Godwin, from “An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice.
George Gordon, Lord Byron, “Prometheus.”
John Keats, To One Who Has Been Long in City Pent.
John Keats, Marginalia to Paradise Lost.
William Hazlitt, “On Shakespeare and Milton,” from Lectures on the English Poets.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Preface Prometheus Unbound.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, from A Defence of Poetry.
Thomas De Quincey, “What Do We Mean by Literature?”
What the Reviews Said.
John Wilson Croker, Quarterly Review, January 1818.
Walter Scott, Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, March 1818.
Edinburgh Magazine and Literary Miscellany, March 1818.
Belle Assemblàe, March 1818.
The British Critic, April 1818.
Gentleman's Magazine, April 1818.
Monthly Review, April 1818.
The Literary Panorama and National Register, June 1818.
Knight's Quarterly Magazine, August 1824.
Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, March 1823.
London Morning Post, July 1823.
George Canning, remarks in the House of Commons, March 1824.
Knight's Quarterly Magazine, August 1824.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Anthenfum, November 1832.
Further Reading and Viewing.
What People are Saying About This
Out of that vampire-laden fug of gruesomeness known as the English Gothic Romance, only the forbidding acrid name of Frankenstein remains in general usage... Mary Shelley had courage, she was inspired. Frankenstein has entertained, delighted and harrowed generations of readers to this day.
Praise for Penguin Horror Classics:
“The new Penguin Horror editions, selected by Guillermo del Toro, feature some of the best art-direction (by Paul Buckley) I've seen in a cover in quite some time.” – Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
"Each cover does a pretty spectacular job of evoking the mood of the title in bold, screenprint-style iconography." – Dan Solomon, Fast Company
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was actually quite a surprise really, as all I knew about Frankenstein came from half-watched films in my childhood. This is beautifully written, with poetic prose and an elegant story with an a story (sometimes within a story) narrative.Without wanting to spoil things, the original Frankenstein's monster turns out to be extremely eloquent and agile, not a lumbering, grunting Boris Karloff, and story still feels modern now.
Frankenstein is definitely not light reading. You have to invest yourself, push yourself through pages and pages of description of snow and nature to get to the meat of the story - and, as I found after pushing myself, it was worth it because the meat of the story was that good. I remember seeing a Frankenstein movie as a teenager and being thoroughly unimpressed by it. However, the book is nothing like what I remember that movie being - and then I find out that this story that struggles with morality and creation of life was written by an 18 year old girl.. and my mind is officially blown. I think one of the most tender, touching moments in a book read this year was the scenes involving Frankenstein and the de Lacey's. As I read I found it easy to put myself in the situation of the de Lacey's, but not quite as easy to figure out just what my actions would be. The monster was easy to feel pity for, but still - is pity enough? And what of Frankenstein himself? Such an egotistical, disagreeable man - but still, was he worth pity as well? He loses so much that is dear to him, punishment enough for playing God? So many questions rise out of the story and again, that is exactly why I feel so much respect for the 18 year old Mary Shelley who was mature enough to write a story with such depth. Fantastic book, if a bit wordy, and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it.
This really is the first time I've picked up the original Frankenstein, and it was not at all what I'd expected, not one bit. Years ago, I'd seen a couple movies based on this classic, but neither version had much resemblance to Mary Shelley's original story. One of the most vivid scenes I can remember seeing in the movies was of Frankenstein's monster being chased by a band of villagers with torches, out to destroy this deformed creature, but nothing of the sort ever happens in the book. Mary Shelley's story is the tragedy of a life brought into existence without any regard for that life; Frankenstein's monster does not even possess a name, much less the compassion of any other being on earth. This novel actually begins aboard a ship, with the lonely Captain Walton writing letters to his sister, lamenting his extreme lonliness and lack of friends aboard his vessel, when suddenly, he and his crew spy a stranded man adrift on an ice floe. After rescuing this man, Walton becomes enraptured with his tale. Walton's new companion is none other than Victor Frankenstein, and his tale of woe is told in flashback.Frankenstein's dissertation is full of remorse and uncertainty. The lonely, angry being which Frankenstein has created has already caused pain and despair to his loved ones, and now he is demanding a mate, and Frankenstein vacillates on the morality of such an action. The plot is still a meaningful one, though the style of Shelley's prose can get tedious and at times seems overly verbose--But then, it was written in 1818.
In 1831, teenager Mary Shelly put together a novel that would echo down the centuries as one of the most horrific and complex novels to come down the line in some time. When I first read this book I thought I would see some resemblance to the 1931 Karloff film, but I could not be more wrong. The novel is as complex in its vocabulary, its ability to elicit emotion from the reader and its horror. The book starts out on a ship that is exploring the extreme north, where ice floes and freezing temperatures are the norm. The captain sees a figure on a dogsled going across the landscape. He thinks this is weird. Then he later finds a man on an ice sheet near death. The captain, Robert Walton, pulls him aboard and is amazed at his articulate manner (I guess hanging out with sailors all day for weeks does that to you). His name is Henry Frankenstein. Henry finds that Robert has some interest in bringing things to life, etc., and experimentations of that nature. Henry freaks out and says no, let me tell you my story. And so it goes. Though Shelly's language is at times a bit of a chore to get through, I was impressed with the flow and style of the story, her commentaries on family, Nature, the poor, and Man daring to act the role of Creator. The details of Victor creating the creature are a bit weak, but understandable. After all I'm sure Henry did not want to give all the details otherwise we'd be setting up shop and doing it ourselves! There are not secret labs, no big electric machines and no maniacal servants or criminal brains. There is plenty of secret work, as Victor, through use of chemistry and alchemy texts, creates the "spark of life." But, he is so horrified at what he has done, that he suffers a nervous breakdown and takes months to convalesce. The creature, with no guidance and his master abandoning him, wanders the countryside as he learns to survive. He starts out noble and appreciative of nature, but also finds that Man rejects him utterly. Unlike God's creation of Adam, and Genesis' exclamation that His creation was "good", Victor's creation is found to be evil. The creature holes up in a cottage where he can spy on the people therein. There, he learns the language and the behaviors of the three people within. Here Shelly makes much about the unfairness of prison justice and the squalor being experienced by the common folk of the time. Living during the time of the Industrial Revolution, it is understandable she would make comments along the lines of destitution and that machines alone can degrade Man. Quite interesting. As the story progresses, the creature decides that he will avenge himself against Man and against his creator for making him ugly and wretched. And so the horror begins. Victor tries to make a life for himself