Hello once again to my readers, my companions in both endless light and eternal darkness. It is time once again to return to the world of the classics. This time we do so alongside the famed mother of all science fiction and of many a horrific nightmare Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.
Understandably Shelley has become very famous over the years (certainly more so than her husband Percy) for opening the Pandora’s Box that is the potential fears of the consequences of science. Reanimation of flesh, man playing god and that which was never supposed to be being given form and emotions. But I should get to the point should I not?
There have been practically infinite adaptations over the years (much like Bram Stoker’s original Dracula novel which was also under consideration for Halloween but the original novel bores me to literal tears) ranging from Universal, Boris Karloff and company and Hammer alongside Peter Cushing to numerous adaptations on stage, musicals and even a ballet! But very few of these have followed the same plot and structure as the original novel from 1818.
The plot of the original novel is as follows: We begin on a ship alongside her captain Walton and his hardy crew in the midst of an Arctic voyage. While writing letters home to his sister back in England, they pick up a man in amongst the ice flows who befriends the lonely Walton despite his somewhat unusual manner. Despite his desperation to continue his own voyage he is persuaded to tell his story. The story of Doctor Victor Frankenstein. A man who began life with all the hope in the world alongside his family and his sister Elizabeth and childhood friend Henry Clerval.
Once Victor’s mother passes from scarlet fever, the young man throws himself into his studies at university, across history, philosophy and science, overcome with the knowledge of how to bring life back to the dead. He successfully does so, bringing life to the creature and creating what he sees as an abomination onto nature. Without going into the entire plot (that would take far too long to succinctly recount!) the creature – also referred to as Adam –has several experiences of their own which are faithfully recounted and by the end of the tale the reader is left thinking what could have been? Who was the true monster? And several more thoughts which come to the mind both solicited and otherwise.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a story which much like The War Of The Worlds, The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde and – despite the original version not being to my taste – Dracula has positively earned its glowing reputation and great status. The story is written with great imagination and prose which haunts the mind with or without knowledge of its later influence. The reader and listener is drawn to imagine themselves in both the shoes of Adam the creature and of the Doctor born in Naples to a Genovese family. What would you do in their shoes? What could you do? The emotion shown throughout the piece makes it clear that Shelley was tapping into more than her legendary dreams to create her masterwork, resulting in a story of scientific hubris, love, horror and revenge.
The audiobook version I experienced was produced by Audible and is one of several audio productions. Some recreate the original 1818 text whilst others including the one I own are based on the later and more commonly available text released in 1831 which includes some alterations from Mary herself. The narration was performed by Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey fame. His performance is frequently lauded and rightfully so for being one that really cuts to the heart of the tale, with in my opinion his performance as both the creature and his creator being particularly heart wrenching at points. His performance was up for an Audie Award – audiobook Oscars in all but name – in 2013 and I can see why! This is an audiobook I have often returned to in the spirit ofYokai, ghouls and demons that is Halloween and I have been planning to put figurative ink to parchment on this subject since I began these discourses on audio and other varied topics.
In conclusion I really hope I can persuade some of you to join me in my listening pleasure. Perhaps over the witching hour on All Hallow’s Eve itself? I’m sure you won’t be the only one. But be careful all the same. This masterpiece born of a ghost story challenge among friends…can bring more than chills to your spine and thunder and lightning to your skies!