“Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus”

I spend more time in my car than I really like, and I divide the road time between plotting fiction in my head, listening to music, listening to NPR or talk radio — and sometimes listening to those things I keep calling “Books on Tape” even though they are on discs.

I tend to listen to dusty old Gothic horror or historical fiction, the kind of stuff with prose that allows a good actor to really emote and play around with spooky tones or frightened voices or foreign accents. My most recent choice was “Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus” by Mary Shelley.

I really enjoyed it. The voice actor (whose name escapes me at the moment but which I’ll add after I get back into my car and read the disc jacket) had a splendid time voicing Victor and his monster. He brought it to life, so to speak.

I love this book, and its themes, and its Gothic horror feel, and its moralizing — it’s just very enjoyable. Still, it had been years since I’d read it. Upon this “re-reading,” it really struck me just how poor a protagonist Victor Frankenstein really is. He whines through most of the novel. He creates his own problems, spurred by his own hubris and ego. He denies his own creation, then wallows in self-pity when that creation reacts badly to being created only to be shunned and feared. Victor is mired in self-loathing and accounts himself the most miserable of people, even while maintaining a self-serving silence about his experiments that allows the monster’s string of vengeance killings to continue.

Victor isn’t much of an action hero, either. He overlooks the import of the monster’s warning — “I will be with you on your wedding night!” — and assumes the golem plans to kills its own creator, and so is shocked when the monster kills Victor’s darling bride instead. All this, even though the creature has already established a pattern of killing people close to Victor because Victor refuses to make a bride for the monster. And it never even occurs to Victor until way late in the novel to start packing a gun.

Argh.

Nonetheless, I love this book and I’m glad I got reacquainted with it.

— Steve

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5 thoughts on ““Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus”

  1. Been a while since I’ve read this one, too. Maybe it’s time I got back to it, though there’s already a stack of books looking at me.

    On a related note, I’ve always found the use of guns in horror (and gothic) fiction interesting. Most horror writers seem to stray away from them to some extent, as if introducing firearms causes some sort of plot problem or an easy out for the protag. Koontz is one of the few writers I’ve noticed who quite often has his protag pick up a gun real quick when the weird stuff starts to happen, but then the protag usually realizes a gun can’t or won’t solve all his problems. Either the baddie is beyond the power of a firearm, or the plot is intricate enough that a gun simply won’t fix everything, which sounds like good writing to me.

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  2. Ty: You keep mentioning Koontz … I’m going to have to get my hands on some because I don’t think I’ve read him. What should I read first?

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  3. I’m more familiar with his older stuff from about 20 years or so ago. Of those 80’s novels, I’d have to say “Watchers” is the best overall. However, “Lightning” was the one that I thought was most “different” from his others; there’s a revelation at the end of “Lightning” that to me felt … I don’t know, maybe “beyond” or better than any of Koontz’ earlier ideas.

    I’ve only read one of his novels from the last dozen years. I’d was decent, definitely fast paced, but it didn’t blow me away. That one way “Velocity.”

    I also know he’s got a series of about three novels that incude a protagonist named Odd Thomas, and those are apparently some of his bestsellers of the last decade.

    Koontz used to be labeled a horror writer back when horror was still cool, but he’s really more of a mild sci-fi, techno thriller writer, in my opinon. It’s rare, though not unknown, for him to move into the supernatural. Sometimes, though, he will portray something as being supernatural, but it turns out to be some kind of new techno boogey.

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  4. Thanks for the suggestions. I’m not sure why I never got around to reading any Koontz. It sounds like my kind of stuff.

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