Frankenstein Plays Bass:
You know, I’ve not had time to read a lot in so long, but the first book that came to mind was Frankenstein. This mother of all Science Fiction books, often mistaken for horror, is actually a story within a story with an ironic twist; A sea captain who relentlessly seeks to explore the North Pole for the sake of glory (a fool’s errand, but nobody has learned that yet) takes aboard his ship a man who recounts his own relentless pursuit of the monster he created. This mode of relating the story throws the entire tale of Victor Frankenstein into the realm of the unreliable narrator. Once we realize this, we begin to question whether Frankenstein’s perception of the situation isn’t warped – whether he’s something of a paranoid delusional suffering from personal trauma and ultimately bringing home the question of who is responsible for the monster’s crimes and whether the monster even exists at all. Does Victor subconsciously view himself as a monster abandoned by his creator – his mother – who died just before he left to study science at the University?
Frankenstein’s tale should serve as a warning to the Captain, but does the Captain take that warning, or even recognize it as such? Actually, what happens is quite different, but I can’t ruin that for you. If you haven’t read Frankenstein before and just have the movies to go on, you could do worse than give this book a read. It’s fairly short, the prose is just a tad dry, but it’s well worth the effort. Best of all, there are several ways to get this book for less than a few dollars or even for free. Check your local used book store, they probably have twenty copies; or if you’ve got a good ebook reader, you can probably get it for free, since the story is in the public domain.
One of the coolest aspects of the book, in my opinion, is the “natural science” that Frankenstein uses to develop his life-imbuing technique: reviled by many as an obsolete pursuit, abandoned as a scientific discipline for more rigorous theories and methods of chemistry, it’s presumed by many to be groundless and pointless for Victor to pursue, but he throws himself into it with a zeal that foreshadows the man’s obsession. It causes us to question just about anything that’s pushing the frontiers of science in the time it’s read, and that’s why the book has remained relevant year after year: you can always find something to relate it to.
What about test tube babies? Gasp!
Cloning? Uh oh!
What about DNA sequencing? Oh dear!
These things can bear out to be perfectly fine in the long run, and yet we’ll probably always have something to talk about with this book. It’s Frankenstein playing the resonant bass note of scientific introspection: are we going too far with X? It’s sheer genius.
So what’s your favorite book? Tell us in the comments, or feel free to reblog or link to this post and post your own!
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