Tag Archives: science fiction

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley


I’m torn about this book. On the one hand, it was genuinely creepy at parts and raised a lot of good questions about exactly how far science should be allowed to experiement. The language was eloquent, if a bit long-winded (which apparently was the work of Mary Shelley’s editor, not her), and the story was so much better than the numerous movie versions of it that I wondered why movie makers even bothered changing the story in the first place.

Ready for the other hand? Here we go: although I started out liking (or at least understanding) the two main characers – Frankenstein and his creation – by the end of the book, they had become so incredibly infuriating I almost stopped reading. First there was Dr. Frankenstein, who was (to quote Will Smith in I, Robot) “the dumbest smart person I’ve ever met.” He reanimates this dead guy and then when it actually works, loses his shit and runs screaming from the lab. When he comes back several hours later, the creature is gone. What is the response of Frankenstein, a man brilliant enough to reanimate life in a dead person? “Oh thank goodness, the creature is gone. Clearly, he has disappeared entirely and I don’t have to worry about finding him.”

Then, when the creature has tracked him down several years later and tells him, “I will be with you on your wedding night” Frankenstein immediately starts worrying about his safety, not his fiance’s. The creature has already killed Frankenstein’s brother and best friend, and our genius doctor is like, “Elizabeth, my darling! Someone might be coming to kill me, because I am the only one left important enough to destroy, so I’ll patrol the house with a gun while you lock yourself in this room. You’ll be just fine, because I bet the creature will never think of killing you in order to punish me.” Yeah. Three guesses how that turns out.

Like I said, I started out liking the creature. It wasn’t his fault he was a reanimated corpse, after all, and I liked the fact that he seemed to learn how to speak by reading the complete works of Shakespeare. But then he starts killing off everyone Frankenstein cared about and saying how it hurt him to kill them more than it hurt the victims (“This hurts Daddy more than it hurts you,” says the father as he belt-whips his child). Then once he’s gone on a killing spree, the creature whines about how no one will accept him and everyone despises him and nobody understands him etc etc. Dude. Maybe people would warm up to you easier if you didn’t have this habit of killing the loved ones of people who annoy you.

So in conclusion, I’m glad I read this, because it’s a timeless classic etc etc, but I won’t be reading it again. Also, the Wishbone version of this story was infinitely more enjoyable. So was Young Frankenstein. Come to think of it, catching an iceball with my face in 5th grade was more enjoyable than finishing this book, but that’s beside the point.

Verdict: three out of five stars


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I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Because I cannot review a book that’s been made into a movie without at least mentioning the film version, here’s a fair warning:

Although I, Robot starring Will Smith was a fairly passable excuse for a movie and mostly entertaining if you enjoy explody things, do not pick up Asimov’s novel expecting to read anything even remotely similar to what happened in the movie.
That being said, the book version of I, Robot is very, very good, and you should probably read it regardless of whether or not you liked the movie. Especially if you hated the movie.

The story doesn’t really have a continuous plot – it’s basically about a journalist interviewing Dr. Susan Calvin, who’s a robopsychologist in the year 2057. The main body of the book is a series of robot-related anecdotes that Dr. Calvin tells, starting in the year 1996 when robots couldn’t even speak, to the end of her career when robots were running the world. All the stories are really interesting, even though there was a lot of scientific and engineering jabber I ended up just skimming through.

A few of the stories feature two scientists, Mike Donovan and Gregory Powell, who get into lots of robot-related danger and gripe at each other like two old women. They were my favorite characters, and the stories about them were usually the funniest. Asimov has a gift for dry wit and sarcasm, demonstrated by lines like this: “What broke loose is popularly and succinctly described as hell.”

Verdict: four out of five stars

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