Review – Making the Monster

Posted October 3, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 3 Comments

Cover of Making the Monster by Kathryn HarkupMaking the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Kathryn Harkup

I really enjoyed Harkup’s book on Agatha Christie’s use of poisons in her plots — I wasn’t a Christie fan, but the book gave me a whole new appreciation for her work — so I jumped on this the minute I saw it. It begins largely as a biography of Mary Shelley, to be quite frank; there’s very little science for at least half the book, and there’s rather too much re-describing the plot. I get that the actual book isn’t familiar to everyone, but this is billed as pop-sci, not Sparknotes.

Nonetheless, when she does eventually get down to it, it’s fascinating to hear about the science of the day and what Shelley may have been aware of. Calling it the first science fiction book sounds a bit odd, because it’s not really the aesthetic you think of — but Shelley did research and was careful to reflect the science of the day. Maybe it’s not hard SF, and there’s much that seems unlikely now, but it’s still based on the understanding of science that she could possibly have been aware of.

Still a bit too biographical, overall: I believe seeing books in their context is important, but Mary Shelley’s parentage and miscarriages were less than necessary to the overall narrative.

Rating: 3/5

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3 responses to “Review – Making the Monster

  1. arbie

    Trips to the Moon by Lucian of Samosata is the earliest SF I’ve come across. (Haven’t read it yet.) I consider Frankenstein half GofficK Horror, half SF, but I haven’t read it in nearly 20 years.

  2. The title makes it sound as if it is all about the science which would’ve been great for you. It’s a pity it had too much other stuff that detracted from it. Sounds interesting for those who want to know a bit about the author and her inspiration.

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