Book Review | Making the Monster

Making the Monster by Kathryn Harkup explores the science and medicine studied at the time Mary Shelley wrote her most famous novel. Not only does it provide a wider scientific and cultural context for one of the best known sci-fi books in history, it also delves into Mary’s life and examines what information and resources her protagonist would have had at hand when building his creature.

The book first gives background on Mary’s parents, then on her own life—especially focusing on the fateful holiday in Switzerland, where the first idea that became Frankenstein was invented. Harkup then moves on to explaining how medicine had progressed to that point since the Middle Ages, and how far it still had to go. The section about anatomists and grave robbers was especially (if morbidly) fascinating, as was the later examination of the first studies of electricity.

Harkup’s writing is clear and engaging, and the research performed for this book is clearly extensive and thorough. I learned a lot from this book, both about the writing and publication of Frankenstein itself and about how Victor might have approached his great experiment (spoiler alert: I’m now pretty convinced that given the tools and knowledge of the time, it isn’t conceivable to stitch together a functional being out of necrotic material. It isn’t even really possible now, after all. But hey, it’s fiction, so I’ll allow it.)

If you’re a fan of Frankenstein or medical/scientific history, Making the Monster is a fantastic read. Informative, well structured, and well researched, this is a great and detailed overview of how this classic was brought to life—so to speak. 😉

Overall: 8.5/10

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