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The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein

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The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein Cover

ISBN13: 9780385530842
ISBN10: 0385530846
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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"A brilliant riff on ideas that have informed literary, horror and science fiction for nearly two centuries…. Ackroyd laces his narrative intelligently with the Romantic ideals of Lord Byron and Percy Shelley, and deftly interweaves Victor's fictional travails with events of the well-known 1816 meeting between the poets that inspired Mary to draft her landmark story."

Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Leave it to this most distinguished living biographer of British poets to fabricate such a delectable conflation of history and imaginative literature.... However inured you may think you are to the shocks of horror fiction, Ackroyd will violate your defenses with his diabolical intelligence and his uncanny empathy for both real-life and imaginary characters."

—Bookpage

"Ackroyd takes Mary Shelley's hint of the doppelganger, and plays with it fascinatingly in a fast-paced thriller.... The novel leaps to its climax nimbly as a pursuing fiend, and ends suitably in fiery revelation."

The Independent

 

"A brilliant jeu d'esprit. Above all, it stands as a tribute to the power of the human imagination."

Daily Telegraph

 

"It takes a writer of considerable confidence, wit and skill to attempt a modern retelling of a bona fide English classic...[Ackroyd] is the man for the job.... terrifying and fascinating in equal measure.... An intelligent, creepily beautiful and haunted thing."

The Times

 

"Thrilling concoction....Ackroyd's telling of the tale is a worthy revival--I found his book so creepy I kept the bedroom light on all night."

Daily Express

 

"Read [Ackroyd's] fictions at your peril for what you meet are driven obsessions, deceptions and plots of a stylish complexity, mingling wit and high intelligence...a brilliant, impressionistic piece of literary art, and Ackroyd's forte."

Scotland on Sunday

 

"Ackroyd's new novel works on so many levels it's difficult to know where to begin. As a pacy thriller, it delivers assured edge of the seat action. As historical fiction, it abounds in authentic detail...as homage to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein it brings both invention and wit...a worthy shadow to Mary Shelley's creation, roaming with impish disruption between the pages of history, biography and literature."

Evening Standard

 

"Ackroyd's novel is, like its famous predecessor, immensely readable. It crackles with that peculiar mixture of ebullience and self-loathing that galvanises Ackroyd's resurrection of the past. His ear for Romantic language is almost pitch-perfect."

Spectator

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cariola119, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by cariola119)
After finishing this book, I'm still not sure what to make of it: it's either ingenious or a total mess. Ackroyd blends fact and fiction to come up with something new, something not quite historical fiction but not quite a fictional biography either. The premise is that, long before animating a creature, Victor Frankenstein attends Oxford University, where he meets the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Except for a short visit home to Geneva to see his sister (real sister, not, as in the novel, cousin-sister) Elizabeth, who is dying of consumption, and to attend her funeral and that of his father, and a brief sojourn in Byron's villa, the story is set in England. Frankenstein's experimentation and the final creation of life all take place in a deserted potter's barn near a Thames estuary. Shelley pops in and out, and the biographical facts surrounding his life blur into fictional events from Mary Shelley's novel. For example, the discovery of Harriet Shelley's body in the Serpentine mingles with young William's murder in Frankenstein. Here, her death is ruled not a suicide but murder: she has been strangled (like William) with a necklace (the supposed motive for William's murder) that is subsequently found in her brother's pocket (as the locket with Caroline's portrait is found in Justine's pocket, both she and Harriet's brother being framed).

What to make of this? Revising and recording in his journal the "facts" of the fictional Victor's life is a clever strategy, but I found myself a bit irritated by the distortion of Percy Shelley's biography; a good historical fiction writer would not have gone this far. As a result, I found myself puzzling over digressions from Mary Shelley's novel as if it, too, was biography. Readers who are as familiar with Frankenstein as I am may find themselves lost in a strange book, somewhere between fact and fiction (but always, predominantly fiction). But perhaps this is what Ackroyd intended: to shake up our notions of reality and of genre.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780385530842
Subtitle:
A Novel
Author:
Ackroyd, Peter
Author:
Ackroyd, Peter
Publisher:
Nan A. Talese
Subject:
Scientists
Subject:
Monsters
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Psychological fiction
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20091006
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
8.58x6.30x1.23 in. 1.19 lbs.

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein Used Hardcover
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Product details 368 pages Nan A. Talese - English 9780385530842 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Medical student Victor Frankenstein imbibes fellow student 'Bysshe' Shelley's belief in 'the perfectability of mankind' and strives 'to create a being of infinite benevolence' in this recasting of Mary Shelley's horror classic from Ackroyd (First Light). When Victor reanimates the body of acquaintance Jack Keat, he's so horrified at the implications of his Promethean feat that he abandons his creation. Outraged, the Keat creature shadows Victor as an avenging doppelgnger, bringing misery and death to those dearest to him. Ackroyd laces his narrative intelligently with the Romantic ideals of Lord Byron and Percy Shelley, and deftly interweaves Victor's fictional travails with events of the well-known 1816 meeting between the poets that inspired Mary to draft her landmark story. His hasty surprise ending may strike some readers as a cheat, though most will agree that his novel is a brilliant riff on ideas that have informed literary, horror and science fiction for nearly two centuries." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Ackroyd's newest, zesty historical novel...reflects his wry delight in scholarship and science run amok and his pleasure in constructing a good, crisp mystery....[H]e shrewdly reanimates the timeless cautionary myth..."
"Review" by , "In Ackroyd's new page-turner, readers are taken on a heart-stopping journey through early 19th-century England....Essential for Ackroyd fans and readers who can't get enough of Frankenstein's monster."
"Review" by , "[A] delectable conflation of history and imaginative literature....However inured you may think you are to the shocks of horror fiction, Ackroyd will violate your defenses with his diabolical intelligence and his uncanny empathy for both real-life and imaginary characters."
"Review" by , "[An] intelligent, creepily beautiful and haunted thing." (UK)
"Review" by , "[A] brilliant, impressionistic piece of literary art, and Ackroyd's forte."
"Review" by , "[A] confident and supremely accomplished excercise in literary historicism." (UK)
"Review" by , "Ackroyd creates a slightly larger framework for his version than the one written by Shelley....It's the meaningfulness that Ackroyd has brought back to life that matters."
"Review" by , "Ackroyd takes Mary Shelley's hint of the doppelganger, and plays with it fascinatingly in a fast-paced thriller....The novel leaps to its climax nimbly as a pursuing fiend, and ends suitably in fiery revelation."
"Synopsis" by , In Ackroyd's haunting and atmospheric novel, two 19th-century Oxford students — Victor Frankenstein, a serious researcher, and the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley — form an unlikely friendship.
"Synopsis" by , 1. In his early discussions with the fervently atheistic Bysshe, Victor begins to question the existence of God. Indeed, he wonders, "This deity was venerated as the creator of life, but what if others of less exalted nature were able to perform the miracle? What then?" What connection is there between science and religion in this novel? Are the two arranged as opposites here? As complements? As substitutes?

2. Were you surprised that Victor was willing to perform his experiments on the body of his friend, Jack Keat? Victor asks himself, "Was I now to abandon his, and my, beliefs for the sake of my conscience?" His answer is quite clear, but how would you answer this question?

3. What were your impressions of the creature Victor brings to life? Were you repelled by him? Did you feel sympathy towards him? Did your impressions change over the course of the novel?

4. What was your reaction when Victor fails to do anything after the murder of Harriet Westbrook? Why doesn't he tell the authorities what he knows, and inform them of his suspicions? Did you have any inkling as to what would happen as a result?

5. Does Victor go too far in his pursuit of science? What does he sacrifice? Are the discoveries he makes and the feats he accomplishes worth the price he pays? Is there a larger lesson about human nature and the drive to succeed in Victor's story?

6. At one point the creature charges Victor with the ultimate blame for all of the evil he wrecks. Indeed, he asserts "Once you create life, you must take responsibility for it. You are responsible," a claim that Victor eventually seems to accept. Do you agree that Victor is ultimately responsible? Does he shoulder this responsibility adequately? Does his benevolent intention, his belief in "the perfectibility of mankind," mitigate his culpability in any way?

7. Were you surprised by the revelation on the book's final pages? Were there any hints left earlier on? If you weren't surprised, when did you know and how?

8. In the original Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Victor loses practically everyone he loves to the monster's violence, and dies himself in pursuit of vengeance against his creation. What is the effect of the new ending Ackroyd imagines? Are there different implications for the nature of man and the pursuit of science offered by this version's conclusion?

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