I recently found myself simultaneously reading Romantic Outlaws, which is a brilliantly crafted dual biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley, and This Monstrous Thing, a steampunk YA reimagining of Frankenstein. The timing was a coincidence, except maybe it wasn’t? There have been several recent books that visit both the Frankenstein story and Mary Shelley’s life, not to mention a number of movies including one simply called Mary Shelley, directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour and currently in very limited worldwide release. (I also recently wrote a short story about a mad scientist, sooooo…something is in the air.)
When I realized that my obsession centered around a book I’ve never read, I went to my local used book store and picked up $4 paperbacks of the 1818 and 1831 editions of Frankenstein (1818 version is linked); and because it’s kind of all I want to read, I compiled this short list of Frankenstein re-imaginings and sequels.
This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee
This YA novel presents an AU for what really inspired Mary Shelley’s novel. Two years ago, Alasdair Finch, a clockwork genius whose family secretly and illegally works to create clockwork prosthetics for people who have been injured and lost limbs or other body parts, brought his brother Oliver back from the dead. But something went wrong and Oliver is different. Alasdair keeps Oliver a secret while working in his father’s secret workshop and dreaming of going to medical school. When his father is arrested, Alasdair goes on the run and has to make difficult choices about his allegiances. I loved this book.
Doc Frankenstein by the Wachowsky Sisters (TW for misgendering: this comic was published in 2006 and writing credit is the Wachowsky Brothers)
I tracked this comic down on Comixology and read the first issue. It’s set in modern times and stars Frankenstein’s monster after he made the choice—at some point between the end of Shelley’s novel and the start of the comic—to protect humanity. Oh, and humanity is under attack, of course. This was not my cup of tea but lovers of modern monster movies may love it. I prefer my classic monsters 1930s-style (or 1810s, as the case may be).
Destroyer by Victor LaValle
Another comic, this one is about the original monster; a young African-American boy, Akai, who was shot by the police; and his mother, who is the last living descendant of the Frankenstein family and brought him back to life. I read issue one (again from Comixology). Dietrich Smith’s illustrations are gorgeous, and the writing draws heavily from the source material. I can’t wait to see where it’s going. (There is some overt sexism on page one, from a character who is immediately killed. Just an FYI.)
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss
I’ve just started this novel, which is about Dr. Jekyll’s daughter attempting to find Mr. Hyde and collect the bounty on him. She joins forces with Sherlock Holmes and a group of other Daughters of Gothic Horror, including Justine Frankenstein. I am not far enough to know how the story is, but I enjoy the storytelling framework—the manuscript is “written by” Catherine Moreau, with interruptions in the form of notes from the other women. This may be distracting for some readers but it works for me. I can’t wait to get to Justine’s introduction!
BONUS: Books about Mary Shelley
Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon is a dual biography of Shelley and her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, who died of sepsis 10 days after Shelley’s birth. The book alternates between the two Marys, and while I generally hate when a book hops around in the timeline like this, it somehow works here (at least so far).