Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Bloomsbury Sigma. Feb. 2018. 304p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781472933737. $27. LIT
Chemist and author Harkup (A Is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie) draws on history, psychology, sociology, and literature to present a picture of the genesis of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein. Harkup's analysis includes potential influences and cultural biases, and her picture contains numerous evocative details. Her loose chronology of the development of science is certainly informative, and her chronicling of Shelley's story is lively and stirring. Some readers may be transported. Some readers, looking for citations (for everything from assertions to direct quotes) and finding nothing but a bibliography, an index, and a time line, might wish for more scientific rigor. Although Harkup's work is ostensibly about making the monster, she also includes a wealth of material on how the content was received during Shelley's lifetime and how Shelley's life was affected.
VERDICT Anyone interested in where Shelley's ideas may have come from will find a multitude of context in Harkup's volume. This is fascinating for those interested in the development of sf and in the difficult life of one of the genre's first authors.

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