Book Review Mini: Frankenstein (Shelley)

What’s it about? (SPOILERS!)

Victor Frankenstein goes to college to study science and medicine. He eventually discovers a formula and process for building a living being out of spare parts. But he finds his creation hideous and runs away from it. The creature wanders about the country, learning to speak and fend for itself, while being tormented and hated.

Eventually the creature finds Victor’s home. It begins killing his friends and family until Victor agrees to build the creature a mate. He starts to do this, but decides it is too evil to make another abomination. The creature then kills Victor’s wife. Victor pursues the creature to the frozen wastes where Victor dies and the creature kills itself.

What did I think?

Frankenstein is a gothic tale of deep inner struggles, dramatic conversations, and (in my mind) a lot of gore. It’s an impressive work, especially from a writer as young as Mary Shelley was at the time (18-20).

I hadn’t read it since high school, and I enjoyed revisiting this all-too-real world. The characters felt believable and complex (although overly talkative) and the story flowed naturally. This writing style isn’t my favorite, but it is one I enjoy from time to time. And while the writing is dense, the book is not long and covers a lot of content in a short space.

Can I use it in a tabletop RPG?

There are certainly a lot of elements that could be used in a game. Frankenstein demonstrates how to create a living ecosystem around a monster: the monster’s creator, the monster’s original purpose, how society reacts to the monster, how the monster reacts to society, and so on.

You could easily slip your band of heroes into the story of Frankenstein in many places: when the creator first makes the monster, when the monster is vulnerable and confused, when the monster is angry and hated, when the creator and monster are locked in tragic combat, and so on.

All of this could make for a rewarding story, either triumphant or tragic.

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