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Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein is 100 years old in 2018, yet it feels more topical than ever. Read (or re-read) the story you thought you knew
In a 21st-century age where immortality has now become the mantra of every Silicon Valley tech zillionaire as they seek to "cure" death - Google founder Bill Maris said he wants "to live long enough not to die" and famed angel investor Peter Thiel has promoted the notion of transhumanism - the ability to evolve beyond the body's limitations, aided and abetted by technological additions, is the gain line for Gen-Z humanity and beyond.
Frankenstein, the story of one man's obsession with the creation of life and his subsequent abandonment of his creation, remains a salient study of creativity and destruction. But it's also a cautionary tale and a reminder of the passage of time, even though today's world, now 100 years since the book's initial publication, has rendered much of author Mary Shelley's science fiction almost realizable.
Shelley penned the remarkable novel Frankenstein - or The Modern Prometheus, as it was also titled - about a science student (Victor Frankenstein) and the monster he creates. This idea emerged while the 18-year-old Shelley, her flamboyant husband (the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley) and her stepsister Claire Clairmont stayed on the shores of Lake Geneva in 1816 as the holidaying neighbors of the legendary poet Lord Byron, who had impregnated Clairmont during a recent affair.
Incessant rain confined them indoors and, at Byron's suggestion, they each tried their hand at creating a ghost story. Mary's attempt was originally just a short story, but so taken was Percy by his wife's tale that he convinced her to novelize it, which he edited. Her original Frankenstein manuscript, accompanied throughout by Percy's corrections, revisions and additions, is still in existence and held at Oxford's Bodleian Library in England.
To those whose familiarity with Frankenstein comes via sensational, one-dimensional representations in film and TV, the novel will be a huge surprise. Careful not to weigh the story in favor of the creator or the creature, Mary Shelley conjured a sense of moral suspension in which conventional questions - who's the hero and who's the villain - become blurred.