2018 marks 200 years since the release of Mary Shelley’s classic, Frankenstein. Over the decades, Frankenstein’s influence has impacted the genre of horror, modern day feminism, and a handful of real scientific breakthroughs. To celebrate both the anniversary of Frankenstein and registration opening for Frankenstein: The STEM Read Experience, we asked the staff around the office to select what they think are great read-alikes for fans of Shelly’s original Frankenstein.
Claire Culton, STEM Read Intern
Arctic Horror: Can’t get enough of the spooky tundra in Frankenstein? Check out Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell. This short horror story follows a group of scientists and their unfortunate discovery of a frozen shapeshifting extraterrestrial. When the scientists accidentally release the alien from its icy tomb, they are left to fight for their lives in the freezing and barren landscape of Antarctica. Still yearning for chills down your spine? Be sure to also watch the novella’s 1982 film adaptation, The Thing.
Isabella Cortes, STEM Read Intern
Unreliable Narrator: The novel Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Maria Griffen is a prime example of unreliable narration. Nell Crane, the protagonist, is the daughter of a famous scientist. When she plans to create a computerized/mechanical “man”, many are disgusted and appalled by her proposal. Readers are left to second-guess if Nell is a character they can trust. She often appears detached and even heartless. Of course, this is heightened by the knowledge that she has a mechanical heart and struggles to relate to human emotion. The novel also frequently switches between third-person and second-person narration. As a result, readers may find it even more difficult to trust the storytelling. If you love Frankenstein, you will love this novel! It explores how the story would change with a mechanical computerized “monster” years in the future. The result is a fun, quirky read.
Christine Brovelli-O’Brien, Ph.D., Content Contributor
19th Century Lit: With a passion for the supernatural ignited by Frankenstein in the early 19th century, readers during the late Victorian Gothic period were as hungry as ever for science fiction when Robert Louis Stevenson’s haunting novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was published on January 5, 1886, nearly 55 years after the second edition of Mary Shelley’s frightful tale. The strange case is told from multiple points of view by unreliable narrators who themselves rely upon letters and street talk so that by the end of the story, we aren’t sure whom to believe – and that’s all part of the fun! Dr. Jekyll, a skilled chemist, creates a secret potion that transforms him into “Mr. Hyde,” who commits atrocities that shock today’s modern readers as they did Stevenson’s contemporaries. Jekyll and Hyde also caused a fervor because of its use of “the double” or “twinning,” a literary device found in the relationship between Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein and the Creature, which is ripe for psychological study from many different aspects. What happens when we mere mortals tinker with medicine and biology and subsequently lose power over that which we create? This ethical dilemma – also found in Frankenstein – lies at the heart of Jekyll and Hyde and continues to captivate scientists and artists alike nearly 132 years after its first appearance.
Melanie Koss, Ph.D., Literacy Consultant
Melanie had so many ideas we couldn’t fit them all in one blog. Check out the full STEM Read recommended reading list.
Gillian King-Cargile, STEM Read Founder & Director
Ethics of Science: One of my favorite aspects of Frankenstein is the book’s exploration of medical ethics. As science pushes the boundaries of the possible farther and farther every day, it’s important to stop and consider what makes us human and what benefits and repercussions our discoveries may have. Another book that explores similar themes is Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. The book takes place in the future when science has solved everything from poverty to hunger to disease. Scientists have even perfected good looks. At the age of 16, everyone is required to undergo surgery to become tall, flawless, and uniformly pretty. Pretties live beautiful, bubbly party-filled lives free of bullying and body-shaming, but the true cost of the surgery is more than some people want to pay. When a teen escapes the city to avoid the surgery, her best friend and the government will stop at nothing to bring her back and make her beautiful. The book is a fun adventure that will spark great conversations about medical ethics, identity, body manipulation, and humanity’s quest to conquer the aging process. Readers who like the book can keep reading Pretties, Specials, Extras, and a new Imposters Series that takes place in the Uglies universe.
Young Adult: Most recently, Frankenstein and the life of Mary Shelley inspired Kiersten White to write The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein. This book reimagines Frankenstein from the point of view of Elizabeth. In the original, she was Victor’s angelic cousin and love interest. In White’s novel, Elizabeth isn’t content to sit around blindly supporting Victor. As a child, Elizabeth was orphaned, abused, and then sold to the Frankenstein family to keep young Victor happy. This Elizabeth is focused on self-preservation at almost any cost. White’s novel continues Shelley’s themes of science and ethics, but also explores the confining roles women were forced to play in Victorian society. Its part horror, part historical fiction, and part 18th century after school special on the dangers of dating a psychopath. It’s also a fun and empowering read for everyone who, as the author puts it, “Has ever felt like a side character in their own story.
That’s all we have for read-alikes this week. If you’re students are still raving for more Frankenstein fun, register for Frankenstein: The STEM Read Experience. In this live-action game, students will act as medical researchers exploring the work of literature’s most famous mad scientist. Attendees will hear from experts and work in groups to solve STEAM-based challenges that explore –human health and anatomy, history of medicine, electricity and circuits, biomedical engineering, science ethics, and more!