The past few installments of The Classic of the Month have all been speculative fiction. And today, we’re continuing that theme with one more… Frankenstein. This terrifying tale is a well-rounded piece that includes elements of science fiction, horror, and even philosophy. And perhaps the most shocking part of the story was that it was crafted as part of a storytelling contest. To hear about the other story produced during that contest, keep reading until the end!

Book of the Month

Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley

Opening Words

“You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings. I arrived here yesterday, and my first task is to assure my dear sister of my welfare and increasing confidence in the success of my undertaking.”

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

What’s it all About?

Captain Robert Walton makes a shocking discovery during his expedition into the icy North: a man, near death, and apparently lost in the frozen wastes. Where did he come from and what is he doing here? Once the crew manages to get him on board, and he warms up and recovers his strength, he tells the captain a story both strange and horrifying, almost too impossible to believe. The man’s name is Victor Frankenstein. During his time in school, Frankenstein discovered the secret of life, and decided to build a man out of pieces of dead bodies. But, Frankenstein’s horror of what he has done, and his subsequent abandonment of his creation, causes it to lash out, unleashing a series of tragedies that will soon consume the young doctor’s life.

Read this if you Enjoy…

  • Horror
  • Science fiction
  • Deep emotions and tragic characters
  • Moody, thought-provoking, and atmospheric stories

Final Thoughts

When I read Frankenstein for the first time in college, I was shocked to find that the creature was so different from the shambling, groaning brute that appears so often in popular culture. Shelley’s creation lacked the flat-topped head, the bolts in his neck…he wasn’t even green! So, you can imagine my surprise as I devoured this book, with its surprisingly verbose “monster”.

Frankenstein was written as part of a contest one summer. Mary Shelley; her husband Percy; her step-sister, Claire; Percy’s friend Lord Byron; and Byron’s doctor, John Polidori, spent a summer in Geneva during one of the worst volcanic eruptions in history–the ash darkened the sky so much that the summer was unpleasantly cold, and the little group was almost permanently stuck indoors. To entertain themselves, they would tell scary stories and started a contest to see who could create the most chilling one. As we know, Mary’s contribution was Frankenstein. The other work to come out of the project was The Vampyre, written by Polidori. “The Vampyre” is a fairly short tale, about 30 pages or so, and has the distinction of being the first vampire story to be written in English. The story is about Aubrey, a young Englishman who becomes fascinated with his new friend, Lord Ruthven, not realizing that he’s a vampire.

Unlike a lot of other monster stories, Frankenstein presents us with a complex, sympathetic monster and complex circumstances to match. While it’s true that the creature is a killer, it’s hard not to feel for someone who is so unloved and so alone in the world. Likewise, the doctor himself is painted in all his complexity, as a man who thought he could play God, but pays the ultimate price for his hubris.


I'm the Reader's Advisory Librarian at WPPL. My interests include old horror films, classic novels, manga and anime, paper-crafting, and plants. If you like my suggestions, you can request personalized recommendations from me on My Librarian page.