Frankenstein Unbound Critical Context - Essay

Brian W. Aldiss

Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Concurrently with Frankenstein Unbound, Aldiss was working on Billion Year Spree (1973), a history of science fiction, which he published the same year as the novel (1973). It opens with a chapter on Mary Shelley and considers Frankenstein to be the first science-fiction novel, the “origin of the species.” Calling Frankenstein “the first great myth of the industrial age,” Aldiss finds that it “foreshadows many of our anxieties about the two-faced triumphs of scientific progress” and “the disintegration of society which follows man’s arrogation of power. We see one perversion of the natural order leading to another. Frankenstein is loaded with a sense of corruption....” Frankenstein Unbound, even more so, has this sense, and it is Mary Shelley’s concepts that Aldiss explores in more depth in his novel.

It is at the same time a gloss on Frankenstein, to which it is also indebted for its structure. Both begin as epistolary narratives and then shift to the first-person narrative of the protagonist. During the course of Frankenstein Unbound, Joe analyzes Mary, her milieu, and the characters, episodes, and ideas of her fiction, and she herself tells him the circumstances under which she began her work, while Victor later summarizes for Joe the experiences of the monster during the period in which he was abandoned and before he killed William.

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(The entire section is 459 words.)