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Frankissstein: A Love Story

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In Brexit Britain, a young transgender doctor called Ry is falling in love – against their better judgement – with Victor Stein, a celebrated professor leading the public debate around AI. Meanwhile, Ron Lord, just divorced and living with Mum again, is set to make his fortune launching a new generation of sex dolls for lonely men everywhere. Across the Atlantic, in Phoenix, In Brexit Britain, a young transgender doctor called Ry is falling in love – against their better judgement – with Victor Stein, a celebrated professor leading the public debate around AI. Meanwhile, Ron Lord, just divorced and living with Mum again, is set to make his fortune launching a new generation of sex dolls for lonely men everywhere. Across the Atlantic, in Phoenix, Arizona, a cryogenics facility houses dozens of bodies of men and women who are medically and legally dead… but waiting to return to life. But the scene is set in 1816, when nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley writes a story about creating a non-biological life-form. ‘Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful.' What will happen when homo sapiens is no longer the smartest being on the planet? Jeanette Winterson shows us how much closer we are to that future than we realise. Funny and furious, bold and clear-sighted, Frankissstein is a love story about life itself.


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In Brexit Britain, a young transgender doctor called Ry is falling in love – against their better judgement – with Victor Stein, a celebrated professor leading the public debate around AI. Meanwhile, Ron Lord, just divorced and living with Mum again, is set to make his fortune launching a new generation of sex dolls for lonely men everywhere. Across the Atlantic, in Phoenix, In Brexit Britain, a young transgender doctor called Ry is falling in love – against their better judgement – with Victor Stein, a celebrated professor leading the public debate around AI. Meanwhile, Ron Lord, just divorced and living with Mum again, is set to make his fortune launching a new generation of sex dolls for lonely men everywhere. Across the Atlantic, in Phoenix, Arizona, a cryogenics facility houses dozens of bodies of men and women who are medically and legally dead… but waiting to return to life. But the scene is set in 1816, when nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley writes a story about creating a non-biological life-form. ‘Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful.' What will happen when homo sapiens is no longer the smartest being on the planet? Jeanette Winterson shows us how much closer we are to that future than we realise. Funny and furious, bold and clear-sighted, Frankissstein is a love story about life itself.

30 review for Frankissstein: A Love Story

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paromjit

    Delighted to see this on the Booker Longlist! A breathtakingly brilliant re-interpretation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein for our modern age of troubled political turbulence, so incredibly funny, smart, philosophical and satirical, weaving threads from the past, present and the impact of AI developments in the future. Jeanette Winterson has pulled off a scintillating and incisive retelling of the classic novel that posits that homo sapiens is far from the most intelligent force on earth, and prov Delighted to see this on the Booker Longlist! A breathtakingly brilliant re-interpretation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein for our modern age of troubled political turbulence, so incredibly funny, smart, philosophical and satirical, weaving threads from the past, present and the impact of AI developments in the future. Jeanette Winterson has pulled off a scintillating and incisive retelling of the classic novel that posits that homo sapiens is far from the most intelligent force on earth, and provides irrefutable evidence, such as the examples of Trump and Bolsonaro, our modern day monsters of destruction. It asks what is reality, where all that is solid melts into air, what exactly is human consciousness, asking and re-defining what it is to be human, and whether we can transcend our time limited biological bodies to attain and embrace a AI immortality that will make gods of humans. Gender fluidity, roles and expectations of women through the ages, sexism, and misogyny are explored through the various characters, such as Byron, Mary Shelley and the genius creation that is the bold and brash sexbot salesman and entrepreneur, Ron Lord, operating in a Brexit world. Lord is a divorced man, living with his mother in Wales, creating and developing a male utopia with his female sexbots that never say no to a man, bots that do not give rise to the problems men face with real life emancipated women. Ron Lord is a messiah of our disturbing world, claiming to solve issues of rape, assault and abuse everywhere, even within religion and the church. Dr Ry Shelley is transgender, having shifted reality to be who he wants to be, and in love with the famous Dr Victor Stein. In Phoenix, Arizona, humanity is preparing to rise from the ashes through the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, where the legally and medically dead are waiting to return to life. The novel travels through bedlam, life, death, the 'Lazarus' resurrection, history, gender, class and inequality, our contemporary monsters running rampant, and with illuminating potential future AI realities. There are so many ideas and concepts in this fascinating and highly imaginative narrative that takes Shelley's Frankenstein and spins a philosophical and relevant feminist fable for our times that is simultaneously completely hilarious and thought provoking. Winterson is a gifted writer, and this novel is sheer magnificence, from beginning to end. A true gem, I particularly adored the character of Ron Lord. A highly recommended and sublime read. Many thanks to Random House Vintage for an ARC

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jenna ❤ ❀ ❤

    Have you ever read a book where you have to keep re-reading paragraphs or even entire pages not because your mind drifted and you don't know what you just read, but because you do know what you read and it delighted you so much that you simply have to read it again? I haven't come across many writers who do that for me. Jeanette Winterson is an exception and Frankissstein is one of those books. Reading this book gave my brain a fantastic jolt on just about every page, a flood of dopamine and ser Have you ever read a book where you have to keep re-reading paragraphs or even entire pages not because your mind drifted and you don't know what you just read, but because you do know what you read and it delighted you so much that you simply have to read it again? I haven't come across many writers who do that for me. Jeanette Winterson is an exception and Frankissstein is one of those books. Reading this book gave my brain a fantastic jolt on just about every page, a flood of dopamine and serotonin repeatedly washed through my brain. The sheer exquisiteness of the prose, the ingenious metaphors, and the philosophical aspects of the story delighted me immensely. This is the story of Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein. It is the story of Ry Shelley, a transgender doctor living in the present day. It is the story of Lord Byron, Ron Lord, Dr. Polidori, Polly D, Victor Frankenstein and Victor Stein, a scientist developing AI. Jeanette Winterson takes us on a journey back to the past and into the future, masterfully weaving the stories of all these individuals, intertwining their lives and their thoughts and their souls. It is profound and it is funny. It is philosophical. It asks us to reflect on many questions: What is intelligence and what is life? Are we our bodies or are we just souls inhabiting physical matter? If we upload a human brain into a machine, would it be human or would it be machine? What, if anything, sets humans apart from other living beings? If we succeed in creating true AI, how will it feel about being created to serve us or about living amongst us? I mention that Ry is transgender because Ms. Winterson uses this story to show that gender is more than just the body we inhabit and that we humans are far more complex than our genders and any labels that are slapped upon us or even given to us by ourselves. Labels are helpful in navigating the world, but no person can fully inhabit any category. We transcend our labels. Ron Lord is perhaps the funniest character I've come across in a Jeanette Winterson book. He is a sexbot salesman, misogynistic, and unable to accept Ry as he is. Claire (the counterpart to Mary Shelley's step-sister) is an evangelical Christian who is at first against the idea of sexbots though later convinces Ron to create and sell "bots for Jesus" as well, Christian "companions" (wink, wink) for the devout. I laughed many times reading the dialogue between these two characters, full-out-feel-good belly laughs. Ms. Winterson throws in a few Trump jabs too, which is always appreciated for helping survive the current political madness. Fans of Jeanette Winterson, lovers of speculative fiction, those who delight in word play -- all will love this newest gem from Jeanette Winterson. In my opinion, it is her greatest work thus far! Many thanks to Jeanette Winterson, Grove Press, and Edelweiss+ for providing me with a free digital review copy. This in no way influenced my review. Publication date: October 2019

  3. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    I am disappointed and deeply uncomfortable. yikes. I am not trans so please take my review with a grain of salt, but dear god. at best, this book is irresponsibly and deeply clueless, and in bad taste. at worst, it's vaguely terfy. why does a cis woman who does not even understand the most basic things about gender - such as "trans men are men" "being trans and being gay is not the same" and "being trans is not inherently about feminism" - think that she can write a book about gender with a tran I am disappointed and deeply uncomfortable. yikes. I am not trans so please take my review with a grain of salt, but dear god. at best, this book is irresponsibly and deeply clueless, and in bad taste. at worst, it's vaguely terfy. why does a cis woman who does not even understand the most basic things about gender - such as "trans men are men" "being trans and being gay is not the same" and "being trans is not inherently about feminism" - think that she can write a book about gender with a trans man as the protagonist? it was bad. giving the benefit of the doubt, the nicest thing I can say here is that this author does not understand how gender works. I highly doubt that any trans men were consulted while writing this book. there was a weird focus on his genitals, too. overall, this feels very disrespectful toward trans people. As a sidenote, there was also some fatphobia in this book, and even apart of the trans representation, the "feminist" themes were very shallow and one-note. Also, the book did this annoying thing where it didn't use quotation marks for its dialogue because it's so ~literary

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marchpane

    Frankenstein reanimated Part fictionalised life story of Mary Shelley, part bonkers ‘mad scientist’ caper set in the five-minutes-from-now future, Frankissstein is riotously funny, philosophically rich, and one-of-a-kind. Lake Geneva, 1816. 18-year-old Mary Shelley, her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, John Polidori and Clair Clairmont are holed up during a storm. They pass the time with ghost stories and talk of galvanism, consciousness, and loom-smashing Luddites, as Shelley begins Frankenstein reanimated Part fictionalised life story of Mary Shelley, part bonkers ‘mad scientist’ caper set in the five-minutes-from-now future, Frankissstein is riotously funny, philosophically rich, and one-of-a-kind. Lake Geneva, 1816. 18-year-old Mary Shelley, her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, John Polidori and Clair Clairmont are holed up during a storm. They pass the time with ghost stories and talk of galvanism, consciousness, and loom-smashing Luddites, as Shelley begins writing her famous Frankenstein. We then follow Shelley’s life in pensive, beautifully drawn chapters that would make for a stunning historical fiction novel on their own. The future/now. Transgender, non-binary doctor Ry Shelley, charismatic scientist Victor Stein, sexbot magnate Ron Lord (Lord By-Ron, get it?), journalist Polly D and religious evangelist Claire are caught up in a madcap plot involving cryonics and stolen body parts. It’s a dizzying ride, with some characters prone to crude sex jokes while others are more likely to lapse into philosophical debates on transhumanism. Novels that employ humour can be hit-or-miss, particularly when the gags are as ribald and dorky as they are here. Whether or not it happens to tickle your funny bone will probably be the difference between finding Frankissstein enormous fun… or just silly. Winterson shrewdly draws the parallels between Mary Shelley’s time and our own: the disruption of the Industrial Revolution equating with today’s anxieties over automation; the potential for AI to actualise what Shelley envisaged – autonomous, thinking artificial life. Cryonics also features in the plot but isn’t afforded much seriousness. To me that makes sense, because right now it’s the AI that really frightens us: our 21st century monsters are stitched together from zeroes and ones. Clever, funny and more than a little nutty, Frankissstein is hugely entertaining and just right for right now. 4.5 stars.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dolors

    This novel possesses all the necessary ingredients to shine for its uniqueness: an unconventional structure, an ambitious approach to storytelling, a profound meditation on themes that should appeal the most demanding of readers… And yet. As the title anticipates, this is a retelling of the famous novel by Mary Shelley that takes “the monster” of her creation beyond her present time to project a future where technological progress might mean the end of the world as we know it. The “kiss” hidden a This novel possesses all the necessary ingredients to shine for its uniqueness: an unconventional structure, an ambitious approach to storytelling, a profound meditation on themes that should appeal the most demanding of readers… And yet. As the title anticipates, this is a retelling of the famous novel by Mary Shelley that takes “the monster” of her creation beyond her present time to project a future where technological progress might mean the end of the world as we know it. The “kiss” hidden among the letters of the aberrant Frankenstein is an open reference to the love stories connecting the two timelines of the novel: the first is set in 1816 at the famous villa in Lake Geneva where Mary spent time with the poets Lord Byron and her lover P.B. Shelley debating about the limits of the body in relation to the immeasurable power of the mind. The second timeline takes place in modern London where Ry, a young transgender doctor, falls in love with Victor Stein, an iconic professor who champions artificial intelligence as the definite solution to the biggest fear that has haunted human beings since the beginning of times; the certainty of our own mortality. As the stories move forward, the two timelines become more and more tangled and the characters seem to jump through time and space by means of abstract concepts. Meditations on what constitutes the death of a body or what defines a mind take the stage while social restrictions that have traditionally described people like gender, race and culture become obsolete when confronted with the upcoming challenges of the future; sex bots, cryopreserved bodies, intelligent prosthesis that question the limits between improving the quality of life or the frenzied ambition to beat death at all costs. Where to draw the line? This is a highly accomplished novel, ambitious in scope and creative in style. Certain sections are even brilliant, particularly the ones dealing with the historical recreation of Mary Shelley’s progression as woman and author, the evolution of her inner thoughts as her resilience is tested by the cruel passing of her children and beloved husband, and the dreamlike encounter with “her creation” in Bedlam hospital. The themes are delicately exposed, blending the pace of poetry with the depth of existential meditation. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the other timeline where modern characters take the lead from the past. The language is shabby and hurried, dialogue is annoyingly cliched, the characters lack depth and credibility. I didn’t quite understand Winterson’s reason to include tasteless sex scenes to emphasize the duality of Ry’s sexual orientation or the cheap correlation between secondary characters and great “personalities” such as Byron, Shelley or even fictional Victor Frankenstein. More than a homage, it read like cheap mockery to me. A real shame that these chapters diminished the pleasure of the earlier sections and devalued what could have been one of the best reads of the year to a mere “potentially-great” novel. Note: I received an ACR of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte May

    DNF @ page 209 Nothing against the book at all, I’m just not the right audience for it. Also I’m unwell at the moment and my tolerance level is much lower than it would usually be. A couple of quotes I liked. “The body can be understood as a life support for the brain.” “Sanity is the thread through the labyrinth of the Minotaur. Once cut, or unravelled, all that lies in wait are gloomy tunnels unfathomable by any map, and what hides there is a beast in human form, wearing our own face.”

  7. 5 out of 5

    Henk

    Funny, deeply humane and quite thought provoking ”Humans: so many good ideas. So many failed ideals.” General storyline Certainly better written than the original in my opinion. Jeanette Winterson follows Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley when she writes Frankenstein and mixes this with a reimagining of this tale set in a tomorrow obsessed with AI, robotics and immortality. I especially liked the parts relating the story of Mary Shelley and what her inspirations could have been to write Frankenstein. She Funny, deeply humane and quite thought provoking ”Humans: so many good ideas. So many failed ideals.” General storyline Certainly better written than the original in my opinion. Jeanette Winterson follows Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley when she writes Frankenstein and mixes this with a reimagining of this tale set in a tomorrow obsessed with AI, robotics and immortality. I especially liked the parts relating the story of Mary Shelley and what her inspirations could have been to write Frankenstein. She is portrayed as young, reflective and slightly socially akward (”I was never bored, except in the company of others.”) The love she has with her husband is also portrayed in beautiful prose: “When I was pregnant with William, he used to get on his knees as I sat on the edge of the bed and hold my stomach in his hands like a rare book he hadn’t read.” Tragedy is however also very much present in her 19th century life, with three dead children and a dead husband before her 25th birthday. And finally Winterson imagines a thread where her fictional creation seems to come alive and haunts her from Bedlam to a cocktailparty. The contemporary/near future part centres around Ry Shelley, a female to male transgender doctor who is in love with Victor Stein. Victor is like a Yuval Noah Harari, with grand visions on a transhuman future, a succesfull TED talk and an university supported start up to bring this future to the present. One of his backers is Ron Lord, entrepeneur in sexbots, while we also have an evangelical Christian called Claire making an appearance. The allusions to the life of Shelley, with Lord Byron as inspiration to Ron and Claire being the stepsister of Mary, where a bit too gimmicky for me. Especially the Ron character quickly moved from funny to a walking stereotype in my opinion, and how everyone just happens to meet and know everyone else, also strained belief. Finally a lot of CAPITALISED sentences made some of the characters feel like giddy teenagers. Still we are presented with beautiful imaginery, like Ry Shelley who visits a cryogenic storage of frozen heads. Or how she offers amputated bodyparts to her lover Victor Stein, who casually plays with these in his office while they are bickering. In terms of horror I loved how he reanimated these body parts as “living” hands, study objects controlled by electricity, working in unison like spiders. Language, Themes and Quotes ”Only in the living of it does life seem ordinary.” What I generally liked are the concepts Winterson dove into in this section of the book. What it means to be human if we can just be a digital and bodyless mind for instance. Or what our relationship with robots should be and if contact with such “mindless” companions could make people more happy than interactions with real humans. And the question which people we should make immortal and through what means (”Is Donald Trump getting his brain frozen? asks Ron. Max explains that the brain has to be fully functioning at clinical death.”) One of the most poignant questions that came back in this section is apparently a quote from the historical Shelley: ”What is the point of progress if it benefits the few while the many suffer?” All in all Jeanette Winterson offers a deeply human, passionate and warm view on humanity. What our future could be, taking into account the quirks of our imperfect bodies and, above all, our hearts. Ry Shelley says it best: “The riot in my head is unseen. What I am thinking, what I am feeling, are private Bedlams of my own. I manage my own madness just as you do. And if my heart is broken it keeps beating.”

  8. 5 out of 5

    Morgan M. Page

    Entertaining, but a characterization of a trans person that swings between mildly to wildly offensive - and that's setting aside that the only person of colour in the entire book is a two-dimensional racist stereotype. That Winterson is promoting this book about a trans protagonist by arguing against healthcare for trans teens is especially odious. Entertaining, but a characterization of a trans person that swings between mildly to wildly offensive - and that's setting aside that the only person of colour in the entire book is a two-dimensional racist stereotype. That Winterson is promoting this book about a trans protagonist by arguing against healthcare for trans teens is especially odious.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bob/Sally

    What the fuck did I just read? How the fuck did this get published? And, in what fucking universe does shit like this get longlisted for an award? There’s some small justice in that this travesty of fiction didn’t make the Booker shortlist, but that it got published – and that anybody feels it worth celebrating – is still a mystery. I hated this book. Let’s start with the surface flaws. This is a badly written book. Badly written, boring, pretentious, stream-of-consciousness nonsense. It’s not jus What the fuck did I just read? How the fuck did this get published? And, in what fucking universe does shit like this get longlisted for an award? There’s some small justice in that this travesty of fiction didn’t make the Booker shortlist, but that it got published – and that anybody feels it worth celebrating – is still a mystery. I hated this book. Let’s start with the surface flaws. This is a badly written book. Badly written, boring, pretentious, stream-of-consciousness nonsense. It’s not just bad, it’s comically bad, as if Jeanette Winterson were trying to make some kind of meta-statement with the narrative – except it would be a mistake to suggest that Frankissstein is that clever. The characters range from lame to offensive, and the dialogue from banal to ridiculous. It’s almost like Winterson were trying to anticipate the kind of writing that an artificially created hybrid life-form would construct except, again, the book is not that clever. I loathed this book. To go deeper – and, honestly, nothing about this book is what I would call deep – this is a grossly offensive, embarrassingly (and possibly dangerously) transphobic story. It trivializes being transgender as a whimsical choice, and fetishizes the entire transgender community as genital hybrids. To add insult to injury, Winterson tosses around pronouns like they’re randomly interchangeable, repeatedly deadnames the transgender protagonist, and heaps so much harassment on them (including repeated violent assaults) that you have no choice but to assume it’s the author’s own bias coming through. I despised this book. As for the sci-fi aspects of sex robots and human consciousness, they’re so badly handled that they’d be the most embarrassing part of any other novel. When we’re not being bored to tears with factoid info dumps we’re being completely grossed out by a vulgar millionaire who is only slightly less offensive than the book’s rapist boyfriend. Honestly, I’ve read trashy sexbot spankbank erotica that was more intelligent and tasteful than this. Even the lame, hamfisted attempts to further the faith-versus-science themes in Frankenstein and its literary contemporaries is rendered ridiculous and toothless through the mocking, racist caricature of an evangelical woman. Did I mention I hate this book? Because I did. With a vengeance. https://femledfantasy.home.blog/2019/...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Justin Tate

    Imaginative fiction pulling from a variety of sources. Notably Mary Shelley, the person, Frankenstein, the book, concept, and character, and a hodgepodge of hot topics, such as technology, transgender issues, and Brexit. Think queer theory and postmodernism applied to Frankenstein. Then apply Frankenstein to sex dolls. The idea is fantastic and is well-executed most of the time. Probably not intended for casual summer reading, however. If I were in the middle of writing a thesis on Frankenstein, Imaginative fiction pulling from a variety of sources. Notably Mary Shelley, the person, Frankenstein, the book, concept, and character, and a hodgepodge of hot topics, such as technology, transgender issues, and Brexit. Think queer theory and postmodernism applied to Frankenstein. Then apply Frankenstein to sex dolls. The idea is fantastic and is well-executed most of the time. Probably not intended for casual summer reading, however. If I were in the middle of writing a thesis on Frankenstein, I'm sure I would relish every page and want to write 5,000 words on how Winterson futurizes Mary Shelley. As it is, I'm only a slightly above-average Frankenstein enthusiast. It's one of my favorite books for sure, but I didn't have it memorized enough to fully 'get' Frankissstein. At least not enough to find it particularly entertaining. About halfway through the novelty wore off and the storyline got too confusing for me to follow with any serious interest. Certainly a fine achievement in writing, and lovers of the Shelleys will discover plenty to admire, but--for me--too philosophical without a concise narrative.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    jesus christ this was a mess - and jeanette winterson is one of my favourite writers! written on the body is such an important book to me and doesn’t rely on binary understandings of gender and romance that rocked my entire world in the best way. surprisingly, the most redeeming part of this book for me was the reimagining of mary shelley and the silly actual frankenstein references. i found the narrative arcs overall were engaging, kind of in the way White Teeth by Zadie Smith is, but much pulp jesus christ this was a mess - and jeanette winterson is one of my favourite writers! written on the body is such an important book to me and doesn’t rely on binary understandings of gender and romance that rocked my entire world in the best way. surprisingly, the most redeeming part of this book for me was the reimagining of mary shelley and the silly actual frankenstein references. i found the narrative arcs overall were engaging, kind of in the way White Teeth by Zadie Smith is, but much pulpier. too many sex robots. the real nails in the coffin for this book is how this entire book is so horrifically transphobic and misinformed and weirdly racist and tropey for the like, two sentences there are descriptions of the one person of colour. i personally think it is so irresponsible to publish work like this that acts like people will just know how the characters are behaving is transphobic garbage - because i hope that winterson didn’t do this intentionally, because many people still hold deeply transphobic beliefs. and in interviews about this book she’s been so messy about trans identity - i’m all for dismantling binaries understandings of gender but she is coming from a place of being like “gender doesn’t matter blah!” which is fine, to a degree, but there are real consequences of social constructs even if they’re not quantifiably real. and she brutalizes her trans character! the lack of kindness and care here is appalling and uneducated. this is such a deeply irresponsible narrative about trans people under the guise of a queer/lesbian identified writer being edgy and philosophical about AI and whatever. sweet Ry, who has such a strong start as a character is fetishized by a transphobic and gross partner, and despite this gross dynamic i was hopeful Ry would get through this book otherwise physically safely but that was too much to ask for. their non binary trans identity is butchered. they are constantly misgendered, dead named, and harassed to the point where it’s not making a statement about transphobic harassment, you’re just putting salt in the wound. everyone OBSESSES over Ry’s junk. Ry is also violently GRATUITOUSLY randomly s**ually assaulted to the point where i was literally sick to my stomach, because it was handled so disgustingly poorly. i hate saying this word because it’s been coopted at inappropriate times but i was actually deeply triggered and messed up because it came out of nowhere, and anyone who’s been through that, doesn’t need to go through it again!!!! with no warning!!!! like who is this book for? i’m in the camp that writers and artists are supposed to expand our world, not just replicate and magnify the fucked up realities we already experience. i’m not interested in writers being executors of morals or a sterile, perfectly politically correct work - i’m interested in respect and empathy for your subjects and creating a rich inner world and relationships. and these issues are real and we need stories about abuse and violence. trans people do experience more violence and harassment. but there’s a way to write it respectfully and feels authentic! i believe it is vital to come from well informed place if you’re writing about a community you are not a part of, and it feels like this is so unimportant. these narratives affect public discourse - after Ry is violently assaulted they say something like, “this wasn’t the first time and this wouldn’t be the last”. it literally made me burst into tears - nobody needs to read or feel that. and we don’t need to be putting those kinds of sentiments out into the world. we already think them, we know. if you’re writing a book about the future, imagine something new. please. i have no time or patience for this gross lack of care for trans characters, and absolutely no real attempt to understand of what it means to move through the world while trans. it just sucks that a writer who i thought was writing for me, a queer femmeish person who has some gender weirdness, is not. at all. this feels like trauma porn to encite empathy in cis readers by inflicting never ending harm in a really unthoughtful way - we need to talk about all this bullshit, but you have to do it right.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    When Jeanette Winterson steps into the mind of Mary Shelley, and her creature(s), we are likely to be off on a rollercoaster poetry slam in prose. I don't know what it is with Jeanette Winterson, but she manages to have her very personal story interwoven with the most universal human questions while focusing mainly on the power of the magical sentence structure to convey meaning. In a way, this is a highly contemporary reflection on where humanity is heading, philosophically and technologically s When Jeanette Winterson steps into the mind of Mary Shelley, and her creature(s), we are likely to be off on a rollercoaster poetry slam in prose. I don't know what it is with Jeanette Winterson, but she manages to have her very personal story interwoven with the most universal human questions while focusing mainly on the power of the magical sentence structure to convey meaning. In a way, this is a highly contemporary reflection on where humanity is heading, philosophically and technologically speaking. The celebrities (political and otherwise) trending on Twitter have cameo appearances, and the vital question of immortality is put into a new perspective when moved out of the religious context and into the realm of scientific feasibility. 55 million people die every year. Do we really want them all to come back, supposing it is possible? Do we want to be able to preserve our brains, to rejuvenate our ageing bodies? Do we really want to live forever, forever young? (As the song goes!) When the story of the making of the novel Frankenstein is blended with our temporary confusion, it becomes obvious that being a creator comes with a responsibility that humanity is notoriously bad at taking. What are we going to do with the power we set free when we create life in a completely new fashion? The conflict between Frankenstein and the monster will return with a vengeance... and Jeanette Winterson has written the story to match reality as we might know it...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Meike

    Now Nominated for the Booker Prize 2019 This novel is Winterson's monster: Pieced together from the history of Mary Shelley writing the classic Frankenstein, the plot of aforementioned classic and a new storyline focusing on artificial intelligence, Winterson has unevenly sewn together different components and brought them to life - well, at least partly. The author is a God-like figure in her own narrative universe, so you could argue that Winterson is also a "modern Prometheus" (which is the s Now Nominated for the Booker Prize 2019 This novel is Winterson's monster: Pieced together from the history of Mary Shelley writing the classic Frankenstein, the plot of aforementioned classic and a new storyline focusing on artificial intelligence, Winterson has unevenly sewn together different components and brought them to life - well, at least partly. The author is a God-like figure in her own narrative universe, so you could argue that Winterson is also a "modern Prometheus" (which is the subtitle of "Frankenstein"). In order to explore the human urge to create life and submit nature versus the longing to be seen and loved as an imperfect, but unique person, Winterson jumps around between timelines and personnel, juxtaposing, mirroring and paralleling different ideas and even characters. The first narrative thread tells the story of author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who fell in love and ran away with Percy Bysshe Shelley. She crafted the outline for "Frankenstein" at Lake Geneva, where the couple stayed with Lord Byron, his doctor Polidori, and Mary's stepsister Claire Clairmont who was pregnant from Byron (Mary herself lost many children, which is interesting considering that she wrote a classic about the artificial creation of life). Winterson intersperses her whole narrative with bits and pieces from Mary Shelley's life, especially those connected to the writing of "Frankenstein". Many of the aspects she presents are highly contested though, e.g. the connection to the actual Castle Frankenstein in Germany or that Shelley was inspired by conversations she had with her husband and Byron about Darwin and galvanization - in this book, real life is fiction, too. Then, there are of course quotes and themes taken from the story of Dr. Victor Frankenstein, and readers should keep in mind that the "monster" starts out as a good character and is then driven to become a criminal because of his loneliness and desperation. In the third narrative thread, we meet all kinds of characters who mirror the other two interwoven stories: There is Victor Stein, a scientist who aims to abolish death by preserving human minds; there is Ry, a transgender doctor (Ry is derived from Mary), who falls in love with Stein; we meet Claire who employs argumentative tricks to merge the belief in God with financially profiting from AI; and Polly (which, especially in 19th century New England, was a nickname for Mary), a journalist trying to portray Stein; and then we have Ron Lord, a sleezy guy selling AI sexbots ("Ronald" derives from Rögnvaldr, meaning "the one who holds the power of the Gods", and his last name alludes to both God and Byron). As you probably assume, there is a myriad of connections here, but the main juxtaposition is that of Ron, who uses AI for financial gain with all the implications that has regarding the degradation of women, and Victor Stein, who is less interested in money, and more in playing God. Yes, this monster of a book has many tiny parts and many characters, it is often funny and just as often stuck in theoretical and philosophical elaborations played out in dialogue, and Winterson is very much in love with her own creation. While the whole book is filled to the brim with smart ideas and offers a daring composition, I have to admit that the patchiness of the whole thing frequently annoyed me, that some parts seemed repetitive and that a certain smugness that lingers over this text did not really help either ("look what I can do! and this! and this!!" - yeah, calm down, Winterson). Still, this is a smart, experimental book that dares to go places, written by a highly intelligent author who loves to be bold and play Dr. Frankenstein - and isn't this what we want from a writer?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Hugh

    Longlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize This is another of the books some of us will be discussing face to face, so once again the review is in spoiler tags (now removed!): This book is clever, readable and very funny, if sometimes baffling. It is inspired by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the story of its creation, but also by recent developments in artificial intelligence and the concentration of money and power in the hands of ever smaller elites. There are several layers of story, which are mixe Longlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize This is another of the books some of us will be discussing face to face, so once again the review is in spoiler tags (now removed!): This book is clever, readable and very funny, if sometimes baffling. It is inspired by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the story of its creation, but also by recent developments in artificial intelligence and the concentration of money and power in the hands of ever smaller elites. There are several layers of story, which are mixed together a short chapter of the time. One reimagines the events and conversations of the Lake Geneva "holiday" which led Mary Shelley to write the book, one is a near future farce which loosely reenacts the Frankenstein story, narrated by a trans hero/ine Ry Shelley, and another imagines Victor Frankenstein himself coming to life and confronting his creator. I would probably have understood more of this if I had actually read Shelley's novel, but the whole is a wild trip, clever but sometimes bordering on insanity. I can't really do justice to it in a short review, so I urge you to read it yourselves.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Neale

    NOMINATED FOR THE 2019 BOOKER LONGLIST. Mary Shelly’s classic novel is about the creation of life. The creation of a creature made of multiple body parts, brought to life with a bolt of electricity. This novel deals not so much with creation, but with the transference of consciousness to a digital form enabling humanity to cheat death, to attain immortality. However, this is a massive simplification of the narrative, it is so much more, and deals with many issues that are hot topics today, It doe NOMINATED FOR THE 2019 BOOKER LONGLIST. Mary Shelly’s classic novel is about the creation of life. The creation of a creature made of multiple body parts, brought to life with a bolt of electricity. This novel deals not so much with creation, but with the transference of consciousness to a digital form enabling humanity to cheat death, to attain immortality. However, this is a massive simplification of the narrative, it is so much more, and deals with many issues that are hot topics today, It does this in such great style. The tone of the novel will change from intriguing conversations about Artificial Intelligence, and what actually is reality, consciousness, to hilarious bumbling dialogue about sex bots. Ron Lord the owner of the sex bot company is such a great character providing the narrative with a comic touch every time he enters the story. This is another novel in which the narrative jumps back and forth in time. The past where Shelly is writing her classic novel, and the present where the protagonist, who is a transgender doctor who meets and falls in love with Victor Stein, who is working on his vison of the future in which our bodies will become irrelevant with our brains transformed into digital data. Both narratives are exceptional and could easily stand alone as one single story. Winterson certainly has her finger on the pulse when dealing with the topics which are very much in vogue with the times. Artificial Intelligence has been a common topic, taking on even more significance when Stephen Hawking declared that Artificial Intelligence, or AI has the possibility to end our existence. Misogyny and the treatment of women as second- class citizens is another theme explored. In the past narrative, Byron and Shelly continually talk of man being the dominant sex and women little more than reproductive machines and carers, while hypocritically discussing world events with Mary. In the present narrative the invention of sex-bots again relegates women to little more than sex slaves. Change is another topic which takes place in both narratives. In the past people are worried about the Industrial revolution, the loss of jobs to machines. The present, with society teetering on another technological revolution, encounters the same congruous problem, the loss of jobs to robots and even now, limited AI. This novel feels very much set in our present. where technology increases at such an alarming rate, that the possibility of a truly sentient AI seems to be just over the horizon. There are so many issues raised by this technology. Should we really develop AI? Will Stephen Hawking’s warning prove prescient? Religions of all forms universally leave the creation of life in the hand of God. However, without our pursuit of science we would not have discovered so many technologies that have improved and saved our lives. Many time these discoveries are found while pursuing other problems. The eradication of diseases which once had the potential to wipe out most of the planet, organ transplants, antibiotics, gender transformation, the list is almost endless, and our technology improves at a faster rate every jump. We almost seem to know everything about the body, apart from the brain and ageing. This novel gives us a tiny peek at what could be just around the corner in the future. It seems inevitable that we will eventually obtains the technology to perform some of the procedures described in this novel. But, just like Pandora should we really open that box? A thoroughly enjoying read. 4. 5 stars!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer

    Now re-read, and with additional detail in my review, following its longlisting for the 2019 Booker Prize. “I am what I am. But what I am is not one thing, not one gender. I live with doubleness” “What is your substance, whereof you are made, That millions of strange shadows on you tend?” The book takes place in two timelines: The first starts in 1816. in the rainy mid-year months in Geneva – a bored group of Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, her then lover and future husband Percy Shelley, Mary’s step Now re-read, and with additional detail in my review, following its longlisting for the 2019 Booker Prize. “I am what I am. But what I am is not one thing, not one gender. I live with doubleness” “What is your substance, whereof you are made, That millions of strange shadows on you tend?” The book takes place in two timelines: The first starts in 1816. in the rainy mid-year months in Geneva – a bored group of Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, her then lover and future husband Percy Shelley, Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont (Byron’s lover) and Byron’s doctor Polidori, agree on a challenge to write a ghost story – the famous genesis of Mary’s novel Frankenstein. (As an aside, given this is a book where the author seems unable to see a parallel without cramming into the already overladen plot, I was surprised that some modern day climate change link was not drawn with the volcanic eruption induced “year without a summer” of 1816.) The second is in Modern day Brexit UK and Trumpian US (and Bolsanaron Brazil). A unlikely group - Ron Lord (an increasingly successful producer of sexbots), (Ma)Ry(an) Shelley (a young transgender doctor), Clare (a Christian working almost underground) as the PA to the owner of a cryonics facility, Polly Dory (a Vanity Fair journalist) - coalesce around Victor Stein. Stein is an artificial intelligence visionary who is turning his TED talks into practice by reanimating human limbs and even heads as an interim stage towards advancing cryonics into the downloading of human minds. Ron is interested in investing and in seeing if there is an angle for his sexbots, Polly in getting an interview and scoop, Claire in ensuring a Christian angle to the various projects, Ry as his lover and also supplier of body parts. The two stories progress in parallel –with Mary and Ry as their main first party narrators. The older story starts as a relatively straight retelling of the genesis of the novel, going over well trodden ground albeit with sympathy and insight. Winterson is keen to draw out the influences on Shelley’s conception of her novel and her subsequent thinking: Artisitic (for example Ovid’s Pygmalion, Shakespeare’s Hermione and Hobbes Leviathan: Political (the machine breakers and the Peterloo riots); Personal (the loss of her children and later her husband) Some of the unattributed quotes she uses though are from later writers - TS Eliot, Wilfred Owen, Gertrude Stein - hinting at some form of fluidity of time. Best of all is a quote from Jeannette Winterson. And it is perhaps appropriate that a writer who famously voted for herself as the greatest living writer and nominated her own book for a Book of the year feature places herself among such giants. Parallels are also drawn with the ideas that are explored in the modern storyline. Pygmalion’s statue has “a double transformation from lifeless to life and from male to female” . Thinking on artificial life she muses “Is there such a thing as artificial intelligence? Clockwork has no thoughts. What is the spark of the mind? Could it be made? Made by us?” That modern story starts as a mix of: exposition heavy dialogue (not entirely absent from the first section where for example the Peterloo riots are explained by way of a clumsy dialogue between the Shelley’s over a newspaper article) – Victor Stein in particular channels his inner TED talk to muse on various developments and ideas in artificial intelligence; characters which could be lifted from a Dan Brown novel (Victor Stein in particular, a sexually magnetic, loft dwelling professor); an exploration of the world of sexbots delivered largely by the outrageously politically incorrect Ron which sometimes tips over the border from humour into prurience. To be fair to Winterson she very consciously either signals or later acknowledges her intents here: Victor is introduced as having a huge TED following; much later (and well after I had written down the Dan Brown comparison in my notes) we are told “Don’t believe everything you read in Dan Brown”; Ry observes at one point when Ron is in full flow demonstrating his own first sexbot (rather also named Claire)“Some of the boys are enjoying this; I can tell from the rise in their jeans”. As Stein says to Ry twice ”The future always brings something from the past” and there are numerous echoes of the historic storyline in the modern storyline. Over time both plot lines evolve. The past story rather cleverly as in a series of parts narrated by the Director of the Bedlam lunatic asylum, Mary meets her own creation, as Victor Frankenstein is deposited at the hospital by Captain Walton. The modern story turning (again very consciously and explicitly signalled by Winterson) into an episode of Dr Who ”The room had the look of a bad set from an early episode of Doctor Who” (drawing also on schlock horror B-movie Frankenstein remakes) in the nuclear war tunnels under Manchester as Victor Stein tries to bring an old friend’s head back to life. One of the key themes of the book is the potential future development of artificial intelligence and human/machine interfaces and hybrids. Winterson explores what that future might look like - will it be designed by misogynistic geeks, will it be for the benefit of the rootless diaspora of the rich and privileged, or more likely will man in fact have no choice in how the future plays out once a singularity is passed. Winterson identifies how the future of AI and of mind and body separation actually goes back to ancient views that underlie almost every religion which all tell the same story ”in one form or another: the earth is fallen, reality is an illusion, our souls will live forever. Our bodies are a front - or perhaps more accurately, an affront, to the beauty of our nature as beings of light” Rather controversially (or is that boldly? Or inappropratiely?) Winterson chooses to link this theme, via the concept of duality and blurring of boundaries (and in choosing to remake your body into the form that your mind wishes it to be) to transgenderism. And overall it is the theme of duality/doubleness/blurring that as well as giving the book its structure gives it its recurring theme: male and female, mind and body, human and machine, Frankenstein and his monster, an author and their work, life and death, consciousness and body, citizens of somewhere and citizens of nowhere, nationalism and globalisation, ideas and actions. (One is tempted to add Google and Wikipedia - from which large parts of the text appear to have been extracted - although perhaps even here this patching together of old borrowed parts into a rather monstrous creation is a piece of deliberate signalling on Winterson’s part). And perhaps most importantly the duality between the past and present and the fluidity of movement between the two. Winterson signals that the real story lies at their intersection ”My story is circular. It has a beginning. It has a middle. It has an end. Yet it does not run as a Roman road from a journey’s start unto its destination. I am, at present, uncertain of the destination. I am sure that the meaning if there is one, lies in the centre. But the book is subtitled “A Love Story” and it can be seen as that. The historical part is in many parts an examination of the marriage of the Shelley’s and the modern part focuses on the intense relationship between Ry and Stein. Many other relationships are bought in as analogies: M and James Bond; Salome and John The Baptist: King Kong and Fay Wray: Pygmalion and Ovid: Leontes and Hermione; Conrad Dippel (owner of The original Castle Frankenstein) and his wife; Epimetheus and Pandora; Superman and Lois Lane: 0 and 1. And further we realise that this may not just be two relationships but one. When Stein first meets Ry we read this exchange: ”Have we met. And the strange, split-second other-world answer is yes.”. When Shelley discussed death of a loved one with Mary he asks ”Who does not hold the body in her arms, frantic to bestow heat and reanimate the corpse.” and we start to see that perhaps Mary partly recast Shelley in the form of her literary creation Frankenstein who she meets again at a party at the close of the historical section. Mary Shelley ending up in love with her own literary creation and that relationship reappearing in the modern day. There are passages of time that tell more like text than time, when we sense a story we repeat, or a story that is told .... The teller or the tale? I don’t know We are many, he said. Many Shelleys, many Mary’s. many stand behind us tonight in spirit, and we shall do the same when we are done here” This is my first book by Jeanette Winterson and it is certainly an interesting and entertaining one – while not always entirely successful. At times it’s hard not to have the impression that Winterson is also in love with her own literary creation. Of course some of the themes – in particular man and machine, artificial intelligence, Turing are exactly those examined in Ian McEwan’s “Machines Like Me” and while this is a much better book, my overall conclusion is the same: If you are looking for challenging literature, and for a real examination of these topics, then look no further than the joint-winner of the 2019 Republic of Consciousness Prize (now going on to sweep other award nominations) Will Eaves Murmur. .

  17. 4 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    4.5★ “Yeah, you can be old, you can be ugly, you can be fat, smelly, you can have an STD, you can be broke. Whether you can’t get it up, or you can’t get it down, there’s an XX-BOT for you. Public service. I tell you, it is. Do you think I might get an MBE? Mum would love that.” Well, that was certainly different! Even for Winterson, whom I always enjoy, this was an inventive, imaginative blend of past, present, and future. It is also a cautionary tale of “be careful what you wish for”. The speaker 4.5★ “Yeah, you can be old, you can be ugly, you can be fat, smelly, you can have an STD, you can be broke. Whether you can’t get it up, or you can’t get it down, there’s an XX-BOT for you. Public service. I tell you, it is. Do you think I might get an MBE? Mum would love that.” Well, that was certainly different! Even for Winterson, whom I always enjoy, this was an inventive, imaginative blend of past, present, and future. It is also a cautionary tale of “be careful what you wish for”. The speaker of the above is Ron Lord, promoter of sexbots that cater for all. Winterson is playful with names, and there does come a time when the name “Lord” does get a turn. Victor is another. Victor Stein is a current-day doctor investigating self-designing brains and cryonics, while Victor Frankenstein is the doctor in Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s famous novel about his creation of a monster (whom we usually refer to as Frankenstein now). Mary’s name crops up as Ry, who is gender-fluid. “When I look in the mirror I see someone I recognise, or rather, I see at least two people I recognise. . . . I am what I am, but what I am is not one thing, not one gender. I live with doubleness.” The three stories alternate, but they do overlap in unusual ways. It begins with Mary, who was married young to poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and wrote Frankenstein when she was only 19 years old. She was the daughter of famous feminist, author, philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft who died shortly after the birth. Mary ran with a cool crowd – the poets. Doesn’t this sound like a current crop of celebrities holidaying and partying together? Keeping Up With The Poets? “In the summer of 1816 the poets Shelley and Byron, Byron’s physician, Polidori, Mary Shelley and her stepsister, Claire Clairmont, by then Byron’s mistress, rented two properties on Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Byron enjoyed the grand Villa Diodati, while the Shelleys took a smaller, more charming house, a little lower down the slope. Such was the notoriety of the households that an hotel on the farther shore of the lake set up a telescope for their guests to watch the antics of the supposed Satanists and Sexualists who held their women in common.” Mary was bright (she edited her husband’s work) and outspoken, but the boys often put her in her place, especially Lord Byron, who was about ten years older. “Byron is of the opinion that woman is from man born – his rib, his clay – and I find this singular in a man as intelligent as he. I said, It is strange, is it not, that you approve of the creation story we read in the Bible when you do not believe in God? He smiles and shrugs, explaining – It is a metaphor for the distinctions between men and women. He turns away, assuming I have understood and that is the end of the matter, but I continue, calling him back as he limps away like a Greek god. May we not consult Doctor Polidori here, who, as a physician, must know that since the creation story no living man has yet given birth to anything living? It is you, sir, who are made from us, sir. The gentlemen laugh at me indulgently. They respect me, up to a point, but we have arrived at that point.” Oh, don’t you want to slap the man? ”. . . assuming I have understood and that is the end of the matter.” Mary’s story covers several years of her life, how she is inspired to write and then frightened of her creation. Nightmares, recriminations. The monster’s story is told as if it is real – a kind of AI gone awry. “The monster I have made is shunned and feared by humankind. His difference is his downfall. He claims no natural home. He is not human, yet the sum of all he has learned is from humankind.” Back to the future (today), and the sexbot promoter and the brain-developer, Victor Stein. His claim to fame is his theory that the future is not biology, it is AI. Artificial Intelligence. “He said, I called this lecture The Future of Humans in a Post-Human World because artificial intelligence is not sentimental – it is biased towards best possible outcomes. The human race is not a best possible outcome.” There are a couple of love stories woven through this with tenderness, passion, sex, and betrayal. The parts that appealed to me were Mary with her poets and Ry with Victor (brains) and Ron Lord (sexbots). I didn’t care much for the monster and poor Victor Frankenstein, but of course, that’s the story that holds the rest together. There’s history – the Luddites smash looms because they don’t want “progress”, which means being replaced by machines. And we meet Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter, who is credited with writing the first algorithm for a ‘mathematical machine’ (first computer). She was featured as recently as 2020 in Spyfall 2 and an episode of Dr. Who. There is an Ada Lovelace medal and an annual Ada Lovelace day. But I digress. With Winterson, there’s also humour, and she makes the most of Ron Lord and his sexbots with something for everybody. The descriptions of how to transport them (folding, etc) are hilarious, as are many of the supporting characters in this remarkable book. “And over to Vintage. I love the two-piece suit and pillbox hat. I got this idea from the retro-porn sites. She’s late to the game but she brings plenty to the party.” I'm sorry I've not shown examples of Winterson's chameleon-like ability to change voice, and style, and time, and character. Every person is their own self, if I can put it like that, and the descriptions of time and place suit each of them. There are no quotation marks, and the e-book version in my Kindle messed up the formatting, so that I had to refer to the NetGalley PDF from time to time to figure out which time period I was in and who was speaking. I was so frustrated, I nearly gave up, but I trusted that Winterson would get me home safely (and she did). I've now seen the real e-book, and it's fine. Thanks to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for the preview copy from which I’ve quoted. I can see why it made the 2019 Booker Prize longlist.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Trudie

    What an unexpected mid-winter highlight. After casting aside all my "should-be" reading books I decided to bust my way out of a reading slump by picking up this new book by Jeanette Winterson - an author I have never read. This was a particularly risky undertaking given my recent tussle with another author who also decided to play with robots ( I am not saying that book spectacularly failed but it wasn't great ). Winterson's novel is a delightful treat for readers who have ever wondered about the What an unexpected mid-winter highlight. After casting aside all my "should-be" reading books I decided to bust my way out of a reading slump by picking up this new book by Jeanette Winterson - an author I have never read. This was a particularly risky undertaking given my recent tussle with another author who also decided to play with robots ( I am not saying that book spectacularly failed but it wasn't great ). Winterson's novel is a delightful treat for readers who have ever wondered about the potential for sexbots to take over the world. I don't think I have ever laughed for the entirety of two straight chapters before, but good Lord ! Ron Lord !. I am making this book sound like a comedy but it isn't. It is just that Winterson does humorously salacious excruciatingly well. Frankisstein is such an orgy of ideas. In no particular order it is an homage to Frankenstein, a thought experiment on what it means to be human and/or post human ? A primer on cryopreservation, a lovely recognition of female scientists ( yes ! Rosalind Franklin and your valuable contribution to discovering DNA ) a biography of the Shelleys, and a novel with a central transgender character. Opinions may vary on if this all works together, for me it did - I accepted this novel as a very interesting kind of philosophising on our technological future. But it also struck me as a novel that is asking some serious questions about misogyny, past, present and future. Being a new reader to Winterson I was delighted to find her style shares similarities with other authors I enjoy. She has Margaret Atwood's humour and eye for gender politics and more than a touch of Ali Smith's skill in her wry observations of current events. Fascinating book and surely a highlight of my reading year. (If only Winterson and McEwan could get together to solve the enigma of robotic thrust, perhaps Ian could share his sketches for the distilled water gadget his robots have ... )

  19. 4 out of 5

    But_i_thought_

    To me, this book is an example of fictional instrumentalism in action — fiction written for the purpose of teaching the reader, as opposed to fiction as art. While on some level all fiction is imbued with meaning, some writing is more blunt in its messaging — and as a result, less effective in my opinion. Told in two parallel narratives, the story follows Mary Shelley in the 19th century as she grapples with the genesis of Frankenstein, as well as “Ry Shelley” in the present day, a trans doctor i To me, this book is an example of fictional instrumentalism in action — fiction written for the purpose of teaching the reader, as opposed to fiction as art. While on some level all fiction is imbued with meaning, some writing is more blunt in its messaging — and as a result, less effective in my opinion. Told in two parallel narratives, the story follows Mary Shelley in the 19th century as she grapples with the genesis of Frankenstein, as well as “Ry Shelley” in the present day, a trans doctor involved with characters at the forefront of AI research. As expected, both narratives mirror each other thematically. While the historical narrative is a lyrical nod to the Victorian Gothic tradition, the present day narrative is a hot mess, buried under the weight of Winterson’s research. We get frequent brain dumps on the topics Winterson wishes us to examine — from artificial intelligence to sex bots to machine learning to transhumanism — narrated by characters who are mere talking props. The trans protagonist, particularly, is a non-character whose obligatory public bathroom assault scene is so tangential to the story — and so fleetingly handled — that it does a disservice to the issues raised. In Winterson’s hands, the lesson value of a scene takes precedence over character development and plot coherence. The result is a lumbering beast of a novel, bursting at the seams of its thematic ambition, yet frequently stumbling over its own limbs. Mood: Chaotic and didactic Rating: 6/10 Also on Instagram.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    Okay I waited as long as I could to give in and read this ARC. I read all 352 pages on the night which also happened to be Jeanette Winterson's 60th birthday. She interweaves Mary Shelley with a 21st century transgender doctor named Ry - both are obsessed in different ways with concepts of bodies and creation. Themes of gender, found families, sex, creation, and love flow throughout but it's delightful to read and I devoured it. Please keep Winterson for the short list, Man Booker judges. I recei Okay I waited as long as I could to give in and read this ARC. I read all 352 pages on the night which also happened to be Jeanette Winterson's 60th birthday. She interweaves Mary Shelley with a 21st century transgender doctor named Ry - both are obsessed in different ways with concepts of bodies and creation. Themes of gender, found families, sex, creation, and love flow throughout but it's delightful to read and I devoured it. Please keep Winterson for the short list, Man Booker judges. I received a copy from the publisher. It doesn't come out in the United States until October!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Blaine

    “I do not know if I am the teller or the tale.” ... “If God hadn’t wanted us to tamper with things, She wouldn’t have given us brains.” ... “The body that must fail and fall is not the end of the human dream.” Frankissstein takes place in two timelines. The book opens with the famous real-life 1816 Lake Geneva gathering between 18-year-old Mary Shelley, her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, John Polidori and Clair Clairmont. Lord Byron proposes that each of them craft a scary tale to tell the “I do not know if I am the teller or the tale.” ... “If God hadn’t wanted us to tamper with things, She wouldn’t have given us brains.” ... “The body that must fail and fall is not the end of the human dream.” Frankissstein takes place in two timelines. The book opens with the famous real-life 1816 Lake Geneva gathering between 18-year-old Mary Shelley, her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, John Polidori and Clair Clairmont. Lord Byron proposes that each of them craft a scary tale to tell the group. Mary “contemplate[s] what it is about man that distinguishes us from the rest of biology, and what distinguishes us from machines,” and begins to write Frankenstein. Over the years that follow, she continues to meditate on the ideas she raised in that book, meets Charles Babbage and his analytical machine, and comes face-to-face with someone claiming to be Victor Frankenstein. These sections are elegantly written, almost as if lifted from that era. Meanwhile, in the present, a (mad?) scientist Victor Stein is experimenting with artificial intelligence and how to upload human consciousness into a robot or computer. He enlists a transgender doctor Ry Shelley and a sexbot manufacturer Ron Lord to help with his plans, while a journalist Polly D and a religious woman named Claire serve as sometimes foils and sometimes allies. The similarities of the names in the two timelines are but one parallel between them. These sections are written like contemporary fiction, and range from very philosophic to downright raunchy. This book is not plot-driven, or even character-driven, so much as it is propelled by discussions of ideas. I would not pretend that I followed all of the arguments made, or that I caught all of the allusions to Frankenstein; I was intrigued enough by the story that I read the book pretty quickly. But this book raises big questions. Can our body be thought of as a machine for our mind or a soul? What does that mean in a near-future sure to include prosthetic enhancements, smart implants, genetic modification, and greater use of cryogenics? If we could abandon our body altogether for an uploaded existence where our consciousness resides in a robot or online, would that be monstrous or simply the next step in human evolution? There may not be answers to the deep questions it poses, but Frankissstein is a highly original, wild tale. Recommended.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ace

    I wasn't sure what to expect from this title as I have never read the classic Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, however it made little difference to the fun I had in reading this retelling of sorts. Mostly it's about Mary Shelley and her sad back-story of children lost to disease in her short relationship with her husband Percy, and also about the writing of the story of her monster Frankenstein and then it flips to our modern day search for eternal or extended life. Most of the modern characters are I wasn't sure what to expect from this title as I have never read the classic Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, however it made little difference to the fun I had in reading this retelling of sorts. Mostly it's about Mary Shelley and her sad back-story of children lost to disease in her short relationship with her husband Percy, and also about the writing of the story of her monster Frankenstein and then it flips to our modern day search for eternal or extended life. Most of the modern characters are quirky and the story focuses upon the trans lead character Ry, their own past and struggles with the present as those around them seek to build a better world, irrespective of the morality? of their endeavours. It's a hodgepodge of ideas and I don't claim to have understood them all but I have certainly thought a lot about the future and where we are headed. The way that Winterson brings everything together is enlightening, sad and incredibly funny. With thanks to Grove Atlantic and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Barry Pierce

    finally, a novel that answers the question: what if the hours but frankenstein!?

  24. 4 out of 5

    Eric Anderson

    I can think of few classic novels that have had such a widespread influence on both popular culture and literature as Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus”. Even if people haven’t read Shelley’s novel they have a sense of Doctor Frankenstein’s creation from the many films which have (mistakenly) portrayed him as a senseless monster. I even went to a show recently called Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster where talented young musicians from the BAC Beatbox Academy re-created t I can think of few classic novels that have had such a widespread influence on both popular culture and literature as Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus”. Even if people haven’t read Shelley’s novel they have a sense of Doctor Frankenstein’s creation from the many films which have (mistakenly) portrayed him as a senseless monster. I even went to a show recently called Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster where talented young musicians from the BAC Beatbox Academy re-created the body of the monster in song as a way of describing terrifying issues and people they experience in everyday life. But Shelley’s characters, ideas and powerful story have also permeated the imaginations of so many novelists since the book’s initial publication in 1818. Most recently it’s been directly referenced and reimagined in the novels “Frankenstein in Baghdad” by Ahmed Saadawi and Jeanette Winterson’s latest novel “Frankissstein”. Winterson’s novels have always had strong ties to the work of past writers (most notably Virginia Woolf) but her recent novels more strongly incorporate this influence such as her remix of The Winter’s Tale in her novel “The Gap of Time”. “Frankissstein” goes a step further creating a dual narrative which switches back and forth between a historical section where we see Mary Shelley writing her famous novel and a near future where a non-binary individual named Ry Shelley engages in a complicated romantic relationship with a secretive scientist named Professor Stein. The historical sections have a more philosophical feel as Mary engages in meaningful discussions with her husband, the poet Byron and other interesting figures from the time period. The modern section is much more playful as it initially begins at a convention where a madcap capitalist named Ron promotes the use of his advanced range of sexbots designed to suit everyone’s emotional and physical needs. There’s even a Germaine Greer sex doll! Meanwhile, Professor Stein gives a lecture about the future of humans in a post-human world and engages in some edgy scientific experimentation. While the tone of these two narrative threads sound totally at odds with each other they feel strangely cohesive – especially as the novel increasingly becomes concerned with questions about the advancement of our species, the meaning of consciousness and the complicated dynamics of love: “Love is not a pristine planet before contaminants and pollutants, before the arrival of Man. Love is a disturbance among the disturbed.” The novel also has a political edge engaging with issues to do with feminism, gender identity, ethics and Brexit. Read my full review of Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson on LonesomeReader

  25. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    A splendid recasting of Mary Shelley’s legacy, two centuries since the publication of Frankenstein. Transmogrifying the tale to the world of sexbots and stem-cell cryogenics, the novel is comprised of energetic colloquies, comic and contemplative, on the coldness of artifical intelligence, the various orifices of sexbots, the self-selected monsterly qualities of trans people, and the irrelevance of the soul in a world without death. Back in the 1800s, Shelley spars with Lord Byron and Percy Byss A splendid recasting of Mary Shelley’s legacy, two centuries since the publication of Frankenstein. Transmogrifying the tale to the world of sexbots and stem-cell cryogenics, the novel is comprised of energetic colloquies, comic and contemplative, on the coldness of artifical intelligence, the various orifices of sexbots, the self-selected monsterly qualities of trans people, and the irrelevance of the soul in a world without death. Back in the 1800s, Shelley spars with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe, and uncovers a man in Bedlam claiming to be Victor himself. As in Ali Smith’s seasons quintet, Winterson places literary lessons at the forefront of her modern narrative, in this case the warnings from Shelley (i.e. not to fire electrodes into the decapitated heads of corpses in pursuit of immortality), making the novel a passionate paean to past masters, and a comical clarion call to future fuckwits.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    Frankissstein was a bit meandering, but I loved nearly every minute of it, from its discussions of AI and resurrecting the dead, to the reimagining of Mary Shelley's life, to the time spent with sexbots and their makers. As a novel, I'm not sure it all quite works together, but I'm hard pressed to think of another book that's as likable, outrageously funny, and just plain outrageous as this one is. All admiration to its creator. Frankissstein was a bit meandering, but I loved nearly every minute of it, from its discussions of AI and resurrecting the dead, to the reimagining of Mary Shelley's life, to the time spent with sexbots and their makers. As a novel, I'm not sure it all quite works together, but I'm hard pressed to think of another book that's as likable, outrageously funny, and just plain outrageous as this one is. All admiration to its creator.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jo (The Book Geek)

    I love Jeanette Winterson, and I think her writing is unique, as well as beautiful. I enjoyed some aspects of this particular book, but not all of it. It is typical Winterson from the onset, but for me, something was definitely missing. When I started reading this, I honestly thought that I was going to absolutely love it, especially when we get a strong historical fiction kind of feel. Then suddenly, we are forwarded to the present day, where we meet Ry Shelley and Victor Stein. We are then unfo I love Jeanette Winterson, and I think her writing is unique, as well as beautiful. I enjoyed some aspects of this particular book, but not all of it. It is typical Winterson from the onset, but for me, something was definitely missing. When I started reading this, I honestly thought that I was going to absolutely love it, especially when we get a strong historical fiction kind of feel. Then suddenly, we are forwarded to the present day, where we meet Ry Shelley and Victor Stein. We are then unfortunate enough to meet Ron, who sells sex bots for a living. I disliked Ron with a passion, and I could have happily read this book without him in it. I thought when sex bots were introduced things felt a little weird, and even though I wasn't put off, I honestly don't think that the sex bots plot slid in well with the main story. This story has the usual dose of sex that Winterson is entirely grand at writing about, but her characters did not thrill me like I expected. I wasn't completely flawed by her story, and I've been left slightly disappointed with this one. I also noticed, that the female characters were portrayed as being pretty much clueless. This surprised me more than anything else. I love a strong female character, and yet, this just wasn't delivered. I wouldn't recommend this book for first time Winterson readers, as one may be disappointed. If you want a taste of just how amazing Winterson is, look no further than "Written on the body" It blew my mind.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Pedro

    This novel came to my attention after being longlisted for the Booker Prize back in 2019 and has been sitting on my bookshelf ever since. It feels like two centuries have gone by, doesn’t it?! Ugh! Anyway, let’s not go down that road... So, at the time I was pretty sure I’d never heard of Jeanette Winterson before and if I had I obviously didn’t pay her name the attention she so well deserves. Because, let’s be honest, this novel deserves a prize just for its title alone. Who wouldn’t want to com This novel came to my attention after being longlisted for the Booker Prize back in 2019 and has been sitting on my bookshelf ever since. It feels like two centuries have gone by, doesn’t it?! Ugh! Anyway, let’s not go down that road... So, at the time I was pretty sure I’d never heard of Jeanette Winterson before and if I had I obviously didn’t pay her name the attention she so well deserves. Because, let’s be honest, this novel deserves a prize just for its title alone. Who wouldn’t want to come up with such a clever and funny idea?! Ah, the joys of good old wordplay... And because time is precious, I’m going tell you right away that yes, the cleverness and amusement implied in the title are a pure reflection of the entire book. What a joy of a reading experience this was: intelligent and funny, philosophical and sexy. Yes, you’ve read it correctly; sexy!! Truth be told, there was quite a lot going on all the time and the characters weren’t quite as well fleshed out as I always want characters to be but that didn’t bother me at all because I quickly realised and accepted what Winterson was wanting to deliver. You see, it’s not like I am what you’d call the biggest fan of speculative and/or historical fiction but here I could have gone on and on and on... And if only you could see all the post-its sticking out of my copy; all those little paper tongues mocking the world outside the pages. It’s good to think. And to have fun. And as it turned out this was (obviously) also a love story: the writing completely stole the show and I fell in love with it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    4.5, rounded up. Bold and audacious in conception, masterful in execution, Winterson's novel never ceases to intrigue and mystify, in startling prose that it is an absolute pleasure to read. My only previous exposure to the author was her contribution to the modern Hogarth Shakespeare, and while I enjoyed her 'Winter's Tale' adaptation, The Gap of Time, it didn't quite prepare me for the depth of her abilities demonstrated here. I must admit to a certain ongoing fascination with Mary Shelley and 4.5, rounded up. Bold and audacious in conception, masterful in execution, Winterson's novel never ceases to intrigue and mystify, in startling prose that it is an absolute pleasure to read. My only previous exposure to the author was her contribution to the modern Hogarth Shakespeare, and while I enjoyed her 'Winter's Tale' adaptation, The Gap of Time, it didn't quite prepare me for the depth of her abilities demonstrated here. I must admit to a certain ongoing fascination with Mary Shelley and her own masterwork, having seen three different film adaptations about the 'Haunted Summer' when she wrote Frankenstein (along with that 1988 title, Ken Russell's bonkers 1986 version, 'Gothic', as well as the recent Elle Fanning-starrer 'Mary Shelley', which I actually watched mid-read) - as well as reading the original novel several times. But Winterson's conflation of reanimated corpses with modern day cryogenics and AI is wonderfully realized, intellectually stimulating, yet accessible. [Side note: for those disgruntled that Ian McEwan's similarly themed [book:Machines Like Me|42086795] didn't get a Booker nod and this did - sorry, but this is far and away the more accomplished tome. And an additional interesting coincidental tidbit: at one point the fact that the brain often stays 'alive' following the demise of the body itself is discussed at length here - which is the exact premise of another Booker nominee - 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World!] Only ranking slightly below The Man Who Saw Everything of the seven novels on the Booker longlist I've read so far, I certainly hope this makes the shortlist also, and wouldn't be terribly upset if it took the prize. My sincere thanks to both Netgalley and Grove Atlantic/Grove Press for the ARC in exchange for this honest review.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Frankissstein is a bold, bawdy, and tremendously clever creation; the first of its two storylines follows Mary Shelley as she writes Frankenstein, and the second follows a host of characters in the present-day, chronicling the love story between Ry, a transgender doctor, and Victor Stein, a scientist with a passion for artificial intelligence.  The thematic interplay between these two narratives is genius, and Winterson brilliantly highlights the timelessness of the classic she's riffing off, as Frankissstein is a bold, bawdy, and tremendously clever creation; the first of its two storylines follows Mary Shelley as she writes Frankenstein, and the second follows a host of characters in the present-day, chronicling the love story between Ry, a transgender doctor, and Victor Stein, a scientist with a passion for artificial intelligence.  The thematic interplay between these two narratives is genius, and Winterson brilliantly highlights the timelessness of the classic she's riffing off, as themes of death, gender, and bodily limitations underscore both narratives. But for me, the storyline in the past was the much more unique and engaging one.  These chapters were just begging to be developed into a full-blown novel fictionalizing Mary Shelley, and frankly, if that's all Frankissstein was, I'm sure I'd give it 5 stars with no reservations.  Though these chapters were largely figments of Winterson's imagination, the parallels she draws between Mary Shelley's personal life (what we know of it, anyway) and the content of Frankenstein were incredibly stimulating.  "I have love, but I cannot find love's meaning in this world of death.  Would there were no babies, no bodies; only minds to contemplate beauty and truth.  If we were not bound to our bodies we should not suffer so.  Shelley says that he wishes he could imprint his soul on a rock, or a cloud, or some non-human form, and when we were young I felt despair that his body would disappear, even though he remained.  But now all I see is the fragility of bodies; these caravans of tissue and bone. At Peterloo, if every man could have sent his mind and left his body at home, there could have been no massacre.  We cannot hurt what is not there." The issues I had with the present-day chapters were twofold: first, I found some of the philosophizing on artificial intelligence to be overwrought, and second, the humor was a series of constant misses for me.  Winterson often employs humor in this novel to drive home the absurdity behind certain characters' misogyny, but she would make her point and then continue to bash you over the head with jokes about sex-bots; it got very old for me. In spite of this, the parallels between the two storylines were brilliantly rendered, and the overall impression I'm left with of this book is that I am very impressed, and I think this would have made a truly interesting addition to the Booker shortlist. Thank you to Netgalley and Grove Press for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

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