“Nowhere is Winterson’s faith in the transporting power of storytelling more on display… dark, otherworldly and (trademark Winterson) wickedly funny.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was first published in 1818 and over 100 years later we’re still fascinated by the gothic novel about what it means to be human. Jeanette Winterson’s 2019 Frankissstein is a modern re-telling of this chilling tale set in predominately in Brexit Britain. However, The novel’s plot darts back and forth in time; from the 1800s and the story of Mary Shelley’s creation of Frankenstein and his monster, to the ‘present’ day with the growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and a completely different society on the horizon for our future.
Frankissstein’s mysterious and dark opening is set in Geneva, 1816 with the young Mary Shelley on the brink of writing her classic novel, accompanied by her husband Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and Claire Clairmont. Much of the writing about the past is based on facts from Shelley’s life, yet, Winterson has taken her full creative license to create intriguing conversations and events that add depth to the story and run in perfectly woven parallel to the plot set in modern-day, as these tales from different eras slowly move towards one another and the exciting climax of the novel.
In this fictional present or near future created by Winterson, a young transgender doctor, Ry, is becoming increasingly intrigued and beguiled by Victor Stein, a leading professor in AI. The plot also sees the introduction of journalist and feminist; Polly D, Christian; Claire and sex doll manufacturer with an interest in AI; Ron Lord. Meanwhile, housed in Arizona are biologically dead but cryogenically frozen humans. What would happen if these lives were bought back to life or if AI took over humans as the smartest being on the planet?
A contemporary tale of friendship, love and technology which examines the blurring of the gender binary and sexual orientation, looking ahead to a future in which, perhaps, these ideas and labels will no longer matter. Jeanette Winterson’s brilliantly chilling, darkly funny, and gripping novel shows us how close to the ‘future’ we really are and explores the relationship between technology, AI and humans to ask the questions, ‘what does it really mean to be alive?’ and ‘what does it mean to create life?’
Catherine Muxworthy, Booksbirdblog
Added 30th May 2019