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Booker Prize 2019 Longlist: Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson

frankisstein

 

Next up for our Man Booker panel is Jeanette Winterson’s novel Frankissstein. Six of our panelists read this book. Check out what they thought.

Thank you to Grove Press who provided us with a copy of this book in exchange for our honest reviews.

Synopsis from the Booker Prize Website: 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 cryonics 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 19-year-old Mary Shelley writes a story about creating a non-biological life-form. ‘Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful.’

Spanning multiple timeframes, Frankissstein is funny and furious, bold and clear-sighted, exploring gender identity and the far-reaching consequences of the AI revolution we are already living through. What will happen when homo sapiens are no longer the smartest being on the planet? Jeanette Winterson shows us how much closer we are to that future than we realise.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: I loved the ideas and themes explored in this modern day take on the Frankenstein story. I loved the way both the Shelley’s & Byron appear as themselves in the book and as modern day versions of themselves. I loved the diverse characters and their complex feelings about each other, about the future, about robotics and AI, about immortality and the role of God in the modern world. The brief appearance of Frankenstein in Bedlam was an interesting take on the nature of creation and the responsibility of the creator for the created.

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 4/5
Character development: 2/4
Plot development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 15/20

Jen’s Thoughts: I’m admittedly biased. Jeanette Winterson is one of my favorite authors and I love almost everything she has written. I really enjoyed this book and it had all the elements I love about her writing. Her style is funny, quirky, and dazzlingly intelligent. She writes about topics I find interesting: life, love, and identity. This book was no exception. It made me laugh and it made me contemplate issues like identity, consciousness, and the nature of what makes us what we.

Winterson’s style is light and humorous but she makes you work for it. This novel includes various threads that are actually quite beautifully connected but require thought and contemplation. Sex bots and evangelicals, AI and creation of life through writing, gender identity and the mind body connection, this book has a little bit of everything (my only complaint is that it was perhaps too many threads at once) and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Writing quality: 5/5
Originality: 4/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 17/20

Anita’s Thoughts: At first I thought I was really going to love this book. It starts off with a historical fiction vibe, retelling the story of Mary Shelley and her writing of Frankenstein. Then, we are propelled into the present day where the protagonist is a transgender person (female to male), Ry Shelley, who falls in love with Victor Stein, a futurist who pontificates on how the world will be when artificial intelligence reaches its apex. The reader is also introduced to Ron, an entrepreneur selling sexbots.

At this point, it’s weird, but attention grabbing. And it seemed like it might be a clever novel creating a parallel between the concept of creating life (Frankenstein) that runs amok and the idea of artificial intelligence taking over the world.

If only it was coherent.

As the story progresses it becomes more and more gratuitous and farcical . . .and unfortunately, to me, much less interesting and less entertaining. The characters flattened. I wasn’t really bored, but I just didn’t see the point of it all. Three stars for originality, but the execution really could have been a lot better. Not a fan.

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 5/5
Character development: 1/4
Plot development: 2/4
Overall enjoyment: 1/2
Total: 13/20

Nicole’s Thoughts:   Man/Machine.  Life/Death.   Natural/Artificial.  Love/Pain.  Male/Female.

This was a beautifully written book, and Winterson always delivers the humor.  I had no problem reading it; I wasn’t bored; I wasn’t annoyed.  I just didn’t enjoy it at all and I couldn’t even point to why.  Perhaps it was the characters.  There were a lot of complexities and I didn’t really have an opportunity to develop any attachments (other than a fondness for Ry.)

It could have just been too intellectual for me.  There were a lot of themes.  Maybe the fact that I haven’t read Frankenstein impacted me.  Hard to say.  I’m not even sure if I’d recommend this.  But it did seem like an opportunity for Winterson to vent her spleen on some topics (like AI) and at times it was a bit self-indulgent.

*Note, I came back and re-rated this on further reflection.  Originally gave a higher score on characters because of some creativity but ultimately none were truly developed and most were caricatures.

Writing quality: 5/5
Originality: 3/5
Character development: 2/4
Plot development: 2/4
Overall enjoyment: 0/2
Total: 12/20 

Tracy’s Thoughts: Frankenstein is one of my favorite books- there is so much in it to think about- good and evil, human nature, ethics and morality, and it is a parable of the times in which it was written.

The story of the Shelleys, Lord Byron and Polidori’s competition to write something scary is well known. In Jeanette Winterson’s hands, it gets fused with the present and the future, and takes on an even more political bent.

I very much enjoyed this- it was entertaining, and it made me think a great deal about many things.  It was clever of Winterson to take this story and remake it as a symbol of the world’s political climate, while taking on human nature: the dualities of good and evil, as well as male and female.

And the character of Ron Lord was a hoot on the surface. (I imagined him sporting a polyester leisure suit and a porn star moustache.)

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 3/5
Character development: 4/4
Plot development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 16/20

Susie’s Thoughts: Frankissstein, how do I love thee, let me count the ways.  Winterson has presented us with something highly unique.  It’s quirky, it’s downright strange at times, it’s witty, it’s topical, it’s laugh out loud funny, and it’s just so damn clever.  All of those things are features that lead me to ask ‘Where do I sign up?’, so it’s no surprise that this book ticked all of my boxes.  I found the way she brought the Shelleys and Byron into the not so distant future, gracing them with first world problems of the current age, thought provoking and engaging.  I particularly enjoyed her interpretation of the modern Byron, Ron Lord.  What a ludicrous and yet strangely insightful character. I really am in awe of Winterson’s intelligence. 

My only criticisms are that some characters were a little less developed than others, leading to them feeling a bit flat.  I did find that I was a bit lost with the plot at times, but I felt sure that I would understand when it was all said and done so it didn’t cause me to lose interest. I hope that this wonderful little book makes it to the shortlist.

Writing quality: 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 18/20

Rankings
Frankissstein 15.2
My Sister, the Serial Killer 14.6
Lost Children Archive 13.3

We want to hear from you. Is this a book you want to read? Why or why not? Have you read any of her other books? 

 

 

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Reblogged this on The Sardonic Reviewer.

    Like

    August 9, 2019
  2. Tracy – I’m with you on the porn star mustache!

    Like

    August 9, 2019
  3. Just finished this myself. Certainly interesting!

    Like

    August 11, 2019

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