Making the Monster by Kathryn Harkup

Last week, I finished the book Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley’s Frankensteinby Kathryn Harkup

This book provides an interesting look at the how the year without a summer, odd relationships, 18th century science and a ghost story contest over a series of summer nights led to the writing of the first science fiction novel.

Dr Harkup is a chemistry scientist who decided to pursue an interest in communicating science instead of being stuck in a lab.  This is Dr Harkup’s second book on the science background of fiction, following her previous A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie.

These kinds of books have always fascinated me, by granting a look behind the scenes of how stories come together.  In fact, this book pairs great with The New Annotated Frankenstein, edited by Leslie S. Klinger, to provide an overview of the meeting of the sciences and the arts resulting from the Enlightenment period.

Among the influences on Frankenstein, one standout is several references to Erasmus Darwin, an early biologist and grandfather of Charles Darwin.

Dr Harkup doesn’t just provide a glimpse of the sciences as they were forming and emerging in Shelley’s day.  She also traces those sciences from Shelley’s day to whatever era the science suggested by Shelley became scientific fact in the real world.

Anyone interested in Frankenstein or scifi in general should definitely check out this book.  You won’t be disappointed.

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