Picks and Pans Review: Frankenstein

updated 01/30/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/30/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

As Stephen King points out in his introduction to this new edition, people who have grown up with the graphic gore that is all too common in modern novels and films may find this tale on the dry side. Written by Shelley at the suggestion of her husband Percy's friend Lord Byron and published anonymously in 1818, it is certainly not the unrelentingly lurid story director James Whale made of it in the 1931 grandmonster of the horror-film family. For one thing, Shelley's creature is an articulate chap. In the novel he tells his creator, "Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it. Remember, thou hast made me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine, my joints more supple." That, more or less, is what Boris Karloff conveyed when he said, Rrrrraaaarrrrggggh! Still, the novel does build up feelings of terror in a graceful, calm way. The black-and-white line drawings for this edition enhance the mood too; they're by Berni Wrightson, a Baltimore Sun editorial cartoonist turned comic book/movie poster fantasy artist. Hard-core fans might wish for something along the lines of Leonard Wolf's 1975 book, The Annotated Dracula, which was full of peripheral information and speculation about Bram Stoker's story. But for most purposes, including nightmare inspiring, this volume should do nicely. (Dodd, Mead, $14.95)

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