Frankissstein
From 'one of the most gifted writers working today' (New York Times) comes an audacious new novel about the bodies we live in and the bodies we desire 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.

Frankissstein Details

TitleFrankissstein
Author
ReleaseMay 28th, 2019
PublisherVintage Digital
ISBN-139781473563254
Rating
GenreFiction, LGBT, Science Fiction, Literary Fiction

Frankissstein Review

  • Paromjit
    January 1, 1970
    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 exampl 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
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  • Jenna
    January 1, 1970
    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? 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 br 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? 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 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, quite 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" for the devout. I laughed many times reading the dialogue of 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
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  • Gumble's Yard
    January 1, 1970
    “I am what I am. But what I am is not one thin, 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 and 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 “I am what I am. But what I am is not one thin, 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 and 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 an unlikely group– Ron Lord (an increasingly successful producer of sexbots), (Ma)Ry(an) Shelley – a young transgender doctor, Clare the PA to the owner of a cryonics facility, Polly Dory a Vanity Fair journalist – coalesce around Victor Stein – 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 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) 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”.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 into an episode of Dr Who in the nuclear war tunnels under Manchester as Victor Stein tries to bring an old friend’s head back to life.The key theme of the book is the potential future development of artificial intelligence and human/machine interfaces and hybrids. Rather controversially (or is that boldly? Or inappropratiely?) Winterson chooses to link this theme, via the concept of duality and blurring of boundaries to transgenderism.And overall it is the theme of duality/doubleness/blurring that as well as giving the book its tructure 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.This is my first book by Jeanette Winterson and it is certainly an interesting and entertaining one – while not always entirely successful.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 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.
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  • Ana
    January 1, 1970
    As soon as I heard about this book I knew I would love it, and I can now safely say that that was an understatement. Frankenstein is my favourite novel of all time and Mary Shelley is one of my personal heroes, so to have an author as talented as Jeanette Winterson take on a homage/retelling/whatever-you-want-to-call-it of both the novel and Shelley's own life was truly a dream come true. This novel is half a fictionalised (but seemingly accurate, once you've read a bit about her life and charac As soon as I heard about this book I knew I would love it, and I can now safely say that that was an understatement. Frankenstein is my favourite novel of all time and Mary Shelley is one of my personal heroes, so to have an author as talented as Jeanette Winterson take on a homage/retelling/whatever-you-want-to-call-it of both the novel and Shelley's own life was truly a dream come true. This novel is half a fictionalised (but seemingly accurate, once you've read a bit about her life and character) account of Mary Shelley's experiences conceiving and writing Frankenstein, full of insight into what being stuck in a house with the Young Romantics must have felt like. The other half is set in the present day where the transmasculine main character, Dr Ry Shelley, is exploring the world of AI and robotics alongside the genius scientist Victor Stein. They are surrounded by a cast of other characters who bear connections to the people around Mary Shelley in the other half of the novel. The two halves switch chapter by chapter. The modern sections are where Winterson gets to play around with the complex sciences and pseudosciences of cryogenics, artificial intelligence, computing, sex robots, you name it. This half involves some of the most fascinating and exciting parts of the novel, while the other half contains some of the more beautiful sections of prose and is a really intimate look at an extraordinary woman. Both parts compliment each other really well, especially when you contrast the experiences of Mary as a young woman in the early 19th century and Ry as a trans man in a notably transphobic and misogynistic world (emphasis on the sex robotics here). I got the impression that Ry's relationship with gender and experiences as a trans man were really thoughtfully written, but as I read this novel as a cis person I would love to hear what trans readers make of his character. Also, warning that there are transphobic moments as mentioned earlier and one instance of transphobic violence (pg 241-244 in the hardback) which you may want to watch out for.I know my own enjoyment was heightened by my love for Frankenstein and its author, but you should be able to enjoy Frankissstein even if you aren't already familiar with the original. The novel raises a lot of complex and interesting questions about humanity and our future, which many other authors (such as Ian McEwan) are currently trying to grapple with, but as always Jeanette Winterson brings her extraordinary talent along to make this a must read for 2019.
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  • Ana
    January 1, 1970
    “I am what I am, but what I am is not one thing, not one gender. I live with doubleness.” 🖤
  • Christine Burns
    January 1, 1970
    The reimagining of classic works is in vogue at the moment. It's a trend led by the Hogarth Shakespeare series, which includes contributions from the likes of Jo Nesbø (Macbeth), Margaret Atwood (The Tempest) and Howard Jacobsen (The Merchant of Venice). It's a tricky challenge to pull off and I'm not sure everyone can succeed. I was distinctly unimpressed by Nesbø's modern era riff on the 'Scottish Play', as the allusion was so obviously laboured that it jarred my sensibilities. That experience The reimagining of classic works is in vogue at the moment. It's a trend led by the Hogarth Shakespeare series, which includes contributions from the likes of Jo Nesbø (Macbeth), Margaret Atwood (The Tempest) and Howard Jacobsen (The Merchant of Venice). It's a tricky challenge to pull off and I'm not sure everyone can succeed. I was distinctly unimpressed by Nesbø's modern era riff on the 'Scottish Play', as the allusion was so obviously laboured that it jarred my sensibilities. That experience had put me off any rush to try another.Jeanette Winterson has already published a modernised Shakespeare, The Gap of Time, based on The Winter's Tale. I've not read that yet, but it leads me to speculate whether her work on that had inspired the idea of bringing another classic into the modern day: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.But it wasn't the risks of modernising a classic that worried me most of all when the publishers sent me a copy of Frankissstein to review. That concern hadn't even occurred to me when unwrapping the book and reading the flyer that accompanied it. No. The big red flashing light came when I realised that the main protagonist in the novel is cast as a trans man. That, indeed, was maybe why, as the creator of books on trans history, the book had been sent for my perusal.Why might I greet a novel featuring a trans main character with caution, you may ask. Well, the sad fact is that non trans authors, screenwriters and directors -- the whole creative industry -- have traditionally made bad work of representing something they find hard to understand beyond superficiality. The history of mainstream creative representation of trans people is littered with horrors far worse than Victor Frankenstein's famous incarnation.When Frankissstein arrived on the mat I'm afraid my heart sank, not least because I like Jeanette Winterson's work and it pained me to think that a book of hers might be destined for a slaying by trans people who, in this day and age, have run out of patience. We've seen it too many times: our lives used for shock, novelty or just as a crude plot device destined to die before the last page.Still, putting that instinct aside, I vowed to keep an open mind. And, dear reader, I think that open-mindedness was rewarded. Bugger me if Jeanette hasn't pulled it off. Frankissstein is clever, thought-provoking and at times laugh-out-loud funny. Yes, the lead protagonist's trans background is definitely a device on which the story depends, but it is very intelligently done. This is a trans man whose experience is used to make you think and to make an essential link between the science fiction of human reimbodiment and the walking, talking science fact of people altering themselves.The book itself is cleverly woven. It mixes a fanciful imagining of the context for Mary Shelley writing the original book, in the early nineteenth century, with a modern day plot involving cutting edge medical, robotic and cybernetic research and the questions posed by cryogenic storage of bodies and brains, the advent of sex robots (sexbots) and the development of genuine artificial intelligence. Scientists really do speculate that if we can create new 'life' with these technologies then we would have the means to preserve old and knackered biological minds too. Add robotics et voila! A modern day equivalent of what Victor Frankenstein was portrayed as doing, with all the philosophical challenges that Shelley intended us to think about.In this context using a trans man as the intelligent interlocutor, up to his elbows in the action, is a device, yes, but a perfectly justifiable one. Some trans people really are moved to contemplate what it means if we are not limited by the biological vehicle we were issued with. We ponder the meaning of the human spirit and how the way we read the world, and the world reads us, is affected by our shell and the presumptions and rules that accompany it.So, FIVE STARS definitely.
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  • Chris Chapman
    January 1, 1970
    Didn't really work for me. The sections from Mary Shelley's perspective were beautifully written - these worked best - particularly the parallels with the contemporary sections, reflections on creating life, mortality, death, love. Byron was - appropriately - larger than life, and believable. Percy Bysshe Shelley too - a loving, caring husband, quite the new man, until he fell from grace. But the modern day sections were a hot mess. Ron Lord, the sexbot manufacturing millionaire, was a crass, sl Didn't really work for me. The sections from Mary Shelley's perspective were beautifully written - these worked best - particularly the parallels with the contemporary sections, reflections on creating life, mortality, death, love. Byron was - appropriately - larger than life, and believable. Percy Bysshe Shelley too - a loving, caring husband, quite the new man, until he fell from grace. But the modern day sections were a hot mess. Ron Lord, the sexbot manufacturing millionaire, was a crass, slapstick figure of fun. The dialogue between him and Claire, the American evangelist, was deeply embarrassing. Ron: "Bum, boobs". Claire: "Ron!" Ron: "Sorry Clare". Please.Ry, the trans doctor, was vulnerable, questioning, complex, and could have made a fascinating protagonist if he hadn't been caught up in the tangle of poorly outlined characters whose purpose in the novel was not clear.It's a shame. My first Winterson and maybe not the best choice. Should I give her another chance, GR friends?
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  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    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
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  • Gabriela Pop
    January 1, 1970
    this sure was Something
  • Leseparatist
    January 1, 1970
    I read the ARC courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley. I am a longtime reader of Winterson, and with the exception of some of her theatre-related output and novels for young readers, I think I may have read all of her. Some of it I loved, unconditionally, some of it left me frustrated and disappointed. Frankissstein is somewhere on this spectrum, closer to the latter.It is a novel that brings together a selection of voices and stories: Mary Shelley's, lyrical and sad and profound, Ry's, a trans I read the ARC courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley. I am a longtime reader of Winterson, and with the exception of some of her theatre-related output and novels for young readers, I think I may have read all of her. Some of it I loved, unconditionally, some of it left me frustrated and disappointed. Frankissstein is somewhere on this spectrum, closer to the latter.It is a novel that brings together a selection of voices and stories: Mary Shelley's, lyrical and sad and profound, Ry's, a trans person whose gender is, as far as I understood, a nonbinary man (though the novel lets the narrator be quite ambiguous about that, even as we focus entirely too much on genitals), Victor's - who uses/loves/fetishises Ry, and whose identity is a central theme in the novel. Then there are some other supporting characters, used for more or less successful comic relief. The book uses clever sleight of hand to combine and entangle its threads, hoping to achieve a coherent- whole, and ultimately, the effort is partly successful. Frankenstein is his own monster and his disappearance, and the grief it occasions, bring everything together. The sum of its parts is greater than all of them separately. However, some of the parts are simply not too good on their own. Ry's transness comes off not quite believably; the character is fetishised by others, and at times, this fetishisation seems an inadvertent feature of writing rather than something critiqued; there is a sexual assault scene that seems utterly unnecessary and even prurient; at one point Ry concedes that most people do not know a single trans person (a dubious statement; they may not know they know). I don't think Winterson quite knows how to write about Ry, and much like some of her discussions of technology, she comes off dated. I don't think I'm in a position to say if she's being offensive (or how), but I do think this is a craft problem. Which is a pity because some other fragments of this novel do shine.My second, possibly biggest complaint, however, is that Winterson reuses a line from one of her earlier novels (grief as living with someone who is not there) - I remember it, because it was my favourite thing about her Shakespeare retelling. Seeing this recycling made me feel a little cheated, somehow.I think it's a very thought provoking novel that bites off more than it knows how to chew. I'm curious how trans/nonbinary readers would feel about its ultimate portrayal.
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  • Siobhan
    January 1, 1970
    Frankissstein is a fresh, thoughtful novel that blends a retelling of Frankenstein using AI with the story of Mary Shelley thinking about life and death. In the modern day, Ry—a young trans doctor in love with Victor Stein, professor working on AI—meets Ron Lord, businessman from Wales trying to make his range of sex robots sell. Ry met Victor at a cryonics facility in Arizona, but now Victor is working on something and Manchester and Ry, Victor, Ron, and the religious Claire somehow all become Frankissstein is a fresh, thoughtful novel that blends a retelling of Frankenstein using AI with the story of Mary Shelley thinking about life and death. In the modern day, Ry—a young trans doctor in love with Victor Stein, professor working on AI—meets Ron Lord, businessman from Wales trying to make his range of sex robots sell. Ry met Victor at a cryonics facility in Arizona, but now Victor is working on something and Manchester and Ry, Victor, Ron, and the religious Claire somehow all become part of it. And in 1816, Mary Shelley starts work on Frankenstein, thinking about vitality and the moment of life. Across both narratives, questions are asked about what makes life, what is the future of humanity, and what control do we have over our own and other bodies?There have been a lot of retellings of classic novels over the past few years and a lot of attempts to fictionalise the story of Frankenstein's creation for its 200 anniversary. What Winterson manages to do with Frankissstein is blend the two in a way that makes sense, allowing modern questions of AI to mix with Shelley's look at life creation and ethics, but also making a novel that says more than that. The modern storyline is often funny and engages with medical concepts of the body as well as how technology can remove people from traditional ideas of a body in a way easily comparable to the manufactured body of the Creature in Frankenstein. Ry being trans is used to explore his own sense of body and the fact that people often change parts of their bodies even without digital technology or robotics.Winterson's version of Mary Shelley's life—not only Villa Diodati and the creation of Frankenstein, but going beyond that to her experiences of death and to the work of Ada Lovelace—is highly fictional, based around conversation rather than reciting historical fact. This means that it is mostly about debate and about thoughts on artificial life and related areas, including gender roles. The key figures are painted as complex, not simple heroes and villains, which is refreshing in the subgenre of fictionalised versions of the people Mary Shelley knew, and it feels like one of the few that allow Mary Shelley to think and consider the issues she raises in Frankenstein and clearly have an interest in scientific thought, but also be a woman in a strict society who runs away because she falls in love with a poet.Considering the many afterlives of Frankenstein as a novel and how unfaithful most of them tend to be, Frankissstein shouldn't be a shock, but it also feels fitting, sewing together parts of Mary Shelley, other stories, quotations, and a new twist on a Frankenstein-inspired narrative that considers the human body, its changeability, and its future. Both witty and informal, and engaging with interesting debate, Frankissstein is unsurprisingly good. It isn't really about the story as much as what it is saying (which may be what a lot of people think about Frankenstein, too).
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  • Chrys
    January 1, 1970
    A fabulous parallel timeline homage to the original Frankenstein novel, I loved the similarities between the then and now, especially the relationship between Ry and Stein.Insightful writing about the choices that make us who we are, and exploring the idea of identity without bodies. Ry's choice of a healthy mind over a healthy body and their journey was really well portrayed in my opinionA definite recommend..
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  • Chris Haak
    January 1, 1970
    4,5Very intelligent novel and so much fun to read! I love the characters and I love the way Winterson lets this story interact with the Frankenstein story and with Mary Shelley's life. I guess it's time at last to start reading Frankenstein...Thank you Random House UK for the ARC.
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  • miss.mesmerized mesmerized
    January 1, 1970
    A young transgender doctor, Ry Shelly, is in the middle of the debate of artificial intelligence. What is possible, what is desirable? What makes a human being a human being and could bots be the better versions of us? AI will surely solve a lot of problems, but won’t it create new ones at the same time? Ron Lord is one of the people who will invest in the new technology and hopes to make a lot of money with it; his aim is the creation of the next generation of sex dolls which fulfil all wishes. A young transgender doctor, Ry Shelly, is in the middle of the debate of artificial intelligence. What is possible, what is desirable? What makes a human being a human being and could bots be the better versions of us? AI will surely solve a lot of problems, but won’t it create new ones at the same time? Ron Lord is one of the people who will invest in the new technology and hopes to make a lot of money with it; his aim is the creation of the next generation of sex dolls which fulfil all wishes. At the same time, we travel back to the year 1816 when a young woman turned the idea of creating a human being into a highly praised novel: Frankenstein.With “The Gap of Time”, Jeanette Winterson already showed for me that she is a highly gifted author who can use an old plot and turn it into something completely new that is not only highly entertaining but also beautifully and intelligently written at the same time. In her latest novel, she turns to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein and takes the idea if man as the creator of human being on a higher and contemporary level.I love the idea of taking and old plot and transferring it to our time, the Hogarth Shakespeare series has clearly proven that this can be something really worth undertaking. The novel skilfully woves the time of Mary Shelly’s stay at Lake Geneva, when she wrote her story of the famous monster, and Ry Shelley’s journey through the world of AI. At times, the dialogues are simply hilarious – I especially liked the one about the sex dolls – at others, the is a serious and in-depth discussion about the chances but also the ethics of AI. And she also raises the big questions of life and death and what comes after the later.I read an electronic version of the book and marked so many sentences that I now have a large list of quotes that I would eagerly share but that goes far beyond a review. Apart from the wonderful language, there are so many allusions and cross-references that it is a great joy to decipher the novel, beginning with the names of the characters and ending at films such as Blade Runner and the Greek mythology. All in all, a brilliant piece of work that surely is among the more demanding novels and therefore, again, underlines Jeanette Winterson’s place among the highest ranked contemporary authors.
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  • Ella Whiting
    January 1, 1970
    Lake Geneva, 1816: Mary Shelley dreams of a scientist who creates a non-biological life form. When challenged by Lord Byron to write a gothic tale, she starts working on the story that will become known to the world as ‘Frankenstein’. Britain, present day: transgender doctor Ry Shelley meets Victor Stein, a celebrated professor researching the futuristic possibilities of humanity, from AI, to cryogenically preserved bodies, to digitally uploading the brain’s consciousness after death. Jumping se Lake Geneva, 1816: Mary Shelley dreams of a scientist who creates a non-biological life form. When challenged by Lord Byron to write a gothic tale, she starts working on the story that will become known to the world as ‘Frankenstein’. Britain, present day: transgender doctor Ry Shelley meets Victor Stein, a celebrated professor researching the futuristic possibilities of humanity, from AI, to cryogenically preserved bodies, to digitally uploading the brain’s consciousness after death. Jumping seamlessly between past and present, between Mary Shelley’s literary imagining of a world where science holds the key to reanimating a reconstructed human body, and present-day scientific research into AI, robotics and human augmentation, with the aim of one day creating ‘transhumans’, these two stories are presented as intrinsically and logically linked; Jeanette Winterson’s Victor Stein is who Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein would have been, had our own technological capabilities been possible 200 years ago. The two timelines, interwoven as they are, complement and enhance one another perfectly, encouraging the reader to view our own society as the natural inheritor of the legacy of ‘Frankenstein’. The biggest difference between our past and our present, as Winterson presents it, is that we are no longer content with merely attempting to reanimate the dead, but instead seek to prevent death altogether. I'll say no more for fear of spoilers, but I absolutely loved this book. The writing style feels fresh and innovative, in keeping with its futuristic subject matter. The characters are engaging and fully-realised, with the entirely fictional creations harmonising perfectly with the fictionalised real people. As someone who adores 'Frankenstein,' I really appreciated the love for the original expressed here, and 'Frankissstein' has everything that I would want from a (sort of) retelling of that classic tale. As much a meditation on what it is to be human as it is a speculative glimpse into our possible future, ‘Frankissstein’ is an immersive and thought-provoking read which ultimately asks, ‘just because we can, does that really mean we should?’
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  • Patrik Kondáš
    January 1, 1970
    I love you, Jeanette Winterson.you are the cure for my sorrow.
  • Kate Wyver
    January 1, 1970
    Wild, bonkers, brilliant.
  • Kath
    January 1, 1970
    It's going to be hard to put in words exactly why I loved this book, especially without any spoilers. Although, being as it is a retelling of an old classic I'm not sure that spoilers are even possible!Anyway, as is the vogue of the time, it's Frankenstein's turn to be reimagined. A task that I don't envy any author as it must be quite tricky to achieve a balance between old and new without alienating too many readers. Although I think the inclusion of sx-robots may have done that to a few peopl It's going to be hard to put in words exactly why I loved this book, especially without any spoilers. Although, being as it is a retelling of an old classic I'm not sure that spoilers are even possible!Anyway, as is the vogue of the time, it's Frankenstein's turn to be reimagined. A task that I don't envy any author as it must be quite tricky to achieve a balance between old and new without alienating too many readers. Although I think the inclusion of sx-robots may have done that to a few people on their own. Me, I learned more than I even thought possible about them; fascinating stuff! I definitely want to hear more from Ron Lord - great character!We have, in the present, a young transgender doctor, Ry Shelley, who falls in love with professor Victor Stein, a man who is championing AI with a view to using this to extend "life" beyond the original body. Meanwhile, we follow Mary Shelley as she starts to create, and write, her now famous book. Characters cross the boundaries between the two stories as reflections of each other but, as they are best left discovered as the author intended, I won't spoil them here. There's definitely a lot of humour contained within the pages of this book. But there is also a lot of heartache and pain too. Not just with Ry's struggles with being transgender, and acceptance. We also have healthy debate about AI, something that really does interest me and is quite prevalent in the media these days. There's also a few sly digs at politics, tongue in cheek-wise rather than grandstanding I hasten to add. There was definitely a lot to think about along the way but not so much as to be distracting. It's definitely a book that can be read on many levels and would definitely make an excellent book-club read.All in all I had an absolute blast reading this book and, even several days after finishing, it hasn't quite left me yet. I'm still pondering one or two things. It's my first read by this author but you can guarantee it won't be my last. My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.
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  • Cordelia Baker Hine
    January 1, 1970
    I will admit I understood very little but enjoyed it immensely.
  • Jesseka
    January 1, 1970
    In Frankisstein, Winterson explores the dichotomy between life and death, male and female, real and imaginary, human and artificial, challenging the reader by blurring lines and breaking down the binaries. Using Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as a spring board for her ideas the novel seesaws between two narratives one, following a fictional imagining of the life of the very real Mary Shelley and the Monster of her imagination. Another Ry Shelley and their lover Victor Stein, the scientist obsessed In Frankisstein, Winterson explores the dichotomy between life and death, male and female, real and imaginary, human and artificial, challenging the reader by blurring lines and breaking down the binaries. Using Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as a spring board for her ideas the novel seesaws between two narratives one, following a fictional imagining of the life of the very real Mary Shelley and the Monster of her imagination. Another Ry Shelley and their lover Victor Stein, the scientist obsessed with AI and the possibility for immortality. Jeanette Winterson's prose is always beautiful, Frankissstein is no exception. She also has the power to really make you think. Oh and laugh, the character of Ron Lord is one of the funniest I've met in fiction in a long time. Read this book.
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  • Maria
    January 1, 1970
    Due to Pride Month I am going to read only LGBTQ+ books, and review all of them, starting with this FANTASTIC, AMAZING, EXQUISITE book. This book haunt me, I never loved anything so much until i read this book! FranKISSStein is a book about AI and gender fludity that also harks back to themes Winterson has been writing about: love and desire, transformation and the unwritten meanings of the body. Is a book that seeks and shift our perspective on humanity and the purpose of being in the most dark Due to Pride Month I am going to read only LGBTQ+ books, and review all of them, starting with this FANTASTIC, AMAZING, EXQUISITE book. This book haunt me, I never loved anything so much until i read this book! FranKISSStein is a book about AI and gender fludity that also harks back to themes Winterson has been writing about: love and desire, transformation and the unwritten meanings of the body. Is a book that seeks and shift our perspective on humanity and the purpose of being in the most darkly entertaining way. Winterson shines a light on biotech and says: “Look over here, everyone! Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” What she is seeing is that evolutionary time is speeding up and that survival of the fittest now means survival of the smartest. “Artificial intelligence is not sentimental – it is biased towards best possible outcomes. The human race is not a best possible outcome.” So says Professor Victor Stein, a TED-talking tech visionary, who is exploring the future possibilities for humanity, from cryogenically preserved bodies to emulation, a process that would allow science to upload the contents of our brains. Victor, a well-preserved fiftysomething who possesses “that sex-mix of soul-saving and erudition”, has attracted the attention of Dr Ry Shelley, a transgender medic who is supplying the professor with body parts for his lab experiments. Ry, who narrates half the story, began life as a woman called Mary but now lives with "doubleness". They (Ry’s preferred pronoun) have had their top half “done” as a man but not the bottom. “I am liminal, cusping, in between, emerging, undecided, transitional, experimental, a start-up (or is it up-start?) in my own life,” they explain.These characters are all modern avatars of those we encounter in the novel’s parallel plot set in the 19th century: Mary Shelley, her noble but hopelessly impractical poet husband, Percy Bysshe, and his pompous, mansplaining friend, Lord Byron, who will sleep with anything that moves. Byron argues that Adam being born of Eve means the “life-spark is male”. Mary believes women are the life-givers of humankind and her insights provide the novel’s most philosophical, lyrical writing. In AI and trans bodies, she has chosen subjects that overlap but don’t easily intermesh, and the attempt to graft them together feels laboured. Certainly, the urge to say some something politically significant hangs over the book. When, in a relatively trivial act of reinvention, Mary’s stepsister changes her name from Jane to Claire, Mary says: “Why should she not remake herself? What is identity but what we name it?” That’s a bit of a simplification of the fraught issue of self-identification.One of the most haunting elements in the text is the loss anf grief that threatens to engulf Mary Shelly, which Winterson evokes with a tender, piercing pain. We're reminded that humans relationships and all the emotions they entail are precisely the things that can't be replaced. This is, after all, a love story.
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  • Cass Moriarty
    January 1, 1970
    Jeanette Winterson’s latest novel Frankissstein: a love story (Jonathan Cape Penguin Random House 2019) is a wild ride, a fantastical hybrid that combines historical fiction with futuristic speculative fiction to address some big issues. Philosophy, feminism, artificial intelligence, sexuality, gender issues, capitalism, cryogenics … and all revolving around the central moral and ethical questions of our time. Part of the book is set in 1816, when a young Mary Shelley writes a story about creati Jeanette Winterson’s latest novel Frankissstein: a love story (Jonathan Cape Penguin Random House 2019) is a wild ride, a fantastical hybrid that combines historical fiction with futuristic speculative fiction to address some big issues. Philosophy, feminism, artificial intelligence, sexuality, gender issues, capitalism, cryogenics … and all revolving around the central moral and ethical questions of our time. Part of the book is set in 1816, when a young Mary Shelley writes a story about creating a non-biological life-form. This narrative weaves in and out of the entire book, as we are introduced to Mary and her stepsister Claire Clairmont, who are respectively partnered with the poets Shelley and Byron. Along with Byron’s physician, Polidori, the group travel and work and write and create art, all the while contemplating the meaning of life. This narrative thread was the most enjoyable for me, and the most satisfying. But alongside this story, we meet a young transgender doctor, Ry, living in Brexit Britain, who falls in love – against their better judgment – with Victor Stein, a famous professor and leading educator in artificial intelligence. Another of the main characters, Ron Lord, is in the midst of developing sex-bots that will fulfil the desires of lonely people the world over, despite the fact that he still lives with his mum. The ethical questions around the usefulness of these bots – particularly for men who might otherwise rape women or abuse children – is a strong theme. And then there is the cryogenics facility in Arizona which houses the bodies of dozens of legally dead people hoping to be returned to life, the legions of body parts being used for experiments, and the brains stored (sensibly) in their own heads while waiting for medical technology to invent a way to restore sentient function, either with or without a biological body.If you enjoyed Krissy Kneen’s An Uncertain Grace, this book will appeal. Winterson explores the doubleness of transgender people and the issues around body and gender choice; the future of artificial intelligence and the fears and hopes it ignites; the moral debate about using AI sex-bots as a substitute for socially unacceptable human desires; and tethering it all together, the perspective of Mary Shelley in the early 1800’s, and the sorts of questions she and her crowd may have pondered and debated even then. This book will certainly not be for everyone. But if you’re interested in technology, sex, gender, and life versus death, this story combines all of these into a fascinating, imaginative and explosive adventure of WHAT IF.
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  • Miriam
    January 1, 1970
    I think I'll be thinking about this novel for quite a while yet. Winterson switches off between several different storylines, and they each inform and enhance each other's meanings. There is the story of Mary Shelley writing "Frankenstein", a contemporary story about artificial intelligence, sex robots, and gender, and many more. But the question the novel revolves around is what makes someone a person. Is it the body? The brain? The soul? What do those terms even mean, and can we actually defin I think I'll be thinking about this novel for quite a while yet. Winterson switches off between several different storylines, and they each inform and enhance each other's meanings. There is the story of Mary Shelley writing "Frankenstein", a contemporary story about artificial intelligence, sex robots, and gender, and many more. But the question the novel revolves around is what makes someone a person. Is it the body? The brain? The soul? What do those terms even mean, and can we actually define concepts like intelligence, life, and death? Winterson does not answer these questions definitively in this book, but she certainly gave me food for thought and made me consider them in a new light. I'm not sure what to feel about the book now, but I do know that I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it, because I wanted to keep reading more.
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  • Dani
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to Netgalley for the arc in exchange for an honest review.Jeanette Winterson is one of my favourite authors, so when I saw this I knew I had to request it. This book not only lived up to my expectations, but exceeded it. This book is set in the past, but entwines with the present. Its set in the 1800s and focuses on Mary Shelley and her story of Frankenstein. Winterson delves into Mary Shelley's life, her miscarriages, and her marriage. It is told through her voice, but her story also int Thanks to Netgalley for the arc in exchange for an honest review.Jeanette Winterson is one of my favourite authors, so when I saw this I knew I had to request it. This book not only lived up to my expectations, but exceeded it. This book is set in the past, but entwines with the present. Its set in the 1800s and focuses on Mary Shelley and her story of Frankenstein. Winterson delves into Mary Shelley's life, her miscarriages, and her marriage. It is told through her voice, but her story also intertwines with the characters of Winterson's updated Frankenstein love story.It explores the ideas of monsters we create (internally and externally) and those that already exist around us. Love, gender fluidity, bodies, and misogyny (Byron/Ron and Shelley). Winterson looks at past, present, and future technology (AI). It questions if it will live up to our expectations, and if we will we be able to live forever through technology. What will be the purpose of humans if we do?
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  • Amy Wilkes
    January 1, 1970
    Another beautifully written book full of metaphor from my favourite writer. Unfortunately contains some outdated tropes about trans and non-binary people, which made me cringe at times.
  • BiblioPhil
    January 1, 1970
    If you only read one AI novel this season, make it this one.
  • Shatterlings
    January 1, 1970
    This is fantastic, I just couldn’t put it down, it’s just so smart and knowing whilst being witty and touching. It’s a hard balance to achieve but this is how to do it.
  • Katy Wheatley
    January 1, 1970
    I was given a copy of this to review by Net Galley. I've been a devotee of Jeanette Winterson ever since Oranges are Not The Only Fruit. She never ceases to find ways to make me look at the world anew, and this is no exception. This is clever, thought provoking and rather surprisingly funny. She weaves the complex narrative back and forth from the musings of Mary Shelley herself to contemporary, Brexit Britain, taking in all the concerns of Shelley when she was first writing Frankenstein and ech I was given a copy of this to review by Net Galley. I've been a devotee of Jeanette Winterson ever since Oranges are Not The Only Fruit. She never ceases to find ways to make me look at the world anew, and this is no exception. This is clever, thought provoking and rather surprisingly funny. She weaves the complex narrative back and forth from the musings of Mary Shelley herself to contemporary, Brexit Britain, taking in all the concerns of Shelley when she was first writing Frankenstein and echoing them in today's debates about technology, medicine, trans gender issues and what it means to be a human in a world that is increasingly virtual. The characters are brilliantly drawn and the narrative just pulled me along. I finished this in a day. One of my books of 2019.
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  • mylogicisfuzzy
    January 1, 1970
    Jeanette Winterson’s new novel looks at the past, present and future to explore themes of love, gender, identity, faith, artificial intelligence and immortality. It is beautifully written, lyrical, funny and playful at times but also dark and timely. The past, told by Mary Shelley, is of the summer of 1816 on Lake Geneva with Shelley, Byron, his doctor Polidori and her stepsister Claire Clairmont, when boredom and bad weather led to her creation of Frankenstein. In the present, Ry Shelley is a t Jeanette Winterson’s new novel looks at the past, present and future to explore themes of love, gender, identity, faith, artificial intelligence and immortality. It is beautifully written, lyrical, funny and playful at times but also dark and timely. The past, told by Mary Shelley, is of the summer of 1816 on Lake Geneva with Shelley, Byron, his doctor Polidori and her stepsister Claire Clairmont, when boredom and bad weather led to her creation of Frankenstein. In the present, Ry Shelley is a transgender doctor, Ron Lord a Welsh sexbot entrepreneur, Claire an Evangelist Christian and Polly D a Vanity Fair journalist. All are drawn to Victor Stein, a charismatic scientist working with artificial intelligence. Possibly the most famous moment in literary history, the story of the stormy night on Lake Geneva has been told many times. I thought Winterson did it wonderfully, her Mary is lyrical, happily in love with Shelley but also angry and fed up with men. “The gentlemen laugh at me indulgently. They respect me up to a point but, we have arrived at that point.” as Byron speaks of the animating principle, the life spark, which he firmly believes is male. In the present, as Ron Lord plans for a future where manufacture of his sexbots will stimulate the economy of post Brexit Wales, Victor Stein lectures that “artificial intelligence is not sentimental – it is biased towards best possible outcomes. The human race is not a best possible outcome.” Stein, like Mary Shelley’s creation, seeks godhood, eternal life and believes that one day, humans will be able to upload their consciousness into any body – biological or robotic, they desire. He is fascinated by Ry who “Now male, now not quite, now quite clearly a woman” has already, in certain ways, done so. Ry is “liminal, cusping, in between, emerging, undecided, transitional, experimental, a start-up (or is it an upstart?) in my own life.” So many thoughts about what it means to be human, about our history, storytelling are interwoven with the bigger themes of the novel in a questioning and playful way. I loved it, a very enjoyable read. My thanks to Random House and Netgalley for the opportunity to read Frankissstein.
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  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    I received an ARC of this book thanks to Net Galley and publisher Grove Press in exchange for an honest review.Oh boy, where to start with this book. I have labelled it a 'DNF' but I did actually pretty much read all of it, I just wanted to DNF it so many times. I requested this book after reading an excerpt and I'm ashamed to say I wish I hadn't. The unusual writing style caught my eye and I thought the plot had huge potential. This is kind of a futuristic retelling of Frankenstein based around I received an ARC of this book thanks to Net Galley and publisher Grove Press in exchange for an honest review.Oh boy, where to start with this book. I have labelled it a 'DNF' but I did actually pretty much read all of it, I just wanted to DNF it so many times. I requested this book after reading an excerpt and I'm ashamed to say I wish I hadn't. The unusual writing style caught my eye and I thought the plot had huge potential. This is kind of a futuristic retelling of Frankenstein based around sex bots and AI? Honestly I don't know what was going on with this book. The plot became really hard to follow due to the writing style and there were flashback chapters to Mary Shelley which just made me confused and bored. There is however a much bigger problem with this book.It's transphobic. Very transphobic.Initially I was excited to read about a trans doctor as the protagonist. Unfortunately the language surrounding the discussion of this character is rife with unfortunate implications. Ry frequently describes himself as now identifying as a man (Ry is a female-to-male trans character) but then explains that he is a hybrid and still a woman and not a real man and aaaaah. Gender fluid is absolutely a thing and I would happily read about a gender fluid character but this is done all wrong if that's what the author was going for.This trans character is also specifically fetishised for being a 'hybrid' by their male doctor partner. There is a lot of discussion about genitals etc and this made me extremely uncomfortable to read about. I really think more research should have been done because I found this book incredibly problematic so I can't imagine how it would read to a trans audience.Terrible transphobia aside, this book is just super dull. I did skimread until the end and at 80% through, nothing had really happened yet? It's such a shame because I could have really gotten into this book but ultimately, it felt like it was trying too hard to be literary.Overall Rating: 1/5
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