Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
In this bold and humorous narrative, award-winning author Winterson (The Gap of Time) connects the past and the present. In the past, Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, considers her expatriate life with her husband, poet Percy Shelley; Lord Byron; and others, revealing the evolution of the story of this famous novel by a female writer amid the patriarchal constrictions of the early 1800s. The present narrative blasts off at a robotics conference with an emphasis on sexual gratification via robot. Here we meet the transgender Dr. Ry Shelly, supplier of severed limbs to Victor Stein, a scientist working to decode and store human consciousness. The depiction of Ry and Victor's sexual relationship explores elements of transgender life and ideas of transhumanism. As the book shifts in time, themes such as mechanical computers and cryogenic preservation are further developed. VERDICT As the subtitle declares, this is a love story, paralleling the relationship between Mary Shelley and Percy Shelley and that between Ry and Victor. The forthright description of nonbinary choice forms a replete example of embracing transgender experience, and both Victor Stein and Victor Frankenstein are finally shown to be illusory characters, adding spookiness. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 3/25/19.]--Henry Bankhead, San Rafael P.L., CA
Publishers Weekly Review
Winterson (The Gap of Time) reimagines literary classic Frankenstein--both the story and the genesis of it--in her magnificent latest. The book shuttles back and forth between 1816, when a challenge leads Mary Shelley to write her indelible character and the monster he creates, and the present day, when a transgender man named Ry Shelley delves deeper into the burgeoning world and industry surrounding robotics and AI. A medical doctor, Ry supplies body parts to the professor Victor Stein, a brilliant if elusive man whose vision of the future is one in which human intelligence can transcend the limitations of needing a physical body. Victor's interest in Ry is multifold: there is what Ry can procure for him through hospitals, and there is attraction--both romantic and platonic interest in the physical manifestation of Ry's gender identity, which Victor calls "future-early" and Ry calls "doubleness." Winterson's recreation of the story of Mary Shelley's creative process and later life and work is splendid, but it's the modern analogue of the famous Lake Geneva party that is truly inspired. There is the hilariously crass sexbot entrepreneur Ron Lord, the evangelical capitalist Claire, and the nosy nuisance of Vanity Fair reporter Polly D, who's constantly convinced she's on to something. This vividly imagined and gorgeously constructed novel will have readers laughing out loud--and then pondering their personhood and mortality on the next page. Agent: Caroline Michel; Peters, Fraser & Dunlop. (Oct.)
Winterson's agile imagination prompts her to bridge distant times and improvise on oft-told tales with impish and serious intent. In her eleventh novel, she keeps readers off-kilter in a complex, two-track homage to Mary Shelley and the ever-relevant questions raised by her masterpiece, Frankenstein. In gracefully brooding, rain-drenched scenes set along Lake Geneva two centuries ago, courageous radical Shelley ponders the implications of the unnerving story that has taken hold of her. In the present, a transgender doctor, Ry Shelley, gets caught up in hubristic schemes concocted by his celebrity professor lover, Victor Stein, who is secretly at work on a macabre union of body parts and AI, and a curiously innocent purveyor of ego-boosting sexbots. Ultimately, their adventures involve cryogenics, the singularity, and a vast underground Cold War laboratory. Winterson shimmers and sparks in this at once sensitive and caustic, philosophical and funny inquiry into the body-mind conundrum, what we consider monstrous and what we think makes us human, the rainbow spectrum of gender and sexuality, and how our technologically enhanced fears and desires might impact the planet's future.--Donna Seaman Copyright 2010 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
An author known for her explorations of gender, desire, and imagination takes us to the past to look into the future.There is probably no novel written in English with a more well-known origin story than Frankenstein. The scene of that work's conceptionLake Geneva, 1816is where Winterson begins her reimagining of science fiction's ur-text. Mary Shelley herself is the narrator. Keenly observant, sensitive without being fragile, and utterly unashamed of her own sexuality, Winterson's (Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere, 2018, etc.) Shelley is a brilliant creation. The contemporary author, being well versed in the gothic tropes that her predecessor deployed, plays with doubles and doppelgngers throughout, and her second narrator, Ry Shelley, is an echo both of Mary Shelley and the monster who is the invention of Mary Shelley's invention. Ry, given the name Mary at birth, identifies as trans and works for a company devoted to cryogenicsto restoring the dead to life. It's in this capacity that he meets Victor Stein, the "high-functioning madman" who will become his lover. Victor is famous as an expert in artificial intelligence. But Ry discovers that Victor has othermessierpursuits as well. As is perhaps apt, this is a novel of many parts, so there are also interludes set in Bedlam, where Victor Frankenstein becomes an inmate and Mary Shelley is his visitor. There are special pleasures here for readers familiar with the science and philosophy of the early 19th century, such as when a 20th-century evangelical Christian goes undercover at the cryogenics lab to investigate where the soul goes when we die and whether or not it returns if the body is reanimated. But no specialist knowledge is needed to appreciate this inquisitive novel, because the questions Winterson is asking are questions that have always been with us. What is love? What is life? What am I, and what do I desire to be? Of course Winterson has no answers; what she offers instead is a passionate plea that we keep asking these questions as we refashion ourselves and our world.Beguiling, disturbing, and full of wonders. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.