Young People Read Old SFF

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus

Mary Shelley

Some have argued that Mary Shelley is the first science fiction author. Others have disagreed. What is clear is that she's a significant figure to the field. Frankenstein, the story of a being created by and then abandoned by its vainglorious creator, has cast a long shadow over science fiction, providing a handy term for creation gone horribly wrong. It has been adapted to stage, film, and of course radio. Surely Frankenstein is universal enough a tale that any radio play adaptation of it will appeal to my readers? Or perhaps I should have searched more effectively for the 1970s CBC radio version. Ah well.

I was twelve years old the one and only time I read the novel Frankenstein.

One of my friends gave it to me at a birthday party, no doubt picked out by some ignorant parent who had never read the book. “Your friend likes books? Here’s a nice short one. It’s a classic - it must be good.” I was jumpy and didn’t want to look out windows at night for a few days.

In contrast, this audio production nearly put me to sleep. Poor audio quality was an issue. I guess I can’t fault a recording from the 1930s. It was very easy to tune out, but since it was such a short episode, I missed large bits of the episode and had to listen to it a few times. The first time was with headphones on a bus, which had too much background noise to be enjoyable. I had my headphones with my computer at home the other times, which made it easier to understand. Not a portable listen, unless you have noise-cancelling headphones.

The episode was too short for my liking, not really long enough to catch my interest. It may have been better to have episodes one and two together. Otherwise, the end of episode one is a natural decision point about whether to stop listening to the serial. This first episode is almost nothing like the rest of the story, so it’s a poor introduction for a modern audience. A narrator introduces a ship with a captain, who then goes to listen to Baron von Frankenstein’s narration of a story. Not the most compelling listening experience.

The most notable thing was that Baron von Frankenstein had a very strange-sounding accent. He sounded like someone from India or Pakistan.

Verdict: boring episode one. Episode two was a little better. (I accidentally let it auto-play the next episode.)

—Mel

I am of course familiar with the concept of Frankenstein, even though I don’t think I’ve read or watched any version of the original story. I know it’s a foundational part of the genre, I just haven’t really felt any need to read it for myself.

There’s not really much in this first part of the story. It’s setup, and nothing particularly surprising, since the story is so well known. I did wonder if the being stranded in the north part was part of the original story or part of an adaption, since I don’t recall if I’ve heard that part before, but the rest was what I expected.

I found this production very difficult to listen to. I’m not sure if it was the sound effects, or just a really bad quality recording, but the voices were often lost in the background noise. This section of the story was relatively short, and I was glad of that because it was not at all an enjoyable listening experience.

I still don’t really feel any need to read the rest of this story, and Icertainly will not be finishing this audio adaptation of it. I can acknowledge its importance and place in the history of science fiction, but I really don’t care about the actual story very much and nothing in this first section changed my mind.

—Mikayla

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