Frankissstein is a fragmented, at times dazzlingly intelligent meditation on the responsibilities of creation, the possibilities of artificial intelligence and the implications of both transsexuality and transhumanism ... As is to be expected from a novel both constructed from and beholden to the nebulous realm of ideas, there are moments when the book’s speculative nature threatens to overwhelm its sense of tangible reality ... As a result, readers may occasionally begin to feel rather disembodied themselves, immersed in the deoxygenated atmosphere of pure thought. Winterson’s great gift as a writer, though, is the ability to inject pure thought with such freewheeling enthusiasm and energy that ideas take on their own kind of joyous life. Frankissstein abounds with invention ... Such is Winterson’s comfort across modes and forms, she’s also able to leaven the hyperinvention of rogue science with deeply evocative historical realism balanced by hilarious, almost bawdy set pieces ... this is a work of both pleasure and profundity, robustly and skilfully structured, and suffused with all Winterson’s usual preoccupations – gender, language, sexuality, the limits of individual liberty and the life of ideas.
...a brainy, batty story—an unholy amalgamation of scholarship and comedy. She manages to pay homage to Shelley’s insight and passion while demonstrating her own extraordinary creativity ... From the start, these contemporary scenes feel like they’ve got a screw loose in the best possible way ... The dialogue is slick and funny, often delightfully obscene, but beneath all the kookiness, Winterson is satirizing sexual politics and exploring complicated issues of human desire. (Ian McEwan’s recent novel Machines Like Me buzzed through similar material, but it feels a little lifeless compared to Frankissstein) ... in Winterson’s hands it’s a bag of provocative tricks and treats. With diabolical ingenuity, she’s found a way to inject fresh questions about humanity’s future into the old veins of Frankenstein ... Winterson’s cleverest maneuver may be suggesting that transgender people are the true pioneers of a self-determined future in which we’ll all design our own bodies. Recast in that way, Frankenstein’s creation was not monstrous; he was just too early.
... far, far more than a reimagining of Mary Shelley’s 19th-century monsterpiece. It’s a novel fizzing with ideas, one that toys with timelines and intertextuality. It veers from the Gothic to the satirical and seamlessly interweaves social commentary on everything from gender to the cultural hegemony to our obsessions with social media and future tech. The Frankensteinian notion of creating a sentient being has obvious parallels with artificial intelligence, and that’s what Jeanette Winterson has in her sights ... Mary’s scenes, which are laced throughout the novel, are visceral and seeped with Gothic gloom. You can almost smell the sweat and sense the languor and claustrophobia out of which so many great pieces of writing were created ... Occasionally, [Stein] comes across as little more than a TED Talk himself, spouting chunks of research and philosophical meanderings that, while fascinating, stall the novel...But these forays into didacticism are balanced with gleeful, highly imaginative set pieces rich with black humor ... Winterson has stitched together that rarest of beasts: a novel that is both deeply thought-provoking and provocative yet also unabashedly entertaining (I laughed out loud more times than I could count). Frankissstein, like its protagonist Ry, is a hybrid: a novel that defies conventional expectations and exists, brilliantly and defiantly, on its own terms.
In her new reworking, Jeanette Winterson takes formal as well as thematic inspiration from Shelley’s work. Frankissstein shares with its source text an intricate narrative structure and a preoccupation with both the origins of life and the things that make life worth living. It is no pale imitation though. This is a riotous reimagining with an energy and passion all of its own ... While the story has a gripping momentum of its own, it also fizzes with ideas ... [Shelley] would surely be pleased with the extraordinary elasticity of this novel.
... bold and humorous ... 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.
This is not a typical novel ... The sole epigraph in Frankissstein is from the Eagles. No one quotes the Eagles ... So far so weird ... In this novel, which was longlisted for the Booker Prize, [Winterson] walks her wits on a very long leash ... Frankissstein is not a particularly good novel, if we limit our definition of a good novel to one that, at minimum, has characters and/or a plot in which one feels invested. Winterson seems to know she’s boxed herself into a facile and jokey situation, and she’s decided to shoot herself out of the corner. This novel is talky, smart, anarchic and quite sexy ... Frankissstein also has, if you squint just slightly, an intelligent soul. Winterson has always been interested in gender fluidity and there is room, in our glimpses of Ry, for real feeling between the satire and bickering ... Winterson is playing a game that’s entirely her own. The fourth wall is broken frequently, as if this were an episode of Fleabag. ... the book is anchored in soliloquies that wear their intent and erudition lightly.
Jeanette Winterson...strikes an effective balance between comedy and pathos, blending fact and fiction into a hybrid form that is not unlike Victor Frankenstein’s hybrid monster-man ... Ms. Winterson is a wickedly smart satirist and she supplies no shortage of shrewd commentary about the decline of humanity as machines and robots automate our lives into meaninglessness ... Frankissstein brims with hilarious antics ... Ms. Winterson’s novel artfully asks big questions and refuses easy answers.
...[a] [playful and inventive novel ... There is a merged ocean of thought within it; ideas slip between characters and time frames. It stands against the prediction that such a merging of self and other would undo the necessity of literature. Frankissstein reincarnates as it evolves, each part deepening the part before it ... The story of [Franksenstein's] creation has been told many times over, but Winterson galvanizes it ... Winterson does not predict that an evolved intelligence will move towards hatred taking the shape of love but rather will be a plane without a surface, a blissful state of consciousness, and one achieved without harming the other. Isn’t it strange, how radical this sounds today, to have such faith in love?
... the novel, though playful on the surface, is rich in the sorts of ideas one could turn over and debate into the small hours. A fantasia about artificial intelligence, it also fruitfully toys with concepts as varied as artistic creation, gender reassignment and the future of sex. This is a book whose mismatched parts—subtle historical drama and philosophical allegory; bawdy humor and profound moral inquiries—somehow combine to form a powerful, living whole ... Ms. Winterson masterfully captures the damp, claustrophobic, sexually charged and slightly hostile atmosphere of the holiday, and the pressurizing impulses of ambition, arousal and grief (Shelley had already lost one child) that brought about her landmark work ... a book that manages to be as heady as it is hot-blooded.
What will the future look like if it is the geeks who inherit the earth? For Winterson the answer is a fast-paced gothic romance ... Winterson has long been interested in physical hybrids and fictional border crossings. In Sexing the Cherry...she used the grafting of cherry trees as a metaphor for the idea that 'we are multiple not single', each human life really being many lives 'stacked together like plates on a waiter’s hand with only the top one showing' ... this sounds rather solemn, like a patchwork of essays on the postmodern condition that Winterson has cobbled together, the good news is that Frankissstein is very funny. There has always been a fine line between horror and high camp, and this is another boundary that Winterson gleefully exploits...
In the Mary Shelley narrative, Winterson anachronistically and successfully brings us through the joys and gut-punch pains of Shelley’s life. She is painted as a woman very much in love, but one who has been entangled with death from the first moment of her life when her mother died in childbirth ... Winterson is the mad scientist here, her book the monster...her book becoming both the stitched-together body of multiple literary works and an all-encompassing consciousness of literary culture ... With a book so built upon ideas, there are times when the density weighs it down ... There are moments when the highly conceptual nature of Winterson’s work elevates to such a level that it became hard for this reader to breathe. But Winterson has the ability to quickly return to the immediacy and vibrancy and tangibility of the scenes at hand ... Winterson’s work is at once artfully structured, unexpectedly funny, and impressively dynamic.
There is plenty to chew on, raise eyebrows for and occasionally laugh at, and the blend between the concerns of Frankenstein and modern AI is engagingly worked through ... Winterson blends a high style where opacity is part of the appeal with a desire never to leave the reader in any doubt about what she thinks ... it is good to be back in Winterson-world, with its self-assurance, its cantatory repetitions of rhythmic prose, its enthusiasm for experimentation – and its willingness to risk appearing ridiculous ... as always, she is at her best when at her most daring and playful ... The references in Frankissstein are so 2019 they practically come with hashtags: Brexit, bitcoin, trans issues, MeToo, Trump, Bolsonaro, and more. But more familiar to Winterson’s longstanding readers will be the recurrence of themes from earlier work: the tech/human interface from The PowerBook, the time jumps of Sexing the Cherry, the gender-fluid narrator from Written on the Body. That all shows how ahead of her time Winterson has been for decades – and now the world and the culture is catching up ... Winterson combines earnest concerns with page-turning energy. Frankissstein is serious fun.
Frankissstein is a book that seeks to shift our perspective on humanity and the purpose of being human 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?' ... It sometimes seems as if Winterson has tried to synthesise three years’ worth of New Yorker articles. 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 ... Thankfully, Winterson’s prose is more animated by curiosity than by any particular agenda ... It’s fun to be in her company. And I wasn’t expecting fun. I was expecting something self-conscious (the less said about the title, the better) and self-important ...
... while Winterson has lots of fun finding cute references and echoes across her narratives and centuries, it doesn’t do to expect too literal parallels. Often, they are crunchy instead. Having a trans character positioned as the architect of their own body at first seems to sit uneasily with the idea of Frankenstein’s horrific cut-and-spliced monster. In fact, Ry’s doubleness sits closer to Shelley’s growing recognition of the intertwined essential nature of her own creations: that Doctor Frankenstein and his monster are themselves dual, doubled ... also gleefully Gothic, taking us into a world of underground nuclear bunkers, scampering severed hands and spooky preserved heads. And throughout, Winterson’s approach is light and comic – although in truth, some of the satiric dialogue, especially Ron on his sex-bots, is too crude to be convincing ... Beneath the zany fun and giddy pace, Frankissstein does also takes a serious, 19th-century style philosophical look at what it means to try to create new consciousness, to wonder what humans are really made of ... In fact, the novel is overstuffed; you can sometimes feel the research bursting its stitches. Her characters also too often become clumsy mouthpieces for theories or contentious 'takes' on a controversial topic. But the breezy way she handles the sheer number of complex ideas is also frequently dazzling, and ultimately means that this enjoyably audacious novel has no problem coming to life.
In many ways...the story is just a pretext for extended meditations on the meaning of love, the meaning of life and the coming 'singularity,' in which consciousness can be uploaded like so many data points to be retransferred to a previously frozen human body or to a 'more human than human' replicant à la Blade Runner ... Much like its spiritual predecessor, B.F. Skinner’s 1948 novel, Walden Two, Winterson’s book occasionally sets up straw men to knock down, but also like Skinner, she may turn out to be more prophetic than she, or we, imagined.
I had a wish as I was reading Frankissstein, but I should have known better. So in love was I with the characters, with Winterson's clever writing and with the way non-fiction was so expertly interwoven with the fiction, that I hoped her stories would stay in the real world ... wonderfully pacey and playful ... I'm not sure why we needed our modern narrator to be called Ry Shelley and I especially don't know why we need to have Ry telling modern-day Claire that Frankenstein had just had its 200 year anniversary...I would have preferred we got a Wizard of Oz-style character reboot. A show not a tell. But then, I'm fussy and I want to believe ... Doctor Ry, in particular, felt too vibrant and real to exist in the same universe as Mary Shelley, the author ... I seriously enjoyed the book, despite its occasional silliness. The wordplay is excellent, with satisfying call backs throughout the text. There was humour and heart and anguish and I was totally gripped as I hoped for a grounded ending. I did not get this, but I had a blast, devoured it and then wondered what I had read.
Winterson’s agile imagination prompts her to bridge distant times and improvise on oft-told tales with impish and serious intent ... he keeps readers off-kilter in a complex, two-track homage to Mary Shelley and the ever-relevant questions raised by her masterpiece, Frankenstein ... gracefully brooding, rain-drenched scenes set along Lake Geneva ... 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.
...[a] boisterous new book ... Frankissstein is an enormously funny novel, something that’s exceedingly rare these days. The bulk of the laughs come from the misogynist and politically incorrect mouth of Ron Lord ... Ron’s reactionary attitude sums up the central theme of Frankissstein: that technology has never been particularly successful at making us better people ... Just like Victor’s creation, Frankissstein: A Love Story,/em> is a patchwork of voice and style – part historical fiction, part sexy romp, and part dissertation on artificial intelligence, the singularity, and gender fluidity. This hopscotching between ideas and the stark shift in tone – including an extraordinary bit of magical realism where Mary may… or may not meet Victor Frankenstein in an asylum – may irritate some. For me, though, it’s evidence of a novel that, 200 (and one) years after its publication, continues to excite and inspire the imagination of writers; and, in the case of Jeanette Winterson, provides her with a platform to view our current moment through Mary Shelley’s eyes.
... brilliant ... readers unfamiliar with Frankenstein will find parts of the novel difficult to follow, especially when Winterson quotes from Frankenstein without explaining that she is doing so. Those riders aside, Frankissstein is a rich, multilayered book that is at once a transgender ‘love story’ (the subtitle), a warning about the perils of unchecked scientific progress, and a frightening look at the potential of artificial intelligence.
While Winterson is sensitive in handling the more complex parts of Frankissstein, she makes sure to stay away from the didactic by use of humour, and satire ... a clever, wicked—even gothic!—very contemporary story about what it means to be human ... a smart, funny look at the state of AI right now, and where it could easily be headed. It’s also a thoughtful exploration of what Mary Shelley’s life as a writer must’ve been like.
This narrative arc is vintage Winterson, fearlessly feminist, if also limitlessly crass in its proselytizing and in its testing of the boundaries of plausibility ... There are two interesting stories within it, each with its own exquisite language (in the sense of how well they are suited to the author’s purpose for each one of the novel’s two personalities), a literary feat in and of itself...Both stories are engaging ... so we have here two characters trying to create their own Frankensteins in different times and under different circumstances. Two creators set to visit unknown consequences on the world they inhabit by putting their innovative zeal above all else. And great writing notwithstanding, the problem is that the two pieces are so incongruent that they clash even as they passionately work to convince you (or just to vent?) on political and gender arguments that should end up in the same place, disrupting the reading experience, sometimes, to unbearable levels, so that in the end, the result is one novel cobbled from such disparate pieces that harmony is impossible, Winterson’s novel, a literary Frankenstein of its own.
... a postmodern delight ... Winterson throws so much at readers in this bold and challenging book ... None of this is what Mary Shelley imagined when she cautioned about the responsibility of scientists and other creators, but Winterson takes her ideas where others have taken them before: to the dangerous prospect of science and invention run amok. Here those prospects, and their literary inspiration, are couched in a strange, compelling, philosophical and at times fractured vision ... By the end, Winterson’s cast has explored some important and tough questions from various points of view, sometimes with a dead seriousness and at other times with an over-the-top comic effect ... really this is a novel of ideas more so than plot ... The book is best when it inhabits Mary Shelley’s poetic world. It careens a bit wildly in the Ry Shelley sections, and is somewhat muddled at times in the last quarter of the story. This is a challenging work, in terms of both style and ideas. Winterson is clearly having fun, even if the themes here are quite serious.
While Winterson’s depiction of the intrepid, female-forward and delightfully dry-witted Mary is certainly worthy of praise, it’s the second narrative, a kind of present-day hall-of-mirrors parallel, that really steals the show ... Aside from the myriad passages in which characters from both stories contemplate life’s Bigger Questions, true to form, Frankissstein is also incredibly funny ... [an] astute, wildly inventive and totally unique book.
The scenes set in present day, centered around the expo, feel almost cartoonishly satirical, with shades of Tom Wolfe. There’s a lot of dialogue, much of it very funny ... These characters each express distinct viewpoints, but they come across as little more than mouthpieces for those views; it’s an entertaining read, but Winterson sacrifices character for idea in her scenes set in the modern era ... The beating heart of the novel, or rather its lightning-strike, is in the ideas it explores. It is not a perfect book, but it is a deeply affecting one. If you want to lie awake at night thinking of the future of humanity, the future of gender and indeed selfhood, and the implications of sex dolls with sentience… if you loved the Black Mirror episode 'San Junipero'… Frankissstein is for you.
[The] destructive love story is buoyed by some unfortunate two- dimensional caricatures: Ron Lord, a sexbot entrepreneur who comes across as so stupid and base one wonders how he’s able to tie his shoes, let alone run a multi-million-pound business in Wales; and Claire, the only character of color, an odiously racist stereotype of Southern Black women in America. (It was often difficult to read her lines.) ... Is Winterson implying that trans people are the progenitors of the dystopic nightmares personified by Victor Stein? If that is not her intention, we might be forgiven for thinking so, as alternate readings are not abundantly on offer ... Winterson is not the first feminist of her generation to try to make the connection between trans lives and Frankenstein’s monster ... While reclaiming a connection between transsexuality and monstrosity may be a source of strength for some, for others, such a construction may be deadly ... As a reader, also living in England, I had to wonder whether Winterson has been influenced by the increasing vitriol directed at trans people by anti-trans feminists in the UK media ... Beyond its politics—if one can look beyond them in such an intentionally political book— Frankissstein is an entertaining feminist sci-fi novel. Winterson is a skilled writer with a keen eye on the most anxious parts of our zeitgeist. She presents a timely, Black Mirror-adjacent look at the darkly absurd near- future we’re being ushered into—whether we want it or not...
There's weird and wonderful, and then there’s just weird. Into the latter category falls Frank Kiss Stein ... The best bit is the retelling of the story from Mary’s perspective: the tiresome misogyny of Byron, the affectionate, fickle Shelley, the ghastliness of a peripatetic life, the deaths of her children. Not many people could ventriloquise plausibly for Shelley but Winterson makes a good stab at it. The trouble comes in our day ... The reworking of the original book can get laboured, including the black American Evangelical Christian, Claire, who represents Mary’s dopey stepsister. Ron Lord, however, presumably the priapic Lord Byron, provides the comic element, with his sexbots for all tastes. That bit, at least, of this appalling vision of our future sounds plausible.
... a thought-provoking book, but also fun ... And yet for all of its lightness and whimsy, there’s something a little sad about this postmodern Prometheus. Victor isn’t trying to create life but prolong it, while the fantasy of escaping one’s body, however fashionable a dream it may be in today’s tech circles, is both childish and narcissistic. We imagine the Frankenstein we want, but in doing so end up with the one we deserve.
... unlikely to win over many who enjoy the fiction of science ... Risks don’t always come off, though – and Frankissstein, an update of a morality story that has been continually retold for two centuries, fails to hit the mark. Like Victor Frankenstein, Winterson stitches together quite disparate parts. And, like his monstrous lightning-born creation, this book suffers from an identity crisis as a result ... In the cramming in of so many ethical and philosophical points of discussion, often by way of didactic and totally implausible dialogue, it feels as if Winterson is playing to the contemporary woke crowd ... The novel’s main question – what will happen to humans when they are superseded by more advanced forms? – becomes lost in scenes that have more than a whiff of Carry On Screaming! about them ... Perhaps Frankissstein is meant to be satire then, a novel inhabited by ribald characters, in which disbelief should be suspended – though surely not when Winterson is attempting a serious examination of gender fluidity ... too historically grounded to be an utterly contemporary story, neither funny nor reflective enough to work as satire, and its structure is chaotic. Tonally, the closest comparison is The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but without a Tim Curry to be confused and amused by ... As with Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein one can’t help wonder whether the end result is quite what its creator intended.
... the story, at times, feels unfocused. And though Winterson’s unique writing style and deep understanding of her characters is captivating, the read is too long. This is also not a great choice for anyone triggered by gender dysphoria, misgendering, and generally shitty people asking a transgender person incredibly invasive questions.
Keenly observant, sensitive without being fragile, and utterly unashamed of her own sexuality, Winterson’s Shelley is a brilliant creation ... There are special pleasures here for readers familiar with the science and philosophy of the early 19th century ... 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.
... magnificent ... 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 ... This vividly imagined and gorgeously constructed novel will have readers laughing out loud—and then pondering their personhood and mortality on the next page.