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.)
Praise for Frankissstein
“This novel is talky, smart, anarchic and quite sexy. You begin to linger on those three s’s when you speak the title aloud.” − Dwight Garner, New York Times
“[A] dazzlingly intelligent meditation on the responsibilities of creation, the possibilities of artificial intelligence and the implications of both transsexuality and transhumanism… Winterson’s great gift as a writer… 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… Deeply evocative historical realism balanced by hilarious, almost bawdy set pieces… A work of both pleasure and profundity, robustly and skillfully structured.” Guardian
“Gleefully Gothic… Dazzling… Enjoyably audacious.” Independent
“Sparky, funny and finely calibrated to ask weighty questions with the lightest of touches, Frankissstein is romantic, unsettling and beautifully written.” Sunday Express
“A riotous reimagining with an energy and passion all of its own that reanimates Frankenstein as a cautionary tale for a contemporary moment dominated by debates about Brexit, gender, artificial intelligence and medical experimentation… While the story has a gripping momentum of its own, it also fizzes with ideas.” Financial Times
“A surge of inventiveness… Frankissstein is a book that seeks to shift our perspective on humanity and the purpose of being human in the most darkly entertaining way… gloriously well observed.” Observer
“A hold-on-to-your hat modern-day horror story about very modern-day neuroses and issues.”BBC News
“Intelligent and inventive… Frankissstein is very funny. There has always been a fine line between horror and high camp, and this is a boundary that Winterson gleefully exploits.” The Times
“Highly inventive… Lyrical, gloriously raunchy, pulpy and absurd.” New Scientist
“Winterson has long been interested in the politics of identity and is good here on the way our aspirations and anxieties about AI tap into ancient and eternal human dreams of perfectibility… One half of the book is saturated in the restless melancholy of the Victorian Gothic, the other in the ruthless sterility of Silicon Valley.” Daily Telegraph
“This fast-paced novel of ideas is animated with ease and vigor… We’re reminded that human relationships and all the emotions they entail are precisely the things that can’t be replicated. This is, after all, a love story.” i
“Hilarious but serious time-travel gambol with Frankenstein: modern doubles into AI, cryogenics, and sexbots. (Hint: Mod. Byron does not come out of it well.)”Margaret Atwood
Praise for Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
“Arresting and suspenseful… Offers literary surprises and flashes of magnificent generosity and humor.” Washington Post Book World
“Winterson writes with heartrending precision… Ferociously funny and unfathomably generous, Winterson’s exorcism-in-writing is an unforgettable quest for belonging… A magnificent tour-de-force.” Vogue
“One of the most entertaining and moving memoirs in recent memory… A marvelous gift of consolation and wisdom.” Boston Globe
“[Winterson is] searingly honest yet effortlessly lithe as she slides between forms, exuberant and unerring, demanding emotional and intellectual expansion of herself and of us.” Elle
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 conception—Lake Geneva, 1816—is 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 doppelgängers 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 cryogenics—to 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 other—messier—pursuits 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.
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