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Frankissstein
Cover of Frankissstein
Frankissstein
A Novel
Borrow Borrow
Since her astonishing debut at twenty-five with Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson has achieved worldwide critical and commercial success as "one of the most daring and inventive writers of our time" (Elle). Her new novel, Frankissstein, is an audacious love story that weaves together disparate lives into an exploration of transhumanism, artificial intelligence, and queer love.
Lake Geneva, 1816. Nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley is inspired to write a story about a scientist who creates a new life-form. In Brexit Britain, a young transgender doctor called Ry is falling in love with Victor Stein, a celebrated professor leading the public debate around AI and carrying out some experiments of his own in a vast underground network of tunnels. Meanwhile, Ron Lord, just divorced and living with his mom 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.
What will happen when homo sapiens is no longer the smartest being on the planet? In fiercely intelligent prose, Jeanette Winterson shows us how much closer we are to that future than we realize. Funny and furious, bold and clear-sighted, Frankissstein is a love story about life itself.
Since her astonishing debut at twenty-five with Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson has achieved worldwide critical and commercial success as "one of the most daring and inventive writers of our time" (Elle). Her new novel, Frankissstein, is an audacious love story that weaves together disparate lives into an exploration of transhumanism, artificial intelligence, and queer love.
Lake Geneva, 1816. Nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley is inspired to write a story about a scientist who creates a new life-form. In Brexit Britain, a young transgender doctor called Ry is falling in love with Victor Stein, a celebrated professor leading the public debate around AI and carrying out some experiments of his own in a vast underground network of tunnels. Meanwhile, Ron Lord, just divorced and living with his mom 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.
What will happen when homo sapiens is no longer the smartest being on the planet? In fiercely intelligent prose, Jeanette Winterson shows us how much closer we are to that future than we realize. Funny and furious, bold and clear-sighted, Frankissstein is a love story about life itself.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book Naming is power, I say to Claire.
    It sure is. Adam's task in the Garden of Eden.
    Yes, indeed, to name everything after its kind.
    Sexbot . . .
    Pardon me, sir?
    Do you think Adam would have thought of that? Dog, cat, snake, figtree, sexbot?
    I am thankful he didn't have to, Dr Shelley.
    Yes, I am sure you are right. So tell me, Claire, why did they call this place Memphis?
    You mean back in 1819? When it was founded?
    As she speaks I see in my mind a young woman looking out of a sodden window across the lake.
    I say to Claire, Yes. 1819. Frankenstein was a year old.
    She frowns. I am not following you, sir.
    The novel Frankenstein – it was published in 1818.
    The guy with the bolt through his neck?
    More or less . . .
    I saw the TV show.
    It's why we are here today. (There was a look of confusion on Claire's face as I said this, so I explained.) I don't mean existentially Why We Are Here Today – I mean why the Tec-X-Po is here. In Memphis. It's the kind of thing organisers like; a tie-in between a city and an idea. Memphis and Frankenstein are both two hundred years old.
    Your point, Dr Shelley?
    Tech. AI. Artificial Intelligence. Frankenstein was a vision of how life might be created – the first non-human intelligence.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    May 1, 2019

    In Brexit Britain, transgender doctor Ry falls for brilliant professor Victor Stein, an AI expert, even as recently divorced Ron Lord hopes to make his fortune with the latest in sex dolls. Meanwhile, at a cryogenics facility in Arizona, dozens of medically and legally dead folks are about to reawaken. Only this is 1816, and young Mary Shelley is crafting the story of a powerful new life form. What, you expected straightforward narrative from the Whitbread, BAFTA, Rhys, and two-time Lambda Award winner?

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from August 1, 2019
    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.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from August 12, 2019
    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.

  • Carolyn Kellogg, The Los Angeles Times ""Frankissstein" is intellectually bracing and sexually explicit; a historical literary romp and a futuristic thriller. It, like its characters, rejects the binary."
  • Elena Sheppard, Los Angeles Review of Books "Spellbinding...artfully structured, unexpectedly funny, and impressively dynamic."
  • Guardian "[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."
  • Independent "Gleefully Gothic... Dazzling... Enjoyably audacious."
  • Sunday Express "Sparky, funny and finely calibrated to ask weighty questions with the lightest of touches, Frankissstein is romantic, unsettling and beautifully written."
  • Financial Times "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."
  • Observer "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."
  • The Times "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."
  • New Scientist "Highly inventive... Lyrical, gloriously raunchy, pulpy and absurd."
  • Daily Telegraph "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."
  • Margaret Atwood "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.)"
  • Benjamin Moser "Winterson might be the most expansive, the most ambitious, the most wide-ranging of all out lesbian writers."
  • Washington Post Book World Praise for Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
    "Arresting and suspenseful... Offers literary surprises and flashes of magnificent generosity and humor."
  • Vogue "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."
  • Boston Globe "One of the most entertaining and moving memoirs in recent memory... A marvelous gift of consolation and wisdom."
  • Elle "[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."
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Frankissstein
A Novel
Jeanette Winterson
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