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BY JEANETTE WINTERSON
Is this our future? In Jeanette Winterson’s extraordinary, brilliantly written futuristic book, Frankissstein – you definitely think so. Here Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the monster – can we be usurped by it and can you imagine a life without your body? Can love in the future take on different forms?
Winterson begins with a historical setting, when we join Mary Shelley at the famous weekend she spent in a villa by Lake Geneva with her future husband, the poet Shelley; Lord Byron who was in a relationship with her half-sister Claire and the physician Polidori. Winterson imagines the wonderful conversations that could have taken place between these literary intellectuals. Set against this backdrop where the rain is relentless, Mary, aged only 19 at the time, starts to write and flesh out her own creation of a non-human character what we now treasure as Frankenstein.
Then we are transported to Brexit Britain. Mary is Ry Shelley, a trans-doctor. Victor Stein is a Professor who is doing pioneering work on Artificial Intelligence. Victor falls in love with Ry because he is transfixed by his transsexuality. Ry is in love with Victor because he is a mad genius who pushes boundaries.
Ron Lord, is a Welsh opportunist who invests in Victor’s business. After a failed marriage Ron is using modern technology to rid the world of the inconveniences of troubled relationships. He mass produces sexbots, robot sex dolls who are loyal, always present and do what is asked of them. For Ron the perfect relationship involves no human interaction. He has a surprising ally in Claire, an American evangelist who goes where opportunity takes her.
The book takes us on a journey from Switzerland to Arizona and finally back to Britain, ultimately asking the question – can we be brought back to life? The narrative dips slightly by the half way point - so many ideas are thrown into the narrative. Overall, however, everyone in the Den thought this was a mind-boggling and powerful read. Raising plenty of discussion points, not only about AI and technology, but also gender and new ideas about love - it a topical choice for book clubs looking for an 'of the moment' novel.
Den tip: We read Murmur in the Den a couple of months ago and this book compliments this read very well.
- for people who love books -