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[Perspectives] Electric dreams

“It’s alive! It’s alive!” I suspect that, for the many people introduced to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by the 1931 James Whale movie, reading the original novel may have been an anticlimax. There are none of the showering sparks or electrical generating equipment with which Colin Clive’s obsessive doctor Frankenstein animates the lumpen, flat-headed creature played by Boris Karloff. Shelley passes over the mechanics of the fateful deed with cryptic brevity, and it is not even clear that electricity is the agent that jolts the creature into life.