Beyond Prometheus: Reading the Other Works of Mary Shelley

Frankenstein
Manuscript of Frankenstein (Vol. 2, Chapter 1)

Two hundred years ago, in the Cologny manor known as the Villa Diodati, five young Romantics gathered for a summer so rare and beautiful that it has transcended the ages from literary anecdote into pop culture lore. Full of sex, drugs, and the nineteenth century equivalent of rock and roll, the discussions and adventures experienced by Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Dr. John Polidori, and Claire Clairmont during the summer of 1816 lead to the creation of two literary legends, Polidori’s The Vampyre and of course, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

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Radio Drama: "Revenge" (1948)

1950-The-Cossacks-of-Kuban-by-Zelenskiy-B.-A.

"Revenge" first aired June 4, 1948, on The Haunting Hour.

Thoughts Before Listening

So this time I thought I would choose a radio drama with a really boring title. And I can’t think of a more boring title than ‘Revenge’. Except possibly ‘Vengeance’. Or ‘The Revenge of Vengeance’. Anyway.

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Phil Tucker's The Path of Flames (2016)

Path of FlamesThe Path of Flames knows how to start with a bang. Or in this case, a cavalry charge.

Thousands of knights, the finest in the land, are pelting madly up a hill. For added excitement, they're preceded by a wave of half-tame ogrish monsters, their shock troops. The defenders, dark wizards amongst them, rain black fire down on their attackers. The attacking line breaks, and the battle dissolves into chaos and slaughter.

Caught in the middle? Asho, a humble squire, who, over the course of a few (very) busy pages suddenly finds himself back-to-back with some of the most decorated knights in the realm. His heroism in the first few chapters brings him unexpected rewards - and exposes him to dangerous secrets.

Asho's is merely one point of view in this cinderblock-sized epic. He returns from the front to Kyferin Castle, to serve the widow of his fallen lord. Iskra's relationship with her belligerent (and now deceased) husband was always strained, but ruling the Castle and its lands is a hefty challenge. The other, rapacious lords are circling, and with the war in the background, Iskra is left with nowhere to turn for help.

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Josiah Bancroft's Senlin Ascends (2013)

Senlin AscendsSenlin is the headmaster of a one-room schoolhouse in a small town. He's spent his life teaching children all the basics of the world, without ever really experiencing it himself. When, almost despite himself, he marries the capricious Marya, they agree to expand their horizons with one great big adventure. Senlin calculates his budget, buys the tickets, studies the guidebook and the two head off to the greatest wonder of the world: The Tower of Babel.

Once at the Tower, however, Senlin finds that all his learning is for naught. The guidebook seems, at best, misleading, and the Tower and its outskirts are far more chaotic and more dangerous than he ever expected. And, worst of all, Marya goes missing. One moment she's there, the next, she's gone. Senlin's too disciplined to panic, so he goes about his search in an orderly way - only to discover that the Tower of Babel is not an orderly place.

Senlin's quest takes him up through the Tower, encountering rogues and bureaucrats, petty lords and magically-enhanced assassins. There's a floor that's completely devoted to a single, mediocre one-act play. There's another overrun by giant snails and mechanical beer fountains. Yet another is devoted to Bourgeois leisure - all hot baths, fine wine and poor sea-side art, until you run out of money... Each new region of the Tower is a kingdom unto itself, with new laws, a new culture, new friends, new foes and an infinity of obstacles. 

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