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The Mortal Immortal: The Complete Supernatural Short Fiction of Mary Shelley

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This vibrant collection contains all five of Mary Shelley's supernatural stories, and sheds much needed light on an author often credited with writing the first science fiction novel. Here you will find the secrets of eternal youth, souls that exchange bodies, and ancient Englishmen and Romans newly thawed out of ice. In addition to several stories by Mary Shelley, this vo This vibrant collection contains all five of Mary Shelley's supernatural stories, and sheds much needed light on an author often credited with writing the first science fiction novel. Here you will find the secrets of eternal youth, souls that exchange bodies, and ancient Englishmen and Romans newly thawed out of ice. In addition to several stories by Mary Shelley, this volume also features a brand new story by renowned science fiction author Michael Bishop, which serves as a narrative introduction for this collection. Mary Shelley's considerable reputation rests squarely on the shoulders of her one great novel - Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, published anonymously in 1818 and revised under her own byline in 1831. Her powerful tale of blasphemous creation is perhaps more familiar to modern readers through its many film adaptations as it is from the book itself. From Boris Karloff's electrifying performance as Frankenstein to Kenneth Branaugh's latest directorial rendering, the story has received numerous interpretations which have renewed interest in the book time and time again. However, Shelley's other works have not fared as well as Frankenstein. She wrote just a handful of novels, of which only The Last Man (1826) has remained sporadically in print. A precursor to such disaster novels as George R. Stewart's Earth Abides and Richard Jeffries' After London, The Last Man follows its protagonist Lionel Verney through a distant future world which has been depopulated by plague. The shorter works of Mary Shelley have remained difficult to find. During her lifetime, she published just over two-dozen stories, only three of which were of interest to readers of science fiction and fantasy. In addition to these three supernaturally-themed stories, two additional stories were published after Shelley's death. "Roger Dodsworth: The Reanimated Englishman," was printed in a volume of reminisces by a magazine editor who had commissioned the story thirty years earlier. "Valerius: The Reanimated Roman," a story in a similar vein to "Roger Dodsworth," remained unpublished until 1976, when both stories were discovered by Charles E. Robinson, a Shelley scholar and professor of English at the University of Delaware. Contents "The Unexpected Visit of a Reanimated Englishwoman": Introduction by Michael Bishop "The Mortal Immortal: A Tale" "Transformation" "Roger Dodsworth: The Reanimated Englishman" "The Dream" "Valerius: The Reanimated Roman"


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This vibrant collection contains all five of Mary Shelley's supernatural stories, and sheds much needed light on an author often credited with writing the first science fiction novel. Here you will find the secrets of eternal youth, souls that exchange bodies, and ancient Englishmen and Romans newly thawed out of ice. In addition to several stories by Mary Shelley, this vo This vibrant collection contains all five of Mary Shelley's supernatural stories, and sheds much needed light on an author often credited with writing the first science fiction novel. Here you will find the secrets of eternal youth, souls that exchange bodies, and ancient Englishmen and Romans newly thawed out of ice. In addition to several stories by Mary Shelley, this volume also features a brand new story by renowned science fiction author Michael Bishop, which serves as a narrative introduction for this collection. Mary Shelley's considerable reputation rests squarely on the shoulders of her one great novel - Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, published anonymously in 1818 and revised under her own byline in 1831. Her powerful tale of blasphemous creation is perhaps more familiar to modern readers through its many film adaptations as it is from the book itself. From Boris Karloff's electrifying performance as Frankenstein to Kenneth Branaugh's latest directorial rendering, the story has received numerous interpretations which have renewed interest in the book time and time again. However, Shelley's other works have not fared as well as Frankenstein. She wrote just a handful of novels, of which only The Last Man (1826) has remained sporadically in print. A precursor to such disaster novels as George R. Stewart's Earth Abides and Richard Jeffries' After London, The Last Man follows its protagonist Lionel Verney through a distant future world which has been depopulated by plague. The shorter works of Mary Shelley have remained difficult to find. During her lifetime, she published just over two-dozen stories, only three of which were of interest to readers of science fiction and fantasy. In addition to these three supernaturally-themed stories, two additional stories were published after Shelley's death. "Roger Dodsworth: The Reanimated Englishman," was printed in a volume of reminisces by a magazine editor who had commissioned the story thirty years earlier. "Valerius: The Reanimated Roman," a story in a similar vein to "Roger Dodsworth," remained unpublished until 1976, when both stories were discovered by Charles E. Robinson, a Shelley scholar and professor of English at the University of Delaware. Contents "The Unexpected Visit of a Reanimated Englishwoman": Introduction by Michael Bishop "The Mortal Immortal: A Tale" "Transformation" "Roger Dodsworth: The Reanimated Englishman" "The Dream" "Valerius: The Reanimated Roman"

30 review for The Mortal Immortal: The Complete Supernatural Short Fiction of Mary Shelley

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra-X

    This was a long meditation on immortality. It was beautifully written but sketchy, very few areas of the problems and advantages of living for all eternity in a mortal world were covered. Essentially, it came down to a concentration on three. Firstly, the suspicion of other people that the 'mortal immortal', the alchemist's assistant, had made a bargain with the devil or otherwise involved himself in ungodly works and his consequent pariah status. Secondly, the effects his youthful good looks an This was a long meditation on immortality. It was beautifully written but sketchy, very few areas of the problems and advantages of living for all eternity in a mortal world were covered. Essentially, it came down to a concentration on three. Firstly, the suspicion of other people that the 'mortal immortal', the alchemist's assistant, had made a bargain with the devil or otherwise involved himself in ungodly works and his consequent pariah status. Secondly, the effects his youthful good looks and vigour had on his wife, as she aged and his sneering attitude of her attempts to look and act younger and retain some vestige of her once-enchanting beauty. Lastly, the fact his life had no meaning, he hadn't found anything to make his life's work. He wasn't religious, so he didn't have the balm of faith to soothe his soul but faced up to the reality that he might be immortal and this daily grind would just go on forever without possibility of rest. He sought death. But he was too much a coward to try and kill himself, and so the story ends with him planning some feat that no mortal, he said, could survive, for sometime in the next twelve months. In other words, attempted suicide, but clothed as a challenge to answer his constant question - did this very long life have an end or was he truly immortal? This was a novella, quite short and it lacked substance, but in a way that was clever because it provided the bones of a meditation, with the reader to flesh it out with more of their own ideas. Thought-provoking. 4 star. It's too imperfect for a 5, but it had that kind of effect on me. I'm still thinking of it and rewriting this review days later.

  2. 4 out of 5

    ✨Sumi's Books✨

    Sad... What would you do if you had unknowingly taken an elixir to make you immortal? This is what our main character poses the question of. Working under the alchemist professor Cornelius Agrippa he stumbles upon a work of his in person form that the professor states will cure him of his infatuation with love. And after drinking half of the elixir our main character finds out that it does so much more. I can't imagine how it would be in the beginning stages of immortality. To stay young while ever Sad... What would you do if you had unknowingly taken an elixir to make you immortal? This is what our main character poses the question of. Working under the alchemist professor Cornelius Agrippa he stumbles upon a work of his in person form that the professor states will cure him of his infatuation with love. And after drinking half of the elixir our main character finds out that it does so much more. I can't imagine how it would be in the beginning stages of immortality. To stay young while everyone around you grows old and eventually dies. I can't imagine watching loved ones or even my husband in a situation like that. I guess death isn't for everyone but it is something that everyone must face. This uncanny and beautiful writing style comes straight to you from the notorious Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and, as I stated about her beloved Frankenstein novel, this one is simply a classic. Highly recommend.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Quirkyreader

    If you had the chance to be like Methuselah, would you take it?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    I like Shelley's style. At the end I kind of thought the character was being a melodramatic crybaby, but then I guess I don't know what it's like to lose a lover and keep living without hope of an afterlife. I kind of thought, stop bitching and kill yourself if it's that bad. Get over it. I liked the style though.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ken B

    The narrator recounts and questions his immortality, a gift bestowed on him through alchemy. A FANTASTIC SHORT STORY! 5 STARS

  6. 4 out of 5

    K. Anna Kraft

    I have arranged my thoughts into a haiku: "A sad truth of love: It cannot survive envy, Nor mismatched power."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michael Adams

    A good story, but brief, it’s a thumbnail sketch as opposed to a portrait. Still important as an early work SF, but not as well delineated as Frankenstein.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty Noah-whitlock

    Lacked substance. Couldn't get to grips with the story. Unfortunately rated 1/5 (Did not finish)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Hans

    I am impressed by Mary Shelley's prose and feel an urge to read more of her works. This one is about how immortality may be a curse rather than a blessing. To be trapped in life forever watching the ones we love die with envy of our situation. The tormented soul that yearns to leave this life. This has made me think on my grandmother who has made frequent remarks about how she eagerly awaits death. I never thought anyone capable of wishing their own death and so I was stunned. Can life ever truly I am impressed by Mary Shelley's prose and feel an urge to read more of her works. This one is about how immortality may be a curse rather than a blessing. To be trapped in life forever watching the ones we love die with envy of our situation. The tormented soul that yearns to leave this life. This has made me think on my grandmother who has made frequent remarks about how she eagerly awaits death. I never thought anyone capable of wishing their own death and so I was stunned. Can life ever truly be tiring? I suppose so.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Hasselhh

    I've loved Mary Shelley ever since I started reading Frankenstein, and this shot story just once again shows her great tallent! There is so much to this story that it stays with you long after you are done reading the few pages. I've loved Mary Shelley ever since I started reading Frankenstein, and this shot story just once again shows her great tallent! There is so much to this story that it stays with you long after you are done reading the few pages.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Reixel Soy Yo

    Short and easy to read, the 303 years old protagonist is a disciple of Cornelius Agrippa, the alchemist. After drinking a potion from his master, thinking that it would make him forget his love to Bertha, after Cornelius death he discovers the truth: what he drank was the elixir of immortality. A sad story about love and the reflections about immortality.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    Well that was short. And I honestly wanted more.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kike Ramos

    Español / English Historias cortas de Mary Shelley. Yo dividiría estas historias en dos tipos: las que tienen que ver con algún evento sobrenatural y las que son sobre algún amor entre jovenes. Las primeras son excelentes. Se nota el ambiente gótico con lugares apartados, movimientos en la noche a través de capillas, o experimentos en lugares apartados. El romanticismo permea toda la obra, con enfasis en la soledad, la belleza de la noche y la melancolia ante la muerte. Son cuentos sublimes y muy Español / English Historias cortas de Mary Shelley. Yo dividiría estas historias en dos tipos: las que tienen que ver con algún evento sobrenatural y las que son sobre algún amor entre jovenes. Las primeras son excelentes. Se nota el ambiente gótico con lugares apartados, movimientos en la noche a través de capillas, o experimentos en lugares apartados. El romanticismo permea toda la obra, con enfasis en la soledad, la belleza de la noche y la melancolia ante la muerte. Son cuentos sublimes y muy buenos. Pero los otros... meeh. Me harté de leer siempre sobre el mismo personaje, o al menos así se sentía. Un hombre guapo, atractivo, atlético, caballeroso, valiente, blah blah blah que se enamora de la mujer guapa, hermosa, bella, un angel, que espera a su valiente hombre y blah blah blah terriblemente aburrido. Ese par de historias me las salté. Leí una o dos de ese tipo, pero las demás no las toleré. Un gran libro de una autora increible. Lástima que me aburrieron algunas. Sin embargo, lo tomé de la biblioteca por la idea que tengo de Shelley como escritora gótica y no me voy decepcionado en ese sentido. ________ A bunch of short stories written by Mary Shelley. I would say that there are 2 types of stories here: The ones that are about some supernatural event and the ones that deal with a romance. The first type ones are amazing. You can feel the gothic influence in the set ups at a chapel during the night, in experiments at an isolated house, or just the dark night. The romanticism movement it's everywhere in the book, but in these stories it focuses on solitude, nights beauty and being melancholic about death. Amazing short stories. Aaaand in the other hand you have the romance ones that are just meeh. I got tired of reading about the same character over and over again. All the main characters were a young, hot, strong, athletic, handsome, courageous blah blah man that falls in love with the beautiful, cute, pretty, lonely blah blah girl that is just waiting for him. ugh. I read one or two like this, but I skipped the rest. An amazing book by an amazing author. Such a shame that I hated some of the stories. Nevertheless, I borrowed it from the library because of the idea I had about Shelley as a gothic author, and my expectations in that matter were reached.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Iqra Tasmiae

    It sounded so much like Dorian Gray. Maybe that Dorian Gray was inspired from this I can't say, but Dorian yet had a hope, whilst this, just hoping for hope and none seems practically visible apart, yes, the gray hair. (Once again the 'gray')! But one thing is for sure. The growth of the writer is discernible. She has almost mastered the art. Apart that, another thing analysed is the style of writing. At places the words have something ringing about them, for example in the fourteenth passage- 'ey It sounded so much like Dorian Gray. Maybe that Dorian Gray was inspired from this I can't say, but Dorian yet had a hope, whilst this, just hoping for hope and none seems practically visible apart, yes, the gray hair. (Once again the 'gray')! But one thing is for sure. The growth of the writer is discernible. She has almost mastered the art. Apart that, another thing analysed is the style of writing. At places the words have something ringing about them, for example in the fourteenth passage- 'eyelids' and 'sesnses'. It's not poetry of course but it sounds poetic, which I think adds to the spookiness of the text (like whenever a ghost or any supernatural being enters the scene, we have these strange sounds). Thus instead of it being a downright prose, it is somewhat deviated to poetry, giving the text and the style a peculiar nature varied from the stories of common folks that we come across usually. Another interesting aspect about the text is the 'relationship'. There was a time when Bertha scorned Winzy for the lack of his accomplishments, be it in terms of money or a depressed temper. But later when the same person is in a better state, healthy and high spirited, the same Bertha is again jealous. But Winzy's love is consistent, but coincidentally, so is his age, which despite of his steady loyalty, becomes a reason of dispute between the couple. So much is this tendency impressed in their relation by the author, that one really begins to be suspicious of Bertha. Whether if her avowal of love at last was not merely an impulse of the moment, for which she later on regrets. Although the same author, by means of Winzy, does mark out that Bertha did honestly love him- "I verily believe that the poor soul loved me truly in her heart"- this expression seems more to show that the beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder than the beauty really being the beauty. It is quite evident that Winzy is bearing on with Bertha, may be out of real fondness, but the fact of the matter is that their marriage has lost its charm, which the wife is continually trying to reinvent by "a thousand feminine arts". Bertha actually lacks that intellect to perceive love in ones soul rather than ones flesh.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andy Hickman

    Mary Shelley’s THE MORTAL IMMORTAL Intriguing and somewhat beguiling. I love the premise as an inversion of our fear of death, only to highlight the darker side of living eternally. **** My favourite lines are: “.. she often visited the cottage of my father, and when forbidden to go thither, she would stray toward the neighboring wood, and meet me beside its shady fountain.” (p33) “Death! mysterious, ill-visaged friend of weak humanity! Why alone of all mortals have you cast me from your sheltering Mary Shelley’s THE MORTAL IMMORTAL Intriguing and somewhat beguiling. I love the premise as an inversion of our fear of death, only to highlight the darker side of living eternally. **** My favourite lines are: “.. she often visited the cottage of my father, and when forbidden to go thither, she would stray toward the neighboring wood, and meet me beside its shady fountain.” (p33) “Death! mysterious, ill-visaged friend of weak humanity! Why alone of all mortals have you cast me from your sheltering fold? Oh, for the peace of the grave! the deep silence of the iron-bound tomb! that thought would cease to work in my brain, and my heart beat no more with emotions varied only by new forms of sadness!”  “And the more I live, the more I dread death, even while I abhor life. Such an enigma is man -- born to perish -- when he wars, as I do, against the established laws of his nature.” “(...) but, oh! the weight of never-ending time—the tedious passage of the still-succeeding hours!” “Sometimes I fancy age advancing upon me. One grey hair I have found. Fool! do I lament? Yes, the fear of age and death often creeps coldly into my heart; and the more I live, the more I dread death, even while I abhor life.” …. The story opens with: JULY 16, 1833. --This is a memorable anniversary for me; on it I complete my three hundred and twenty-third year! The Wandering Jew?--certainly not. More than eighteen centuries have passed over his head. In comparison with him, I am a very young Immortal. Am I, then, immortal? This is a question which I have asked myself, by day and night, for now three hundred and three years, and yet cannot answer it. I detected a gray hair amidst my brown locks this very day-- that surely signifies decay. Yet it may have remained concealed there for three hundred years--for some persons have become entirely white headed before twenty years of age. I will tell my story, and my reader shall judge for me. I will tell my story, and so contrive to pass some few hours of a long eternity, become so wearisome to me. For ever! Can it be? to live for ever! ….............................

  16. 5 out of 5

    Thabata

    My first venture reading Mary Shelly was this. all that I read about her writings seems instigating and inventive, specially for that period of time, specially for her being a woman. I suppressed my prejudices against her as a person (which I dislike) to focus on her talents as a writer. She has a talent bestowed upon her quill – undoubtful. Nevertheless, it bothered me immensely seeing traces of her own personality ingrained in this characters. I might be wrong to her true nature, but from what My first venture reading Mary Shelly was this. all that I read about her writings seems instigating and inventive, specially for that period of time, specially for her being a woman. I suppressed my prejudices against her as a person (which I dislike) to focus on her talents as a writer. She has a talent bestowed upon her quill – undoubtful. Nevertheless, it bothered me immensely seeing traces of her own personality ingrained in this characters. I might be wrong to her true nature, but from what I read, this upset me a great deal. The iconic traces of science and fiction, curses and disrupted love are present in this narrative. The main character, who has “lived on for many a year—alone, and weary of myself—desirous of death, yet never dying—a mortal immortal”, is somewhat pathetic in his existence. He is feeble, stupid on the verge of idiotic, manipulated on his firs years by an unscrupulous woman, whom just so happens to become his wife. It makes one wonder what type of a man he really is if he endures and loves Bertha, selfish, arrogant, conceited (add here many more depreciative adjectives to your liking). Some tend to hate and blame only the counterpart. I dare say what is obvious: he is even worst than she. Inventive a story? Yes. But the characters are so distasteful as humans (though a perfect example of many around), it leaves the reader tired, if not disappointed.

  17. 5 out of 5

    PollyAnna Joy

    Mary Shelley was pure genius. Say what you will about Percy being the better writer--and maybe he was a better poet, but I have always and will always love Mary's works more. "The Mortal Immortal" is a fun read--even though it isn't FRANKENSTEIN. I love teaching FRANKENSTEIN, but since it isn't in our textbook, I have used Mary's masterpiece, "The Mortal Immortal." It's certainly worth a look-see (reading, in other words) if you've never read it. It brings to mind several questions, two which st Mary Shelley was pure genius. Say what you will about Percy being the better writer--and maybe he was a better poet, but I have always and will always love Mary's works more. "The Mortal Immortal" is a fun read--even though it isn't FRANKENSTEIN. I love teaching FRANKENSTEIN, but since it isn't in our textbook, I have used Mary's masterpiece, "The Mortal Immortal." It's certainly worth a look-see (reading, in other words) if you've never read it. It brings to mind several questions, two which stand out more than others: 1. Can someone who is immortal be only half immortal? And what exactly does "half" immortal mean?! 2. Is suicide a sin--especially for someone in Winzy's situation--where he has been alive for more than 300 years and he just wants to die like everyone else? Difficult to answer, but certainly fun to discuss in a classroom setting. If you haven't read "The Mortal Immortal," you're really missing out! It's copyright is out of date, so just do a search to find the whole text available online!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bethany Sterling

    As "Frankenstein" has long been one the most profound and inspiring books I've ever read, I've been meaning to read more works by Mary Shelley. From the first page, the author's wit and command of language is evident. Apart from the pop culture surrounding "Frankenstein," I think Mary Shelley is far under-recognized for her contributions as a writer and thinker. She materialized a number of tropes common in fantasy literature today, and immortality/the elixir of life in this case is one of them. As "Frankenstein" has long been one the most profound and inspiring books I've ever read, I've been meaning to read more works by Mary Shelley. From the first page, the author's wit and command of language is evident. Apart from the pop culture surrounding "Frankenstein," I think Mary Shelley is far under-recognized for her contributions as a writer and thinker. She materialized a number of tropes common in fantasy literature today, and immortality/the elixir of life in this case is one of them. The story is in first person, and has a fairy tale-like feel to the narrative. Towards the end, it delves into much deeper existential questions. The ending (arguably the most important part of any good fiction piece) is what gives this work its true beauty. It explores the themes of loss, sorrow, love, courage, and the suggestion that sacrifice for the betterment of humanity is the only noble sacrifice. These were, of course, prominent themes in her life, and in the world view of the romantics at the time. Such a brilliant woman. I look forward to reading more of her works.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Colin Gerber

    The Mortal Immortal is a short read that is well worth your time. This short story by the "father" of science fiction is a great take on what it means to be immortal. She poses so very interesting ideas and you almost forget you are reading a book that was written in 1834.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Wright

    I read the version on Wikisource. Shelly appears to have come up with a good idea for a short story on the theme of mortality/immortality, but couldn't think of a good way to end it, so it felt like a bit of a let down. I read the version on Wikisource. Shelly appears to have come up with a good idea for a short story on the theme of mortality/immortality, but couldn't think of a good way to end it, so it felt like a bit of a let down.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The Frankenstein author's fantastical tale explores man's fascination with eternal life and elixirs. Read by Shaun Dooley. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007jw60 The Frankenstein author's fantastical tale explores man's fascination with eternal life and elixirs. Read by Shaun Dooley. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007jw60

  22. 5 out of 5

    Noor

    Short and intriguing. Makes you ask yourself questions about mortality, is it really such a bad thing?

  23. 4 out of 5

    Italo S.

    I really liked this story! It was one of my favorite reads of 2015!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sireen Sammour

    It makes you dive deep in several striking thoughts of your life asking the same question: what if we really had the opportunity to live for everything?

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kat Rocha

    Though not as engaging as her famous Frankenstein, this book does have a place on the shelf of early science fiction.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maggie

    more fun and entertaining storytelling from narrator bj harrison ... and a fun, engaging, horror story from ms. shelley 2nd reading july 2020

  27. 4 out of 5

    James

    A really fun book to read. Really enjoyed it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stacey (bookishpursuit)

    3.25-3.5 Beautiful language in this Shelley short about immortality.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    It was incredibly depressing LOL but I might do a review on this if anyone is interested?

  30. 5 out of 5

    Naomi Rae

    Short story I read for my college class. I did enjoy the plot and themes but the way it was written (because of when it was written) made it a little less interesting for me

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