This is a very good new novel, and more to the point I think it would likely be enjoyed by many of you all who participate on this site.
In a way, it’s a retelling of Frankenstein, and so it revisits a lot of the same themes that that novel does: immortality, hubris, death, revenge, emotional connections, and the relationship between creation and creator, both as it relates to life and people, but also especially art.
We find ourselves in two primary storylines, and with some flashback here and there as well. Because of the retelling part, and because of the two timelines, and because of the connections between creator and creation, and heck, because one of the characters in the novel is Percy Shelley, this is a novel about doubling.
We start with Mary Shelly as narrator moving toward, both physically and chronologically, toward the fateful weekend in which she, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, Polydori, and Mary’s step-sister Claire, will meet in Geneva and write their stories. We learn a lot about the various love connections, the drinking, the embodiment of life through bodily function, eating, sex, and proximity among the group. We also learn about their sense of metaphysics and life itself. And then we begin to learn more and more about their various creative processes, and long past the weekend, we learn about their various respective fates.
Interspersed throughout this is our second, beginning at an AI and technology conference, circling back, and then forward and we meet the various contemporary counterparts of these different figures: Ry (short for Mary) our narrator, a trans man who is a research scientist, Dr. Stein, Polly D, Claire (both a real life cultural conservative and also the name of a sexbot), Ron Lord. These different figures begin their own kind of weekend discussing sex, gender, bodies, robotics, and AI, and of course creation.
It’s wonky and odd at times, and there’s almost zero anchor to the world, so the prose flits around in space, mirroring in some ways the anti-corporeality the novel discusses throughout.