When we saw 500 Clown Frankenstein last month, the Clowns used the text of the novel in a rather physical fashion. It made me realize that I had never read the original novel. So thanks to Dover Thrift Editions I soon had a copy for $2 (if you can stand to read on a PDA or computer screen, the novel is available for free from Project Gutenberg).
There are, as you might expect, a ton of differences between the original story and the Universal Studios movies that are most people's source for the Frankenstein story. And of course, it's the product of a different era. But I have to say that Victor Frankenstein's passivity and whininess drove me crazy.
I was impressed by one authorial trick -- the novel is narrated by a British explorer who is writing letters to his sister relating the stories that Victor Frankenstein is telling him (think about the layers of meta there for a second) and Frankenstein never actually says how he built a person. Since it turned out to be such a mistake, he doesn't want anyone else to try, he says. But it's a delightful bit of hand-waving that prevents Mary Shelley from having to explain how it actually would work. (Unlike the movies, there doesn't seem to be any electricity or dead bodies involved, though. He just builds a man from scratch. Interestingly, after he's already built a working man he needs to go consult some English scientists when he's trying to build a woman -- evidently lady parts are different.)