Yes, I've read it before; but not since before Brian Aldiss declared it the first true science fiction novel. Young as I was then, I read it as a horror story, for gory thrills - of which it has a few, but not actually all that gory in their execution.
On this occasion, I had "science fiction" and "horror" both in the back of my mind, but read it, for the first time, as a novel in the narrowest sense.
Which - despite its framing story of Robert Walton's Arctic expedition - it truly is, a tale of character and the development of character. Not a _bildungsroman_, for it doesn't focus on "how Victor became the kind of man he is," but a novel of character; of, indeed, two characters, Victor and his creature.
Victor's tale is a classical tragedy, the story of how one man's "flaw" destroys him and those around him: but it is _not_ pride that brings about Victor's downfall. Nor is it scrupulosity at having done such a thing. Rather, it is a sort of squeamishness, which causes him to reject his creature as soon as it opens its yellow eyes, not because it is evil, but because it is ugly and (the word both Victor and the creature use most to describe it) misshapen. From his revulsion - or, rather, from his giving in to his revulsion - everything follows.
And the creature's story? Not a tragedy at all, though in the end it seeks its own destruction. Rather, it is a tale of hopes repeatedly dashed, a noble character perverted by others' reactions to it; indeed, a sort of dark _bildungsroman_. I have heard it called the story of a man without a God, but the creature does have a creator: Victor Frankenstein is its God, it has no other.
The creature is not only huge and hellishly strong. It is hellishly intelligent, intelligent enough to learn language, manners, and letters by watching a family through the chinks in a wall, undoubtedly more intelligent than its creator. And it has possession of Victor's notes. It could, it seems, make its own mate.
But it does not do so. Rather, it returns the notes to Victor, and demands that _he_ make it a mate. It will not usurp its God's prerogative, though it will dictate terms to God. "You are my creator, but I am your master. Obey!"
Much of religion (as it is practiced, not as it is meant to be) in a nutshell, that.
So God : Victor :: Victor : the creature. And, give Victor this, he does not blame his creator for his situation. (Does Victor _believe_ in a creator God? He at least pays lip service to one several times in the course of the novel, especially the early chapters.) He and the creature are both whiny, mopey sad sacks, but in this at least he excels the creature.
Okay, "whiny, mopey sad sacks" may be a bit much. They follow the standards of the romantic novel (the real romantic novel, not the modern romance), in which the hero is always tormented and misunderstood. If there was any doubt left by the author's hanging about with Shelley and Byron, it will be dispelled by the book from which the creature learns so much about the ways of Mankind: Goethe's "Sorrows of Young Werter," as Shelley spells it, the story of a man who commits suicide - as indeed the creature will do in the end.
It is, almost, tempting to impose existentialist values on _Frankenstein_, the inherent meaningless of blablablah, but that would be a chronological violence that I think the evidence won't support.
In the end, the book deserves its reputation, and does _not_ deserve what has been done to it by the movies. I remember seeing a TV mini-series called "Frankenstein the True Story," not long after I first read the book, and being terribly angry at it: but at that, it was no worse than anything Universal or Castle have done with Victor and his creature.