(28) Chapter 5.

Britain’s new Lord Protector struggles to fit his agenda to the moment.

Even so, we lorded it over creation, wielding its elements in humanity’s service, believing ourselves to have mastered life and death.

From her description of the blast that Raymond sets off when he enters Istanbul’s deserted Old City on horseback, it’s clear that Mary Shelley had in mind something very close to what we’d recognize as an atomic bomb detonation. This one, from the 1953 Operation Upshot-Knothole tests in Nevada, is how I picture it.

Screen capture via YouTube

The same tests, I learn, also yielded the famous footage of pine trees that George Miller uses at the very start of my beloved Mad Max: Fury Road; which is how I picture the winds that open this chapter. What appears to happen in the novel, is that the Sultanahmet blast—aided by a dying woman’s curse—launches an unusually virulent strain of plague into the planet’s atmosphere; then (though some time later) four months of non-stop windstorms around the globe serve to send it where it hasn’t spread through terrestrial means. In this sense, the infection to come is literally the fallout from Raymond’s infidelity.

This is not what Mary Shelley says, however. Instead, she writes a great deal of fine prose which I have deleted without mercy. At the same time, this installment features an unusual number of editorial additions, which help to support an extremely prescient picture of life and the general character of politicians during a 21st century global pandemic. Here are the opening pages from the original edition, via Internet Archive:

Please add your thoughts: