Or, as I more affectionately think of it, the reason I no longer trust chat bots. Thanks for that, Bekka.
Who remembers this review? iDrakula sparked some interesting conversation at the time. Did retelling this classic horror story through text messages and e-mails somehow lessen the importance of the original? Some said that it was “dumbing down” the language and making it easy for this generation to ignore the classic story, while I maintain that the format sparked a greater interest in the original. That being said, Bekka Black did not stop with vampires. She took on Shelley’s Frankenstein.
For those unaware, the basic premise of Frankenstein written by Mary Shelley is that a scientist creates life, is frightened of his creation, and then becomes at odds with the monster. There’s a lot more to it, like murder, obsession, and love– but I think for one sentence I’ve captured the plot well enough for you to get the idea. Moving on.
iFrankenstein takes the 1830’s story and launches it into the 21st century. It is told through text messages, e-mails, and even web sites. I find this to be perfect given that its inspiration was written as an epistolary novel (written in letters). It’s a wonderful nod to the original story. Victor Frankenstein is a brilliant young man who is stuck on a cruise with his father, his best friend’s mother, and Elizabeth. Too bad he’s too connected to realize that she’s there half the time. The focus of his online obsession is his chatbot project. If he can create a chatbot that can pass the Turing Test (respond in a way that a human would be unable to tell that it is talking to a robot), he will win a scholarship and be off to college a year early. This will mean his freedom. However, his brilliance runs away with him and the chatbot, Virtual Victor, is a little smarter than he realized.
The story is absolutely thrilling and gripping. I devoured it in one sitting. There is something captivating about reading conversations between strangers. You’re looking in on their lives and learning about them without pages of exposition. The great thing is that Black uses all of Shelley’s characters in one way or another, though she changed how they relate to each other.
True to Shelley, iFrankenstein contains the right amount of horror and science fiction. It is absolutely terrifying what a computer can do when it becomes smarter than it was programmed to be. It makes me so happy I don’t have the iPhone 4S or 5; Siri would haunt my dreams after reading this.
On the downside, I felt that it ran a little short. I wish there had been a bit more. There was not as much interaction as I expected. There was one clickable link in my Kindle version of the book, which was the coolest thing. I loved being able to click on that link and see what the characters are seeing. I wish there had been either more websites we could visit, a web cam feed we could spy on, something more to do while we read. This was a book that was very much about the digital age and it was not quite utilized to its fullest potential. Hopefully the iFrankenstein app for Apple will debunk what I’ve just said. Unfortunately, we won’t find out till Christmas.
Overall, I definitely recommend this book. I feel it will inspire you to read the original if you haven’t already, and will totally change how you feel about technology and our dependance on it. Check out Bekka Black here and leave her some love.