Review of “iFrankenstein” by Bekka Black

Reading Bekka Black’s iDrakula changed my life.  It opened me to two whole new series of novels that are now my favorites.  Naturally, the minute I opened iFrankenstein, Black’s latest addition to her iMonsters series, two things happened: 1) I read her retelling of the classic in one sitting, my eyes glued to my PDF reader; 2) I became immediately fascinated by the world of Frankenstein and what the original novel represents as a whole.

iFrankenstein is uncommonly inventive and shrewd.  The minute I realized the author’s modern twist on the horrific creation by the young genius protagonist, I had to smile.  First, the author planted a fascinating idea in her novel, reminiscent of the thriller plot in the 2008 film Eagle Eye.  Victor Frankenstein is no longer a very young scientist in training in the midst of an eighteenth-century Swiss backdrop — he’s a teenage tech whiz on holiday with his parents, simultaneously developing a computerized, self-sufficient chat machine that’s alive only on the Internet.  Or so he thinks.  However, his electronic creation quickly becomes a technological terror that threatens the lives of his best friends Henry Clerval and Elizabeth Lavenza.  But how can you stop an out-of-control computer program from destroying your life?

The European cruise, with Iceland as its penultimate destination, cuts the story to a time period of about a week.  This is a suspenseful change, as Shelley’s tale spans nearly a decade.  Victor himself is an American tourist, Elizabeth is a close best friend, and Henry makes a bold comrade-in-arms.  The romantic twist is insightful, as is the reason for Henry’s special empathy for V.V.   Black’s main characters are very human and recognizable, their plight and family problems serving as a helpful, realistic standpoint in order to make the incredible a more plausible theory for today’s audience.

Unlike in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this Frankenstein monster has no feelings at all.  From the moment of its existence, there is absolutely no reason to even sympathize with this cold-blooded, “pure energy” mechanism.  The e-monster Frankenstein, “V.V.”, has no emotion — it is incapable of human sentiment.  Like the computer system in Eagle Eye, V.V. is unleashed for initially helpful purposes.  Unfortunately, the program’s creator unwisely ignores the possibility that an automated device could gain unbridled power over the dependence human society has on electronic communication.  The result is absolute chaos.  V.V. is a terrorist without a conscience or any morals, inflicting pain and selfish judgment on its creator purely because it has grown too strong and self-reliant as an online entity.  I had compassion for the monster’s neglect at the hands of Victor Frankenstein in the original, but Black makes the good and bad sides in her version of the story as clear as transparent glass.  Victor still has his faults, but the e-monster is never abandoned or rebuked; it simply turns into a vision of pure evil on its own, mercilessly wreaking havoc without any real motives for its newfound “hatred.”  Furthermore, the perplexing idea of creation and the responsibility surrounding such an act is, ironically, even more dangerous now (and deadlier) than Shelley ever imagined.  Especially the way this Frankenstein monster could be immortal as well.

Swift and determined, the plot of iFrankenstein has the power to completely capture your attention from the moment you scroll through the Interpol investigator’s mysterious preface until the novel’s even more mysterious ending.  All events are detailed by journalistic iPhone entries in the form of text messages, emails, and web browsing.  As a sequel to iDrakula, iFrankenstein proudly ups the artistic stakes (no pun intended) by including snapshots of selected paintings and quotes.  Just like with its iMonster predecessor, I had a thrilling time from beginning to finish with this visual roller coaster of dark, albeit scintillating amusement.

Natalie Gorna

[NOTE: An endless “thank you” to Ms. Rebecca Cantrell, a.k.a. Bekka Black, for sending me a special ARC e-book copy of iFrankenstein prior to its release — I was honored to be its first reader!]

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