Just in time for Halloween here’s a traditional monster in a totally new format. Frank’s entered the 21st century via your cell phone… Beware. A great book for young adults and adult readers interested in breaking out of the traditional bounds of the novel.
Bekka Black has retold Frankenstein in the 21st century by text, email, tweet, and web browsers, primarily for a teen audience. Bekka Black is also Rebecca Cantrell, the adult-fiction author of the outstanding Hannah Vogel series set in Nazi Germany. She’s an excellent storyteller and it carries over into this highly unconventional book. If you’re interested in writing that breaks the traditional mold, this meets the bill. From my perspective, a middle-aged woman who is definitely not the intended audience, I found it an intriguing and successful experiment in creating fiction that will appeal to teenagers. While it took me a bit to get oriented and grabbed because I’m less accustomed to the abbreviations and set up of this online world, it won’t, I suspect, take a teenager ten seconds to get sucked in.
Victor Frankenstein, a teenage boy, programs a chat bot with all his online life so that the chat bot can carry on natural-sounding conversations and win for Victor the True Turing Prize he so covets. As in the original Frankenstein, a scientist (this time a young computer-scientist) is so focused on his work that he ignores the important human ties around him and this hubris blinds him to the danger inherent in his plans. Unfortunately, this cyber creation takes on more lifelike qualities than anticipated and some of the real humans may die if Victor doesn’t find a way to defeat his creation. Bekka Black has created a genuinely creepy new monster whom the reader can readily believe is not too far out of the bounds of our current reality and thus this cyber creature arouses some exciting fear—I’d call it page-turning, but in this e-world there’s no paper.
The parents in this book are mostly off-stage—adult readers may find them unbelievably cavalier in their childrearing—but it’s a necessary element to let the teenaged protagonists duke it out with their ever more powerful cyber foe. The teens are on their own for the most part. And, in the end, there’s a bit of redemption in the teen and parent relationship department.
Old legends in creative hands make for fun reading. There is something primevally satisfying about the tale of a member of humankind caught in the godlike act of trying to create a new life form.