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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

iFrankenstein, by Bekka Black

Homeschooled teenager Victor Frankenstein is determined to write his own ticket to independence: a chatbot to win the prestigious Turing prize and admission to the high tech university of his choice. He codes his creation with a self-extending version of his own online personality and unleashes it upon the internet. But soon he begins to suspect his virtual clone may have developed its own goals, and they are not aligned with Victor’s. The creature has its own plan, fed by a growing desire to win darker and more precious prizes: unfettered power and release from loneliness.

As the creature’s power and sentience grows and its increasingly terrible deeds bleed over from the online world into the real one, Victor must stop his creation before his friends and humanity pay the ultimate price.

Using only text messages, web browsers, tweets, and emails, Bekka Black tells an awesome story. 

The "monster" isn't pieced together from recycled (read "stolen") body parts, but from "recycled" awareness and conversations. While the world is clamoring for artificial "intelligence" that evolves it's own thought processes, I think we all fear that the computer is going to go a little "HAL9000" on us. Black's monster is creepy, super creepy, and not too far removed from what is currently possible with technology. 

It helps if you have even a little prior knowledge about the original story line, so that you grasp the monster concept and catch how masterfully he's been brought into the 21st century. I have secretly been glad that I haven't found a re-mastered Frankenstein that does Mary Shelley's justice. That being said, I think Black appropriately brings Shelley's idea to modern life very well. I could easily see comparing the 2 pieces in order to demonstrate that literature themes are timeless. And Black's done a nice job of mirroring the horror/sci-fi mix from Shelley's novel.

It's a highly unconventional mode (format?) for storytelling, but it's what our YAs know. And while I was a little afraid it would be choppy and difficult to follow, it wasn't at all. Highly readable, and frankly--these are brainy kids who don't use text-speak, so that helps. They text the way us English majors do, with correct spellings and punctuation.

It's captivating...I read it (twice) in one sitting. That second time was because I thought I'd missed some foreshadowing of the end (I didn''s just that darn creepy.)

I realize the HAL9000 reference is one my younger readers may not get---come talk to me, it's time you met Arthur C. Clarke.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book as an ARC from JKSCommunications in connection with their hosted blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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This work is licensed by Jennifer Turney under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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