Author Dave Morris has reworked Mary Shelley’s gothic horror novel, Frankenstein, for iOS. Frankenstein, for iPad and iPhone was designed and developed for iOS by Inkle and published by London-based independent publisher, Profile Books.
Frankenstein, for iPad and iPhone is a stunning achievement. Morris makes Frankenstein accessible to a new generation of readers, while playing with the way in which readers access narrative. Morris’ Frankenstein is simultaneously refined and experimental; I’ve never seen another app quite like it.
As the story unfolds the reader gets to ask Frankenstein (and eventually his monster) questions and make choices that direct the plot in small ways. I thought this approach might lend the story a gimmicky Choose Your Own Adventure feel, but I was surprised at how fun it was to read and add my opinion. A sample choice: Dr. Frankenstein hunts down recently guillotined “baskets full of human heads, as fresh as pork loins” (ugh!) in search of one head whose voice box remains intact. The reader then chooses to say, “Have some respect for the dead” or “Won’t the blade have destroyed the larynx?”
As my knowledge of Frankenstein is limited to Frankenberry cereal and multiple viewings of Young Frankenstein (it’s Frahn-ken-STEEN) with a dash of Boris Karloff and Looney Tunes‘s thrown in, I can’t comment on the liberties Morris takes with Shelley’s story. Any reader who wants to follow along with Shelley’s tale can do so right from within the app.
In a recent interview with Publisher’s Weekly, Inkle co-founder Joe Ingold called Morris’ version, “pretty faithful to the original, but with important points in the plot that are open to Rashomon-like interpretation.”
While there are certainly purists who will object to some of Morris’ specific choices, there are probably many more potential readers who will welcome the chance to travel along with Dr. Frankenstein and his monster. The app isn’t good simply because it’s a souped up digital version of the original. It’s great because it blends story and interface together into a seamless experience that effortlessly ensnares the reader.
The app includes 65 illustrations including detailed 16th century anatomical engravings, which definitely flesh out the reading experience (pardon the pun).
It is in our nature as humans to adapt and retell. Thanks to this aspect of our humanity Frankenstein shines its literary light on all of our race’s less laudable violent and ambitious impulses.
Publishers Weekly quotes Morris, “If Kindle books are the new paperbacks, book apps on tablets are the new hardbacks. That means they will need to be dressed up to look more like a premium purchase.” As an author Morris doesn’t just recast Shelley’s horror story in digital form, he provides a new (and potentially powerful) direction for literary adaptation. Where once tales lept from stage to screen and met a broader audience, the iPad provides a way for stories to move from print to iOS, bringing with them countless new ways to experience literature.
Download Frankenstein, for iPad and iPhone for the introductory price of $4.99.
What I liked: I could not put Frankenstein down. The text was particularly moving. I’m grateful the author included Shelley’s text in the app as well.
What I didn’t like: I would have loved to be able to bookmark a place in the story, to highlight, or to be able to go backwards in the story, as one might when reading a typical e-book, but the UI doesn’t allow those functions.
To buy or not to buy: Especially at its low introductory price, Frankenstein, for iPad and iPhone is a must-own title. The app’s story, UI, art, and extras make it the complete package for any reader who values innovation and entertainment in literary apps.
- App Name: Frankenstein, for iPad and iPhone
- Version Reviewed: 1.0.5
- Category: Books
- Developer: Dave Morris, inkle Ltd.
- Price: $4.99