Mary Shelley’s classic rewritten and retooled, with an appealing gothic-style interface and ingeniously immersive format.
Metaphorically speaking, Frankenstein is a perfect novel for an app treatment: Like the novel’s monster, Dave Morris’ rewrite is a brand-new creature assembled from vintage parts. The interface is anchored by archival illustrations of anatomical drawings (mostly from the 17th century); images of bone and exposed muscle rotate onto the screen as the story moves forward and the monster emerges. His maker, Dr. Frankenstein, travels from Paris to Geneva to England to the North Pole to hunt down his murderous creation, maps and black-and-white engravings giving a sense of place while adding to the disarming mood. The app assumes that readers don’t want to read for very long without doing something, and every few paragraphs end with a prompt that gives readers a chance to steer, by choosing a letter to read, deciding on a direction to go or registering an emotional response. The options are engaging enough to rarely feel interruptive or contrived, though all roads ultimately lead in one direction: Morris’ narrative frame closely resembles Shelley’s. However, Morris smartly takes advantage of the iPad’s interactivity to play with perspective. One section puts readers in the mind of the monster just after he’s escaped from his maker, observing the family from whom he learns to read and speak; directing the monster’s behavior literally puts them in the role of his rueful creator. The writing from Dr. Frankenstein’s perspective can be purple and dramatically mordant at times, but Morris pushes the story forward with pleasant efficiency, condensing Shelley’s prose without stripping it of its flavor. (The original novel is included in the app, though without the bells and whistles.)
Some narrative weakness aside, a brilliantly designed app; the current benchmark for high-quality storytelling via tablet.