Gamebook store

Sunday 15 April 2012

Hey, monster, leave that kid alone!

If you live in the United Kingdom, you might want to pick up The Observer newspaper today as it has a review of my interactive Frankenstein novel. To be honest, the reviewer loathed it, but when it comes to being talked about, I'm with my fellow Magdalen alumnus Oscar Wilde: there's only one thing worse...

The review does make a specific complaint about not being able to affect the story. That's actually a misconception on the reviewer's part, so I'd better set the record straight. The scene she mentions is when the monster encounters Victor Frankenstein's little brother, William. In the original novel, he strangles the boy. In my version, that outcome is not at all inevitable. However, it isn't based on an old-style gamebook choice: "Strangle the boy Y/N?" Rather, all of your choices affect the monster's alienation, as well as Victor's empathy towards other people, and his trust in your counsel. And those hidden factors influence where the story goes. That means that certain decisions may seem unavoidable when you reach them, but in fact you have been shaping your destiny all along.

This is fundamental to the style of interactivity in Frankenstein, because choices have long-term consequences. Who, after all, makes an arbitrary spur-of-the-moment decision to kill in cold blood? "Would you like to strangle the boy? And do you want fries with that?" Certainly the monster is not that kind of dispassionate Ripley-style murderer. It is his entire history that builds to that moment, and when it happens (if he does kill the boy, that is) it should be with a feeling of, "Oh God, what have I done?"

I am looking forward to people talking about their individual experience with Frankenstein (available here). "The monster murders people because Victor tried to destroy him," one will say. "Nonsense," says another, "Victor didn't try to destroy him; he tried to save him." "But the monster gets the blame for murders he doesn't commit," another will say. It's that Rashomon what-really-happened effect that Orwell talks about in his essay on historical truth. Thus, Frankenstein is built on a form of interactivity that allows outcomes to be surprising and yet inevitable - and that is what we should ask of all good stories.


  1. Efrem Orizzonte15 April 2012 at 22:54

    I don't think I could agree more. Well written, Dave!

    1. Thank you, Efrem. Though really I hope that people will judge the work for themselves. It will cost only £2.99, after all, and despite the fears of some I don't think it will spell the end of the traditional novel and usher in an age of illiteracy :-)