The nonstop action, especially at the story’s end, might have held some thrills if Smith hadn’t instead chosen to reveal in the opening pages the fates of the characters. It’s a big risk in a plot-reliant novel. Yet the writing is solid, even though the reader is bashed over the head with its message – most painstakingly in the imagined future-speak of 15-year-old Roscoe (or r0sk0): “Planetz gonna b sum kinda toxic waste dump. Srsly could our parents hav fukt things up any mo thorough?”
The real strength lies in the detail. Speculative fiction is fatally wounded by poor imagination, but Smith creates a believable world, with strange and inventive product names, political plot lines and language.
Although marketed as an interactive e-book and app, The Ark fails to deliver meaningful interactivity. The app’s hyperlinked text opens the accompanying website – where extra content includes characters’ blog entries with scope for leaving comments, artist renderings of the book’s settings, deleted scenes, a hub for fan fiction, and some soporific audio files of dialogue. This is little different to books with corresponding websites that have existed for years. The story itself needs none of this bonus subject matter. A truly interactive text would have the reader’s active engagement integral to understanding and enjoyment of the story. It won’t be long before readers are treated to refreshingly immersive and responsive digital books – The Ark, though, falls short of this aim. TW
Self-published, 220pp, $9.99
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on October 11, 2014 as "Annabel Smith, The Ark".
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