Some narrative weakness aside, a brilliantly designed app; the current benchmark for high-quality storytelling via tablet.

FRANKENSTEIN

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. 

Pub Date: April 26, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Inkle Studios

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2012

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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