A soccer star becomes a would-be international savior while a disaffected teen endures some drama of his own.
Eric, the hero of this first novel in a planned trilogy, is a hard-luck teenager growing up in Phoenix. His interests mainly run from girls to Football Faust, a hypertalented soccer player who every year plays for a different country’s leading team while alleviating whatever strife its people experience. This makes him an absurdly popular folk hero wherever he goes (in Brazil, the people build a Football Faust statue to pair with Rio’s massive Christ the Redeemer) and, of course, the enemy of corporate and political interests. Meanwhile, as Eric grows up, he suffers a career-ending car accident, launches an ill-fated sports bar, is sentenced to prison in Guantanamo Bay and ultimately learns more about his connection with Football Faust. There are a few things to admire about the presentation of this rattletrap tale, if little in the tale itself. Fifty stylish, painterly illustrations with 3-D effects (the foreground shifts back and forth as the iPad tilts) are interspersed throughout the book, and each illustration has a techno soundtrack designed to bolster the action-movie mood. Users can pull up a satellite map showing where the action happens, and the chapters include the occasional choose-your-own-adventure-style question, none of which appear to affect the overall plot but make for diverting sidebars. (The free version has fewer illustrations and less music, as well as no interactive opportunities.) All of these treatments are smartly presented and ought to be scrutinized by the creators of a better book app. For all its surface slickness, the story itself is at best serviceably written; action scenes are piled upon action scenes with little time spent sketching the characterization and motivations that even the most straightforward page-turner includes.
The fate of the world may hang in the balance, but this app’s ho-hum prose makes it hard to feel concerned.