Imagine, if you will, having a book that you had a specific beginning and end, but the rest of the book you could read however you like. Would you like that? Yeah, of course you would, you like all that bonkers crazy stuff or you wouldn’t be here. Now, imagine again, if you had an app that accompanied this hypothetical bonkers book you can read in any order… It’s the promise of a madman from the future, or is it? No, it isn’t. It’s an actual thing that exists because I have read it and stop questioning me, I am the boss.
Look, it’s ARCADIA by Iain Pears!
Ok, gonna try and get my head around this and write a summary of what’s happening, which is really quite difficult when there are, like, three different universes, interlocking stories, and stuff that you can read in any order. Reading stuff in the wrong order difficult is fairly.
You’ve got your 15 year old girl, looking for a missing cat.
You’ve got a fantasy writer with a fully formed fantasy world that borrows heavily from Tolkein and C.S. Lewis.
You’ve got a scientist mucking about with time travel, with potentially disastrous shenanigans.
That, and so much more. You’ve got ten different characters wondering what the hell is going on, having their own adventures. There are magic mirrors, there’s a bit of Cold War Thriller, some sci-fi, a murder mystery. You name a genre, this book seems to have squished it in at some point.
The result is somewhat weird and confusing at first, and the multiple story beginnings does tend to make the first chunk of the book somewhat cumbersome and lumpy. However, things soon crack on at a fantastic pace, and any headache you have soon fades, with a satisfying ending leaving things neatly tied up.
The short chapters, and the unique story structure makes the book easy to dip in and out of (did I mention this has been my toilet book for the past month or so? I’d better not mention it then, that will probably put you off) and the accompanying iPad app does a decent job of adding 21st century interactivity without feeling like one of those multimedia presentations you had to mess about with at school. That said, while you don’t NEED the app to enjoy the book, it does kinda help with working out how each storyline intertwines with the other. Just think of it as reading Shakespeare with the Cliffs Notes on hand.
The app gives you a big spaghetti diagram of each character’s journey, with points where divergent stories converge along the way, with the lines getting increasingly more like a London underground map before everything splurges back together in a final chapter. The app separates the book out into ten different tales, so you could, in theory just read the book from one character’s point of view from start to end. I wouldn’t recommend this obviously, but I also wouldn’t recommend fighting a tiger, and you might enjoy that.
So, the app is on the itunes app store HERE, it’s free for the first chunk of chapters, but then you have to fork out the wallet busting fee of £2.99 to read the rest. Ok, maybe it only busts my wallet.
If you’re a more traditional book reader and you don’t want to deal with wiggly story spaghetti, the hardback version can be found on Amazon HERE and from all good book stores HERE (this doesn’t link, I just want you to pretend I am pointing at your local book store.)
I’d recommend getting the app version, as that’s how the story/stories is/are meant to be read, but the book is nice and chunky and it could live next to your toilet along with Transformers – Last Stand of the Wreckers and Batman – Hush (because sometimes robots and millionaire caped detectives are more fun)