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52 weeks, 52 things

The BRoKen WoRLD

Just finished Tim Etchells’ The Broken World (am now resisting the temptation to write this blog entry in THE STYLE OF (CAPS LOCK) Etchells’ narrator, complete with digressions as to the state of my computer and the interleaving of different states of reality, but I’ll continue to resist. Honest).

Coming so soon after reading Nick Harkaway’s The Gone-Away World, it seemed like there was a glut of first-person narrated SF (although TBW isn’t strictly SF, it does play in the same sandpit), whose narrator wasn’t necessarily all that he seemed. Harkaway’s novel succeeds by being a big, ambitious, down-and-dirty romp through a succession of set-pieces and clever ideas, and I did enjoy it. Etchells, on the other hand, plays it much closer to his chest. He’s constructing a reality here, one that plays games within the structure of the story, and talks back to itself such that you’re never quite sure which version of events has the upper hand at any one moment. Is the switch of character (within the game that the book describes) from Ray to Rachel significant in the narrator’s personal journey, and to what extent is the disappearance of his girlfriend paralleled with Rachel’s in-game demise?

It’s ambitious in ways that Harkaway doesn’t try to be. This is about subtle ideas, rather than overblown ones, and it’s all the better for it. And it ends on a high note, which is all I’ll tell you. You’ll have to play it to find out how.

One other thing though. As a new media academic, I picked TBW up because of its connection to interactive narratives and Borgesian ideas about space and time (that, and Mike Harrison blogged about it). That it aims to do clever things with allegories of computer games is certainly in its favour, but I am slightly disappointed by the book’s website. Etchells remarks that its a ’simple website for the novel’, and while there’s something appropriate about the walkthrough aspect of the material presented, I think more could have been made of the central ‘core’ of the book. What’s at thebrokenworld.net is a little linear, and given the layered nature of the narrative, that linearity seems at odds with the print version.

Maybe I missed something though.

//edit. Hollin (grammar-boy) Jones addresses my additional apostrophe below.


2 comments for “The BRoKen WoRLD”

  1. “…because of it’s connection… ”

    Tsk tsk!

    Don’t hate me… I have to take these small victories where I can! it’s not often you get one over on The Good Doctor when it comes to wurdz…

    Posted by mongo | July 28, 2008, 6:54 pm
  2. I really must get hold of a copy of this. I keep picking it up in bookshops because it looks so intriguing, and then thinking no, no, I’ve already bought too many books this month …

    Posted by Niall | July 30, 2008, 2:16 pm

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