iBook Review: Dark Prophecy by Dare to Pass Reviewed by Guy Dayen
Dark Prophecy, featuring the character of Steve Dark, is the second "digi-novel" created by Anthony Zuiker, one of the driving forces behind the CSI franchise. It comes on the heels of Level 26, the book which first introduced readers to Dark.
Both novels revolve around Special Circumstances, a little-known agency created to deal with the worst of the worst criminals. Conventional criminal justice practice holds that there are 25 levels of criminals. Level 1 represents the pettiest of thieves while level 25 is used to classify the most dangerous of criminals; murderers who commit truly horrible crimes. But... unknown to most people, there is yet another level: Level 26. It consists of the most twisted serial killers, the most deeply depraved maniacs, those individuals who commit acts that would be absolutely unthinkable for any sane person; and it is the purview of Special Circs. Level 26, the digi-novel created by Anthony Zuiker for the iPhone and the iPod Touch, detailed the frenzied efforts of the agents at Special Circs, as they strove to capture the serial killer known as Squweegel, who was hellbent on an awful killing spree. Steve Dark, who suffered tremendous personal loss at the hands of this Squweegel, was their very best agent.
WAS... Dark Prophecy, the iPad follow-up to Level 26, picks up the story five years later. Steve Dark has left Special Circs after the terrible events of the past, and he is trying to make a normal life for himself and his daughter. His ties to his former colleagues have been cut, and he tells himself that he really wants to focus on his family. However, he is still obsessed with murder and murderers, and just can't leave his fascination behind, no matter how hard he tries. This fixation still dominates the greater part of his life, best intentions notwithstanding. He is desperately trying to move past the tragic events of Level 26, but the shadow of Squweegel seems to once again darken his life. His replacement at the agency is one of the many victims in a new killing spree, one in which the killer poses his prey according to the cards of the Tarot, and Dark feels himself inexorably drawn back into his former life. Can he will himself to stay away? Will he survive this new encounter if he can't? Can he withstand these latest horrors without losing his sanity or humanity? These are the questions posed in Dark Prophecy. I don't want to spoil the pleasure by giving away too much information. Suffice it to say that the story is intense and suspenseful, the writing is very good and the iPad's multimedia capabilities are used to full advantage.
The main point I want to underscore is that this IS a great story. All the bells and whistles in the world won't make for a good book if the story is lacking. Fortunately, it is not the case here. Zuiker provides engaging characters, an interesting conceit for the string of murders and plenty of shivers along the way. Thriller fans will be very satisfied , but be warned, this is NOT a book for amateurs of cozy mysteries. As the title and the very name of the main character suggest, this is a dark, dark story. (Even the pages of the book are set to black by default in the app, but this can be easily adjusted to your own individual preference.) There are very graphic scenes of terrible things done by one human being to another in this work, so if you are overly sensitive to depraved violence, this may not be the book for you. On the other hands, fans of shows like CSI or Criminal Minds will find this app to be right up their alley.
What exactly is a digi-novel? It is a book that takes full advantage of the iPad's interactive capacities to enrich the reading experience. Along the course of the novel, you can examine character dossiers, interact with clues and manipulate evidence and listen to audio forensics presentations. This serve to immerse the reader much more deeply in the story, and makes you feel like you are part of the Special Circs team; and that makes the story even more fun; insofar as brutal killings can be said to be fun, that is. It is abundantly clear, in my mind, when I compare the two works, that digi-novels are much better suited to the iPad's bigger screen. The pages are easier to read and the interactive elements can be seen in much greater detail. The whole reading experience in general seems much more natural on the iPad.
One of the most striking use of multimedia is the inclusion of video bridges between different sections of the book. These really make the story come alive, and they add a lot more complexity to the character of Dark, by showing us portions of his past that might be difficult to bring into a sustained narrative in the thriller genre. It seems evident that a good deal of money was spent in the making of those videos. Production values are excellent, and well-known television actors were hired to give life to the characters. You will surely recognize many of them as you watch the story unfold. It may be that Zuiker was able to call in a few favors to get such talented actors, and their collective performances adds a lot of depth to the background narrative. Other welcome elements are the music and sound effects, which greatly augment the eerie atmosphere created in the novel. All these things add up to a terrific story-telling experience.
The app provides three levels of interaction with the book, so those readers who just want to read the story straight through can choose to have minimal interaction; simply turning the pages of the book as with any other digital book. At the middle level, readers can choose to limit their interactions to manipulating the various clues and dossiers provided throughout the story. At the most immersive level, the video bridges become a key part of fleshing out the back story of Steve Dark. These mini-movies are not essential, but they are an integral part of the experience, so be sure to take complete advantage of everything this app has to offer. After all, isn't that why you bought an iPad?
I recommend this book most heartily. The story was involving and exciting, the interactive elements added an intriguing dimension to the tale, and the multimedia additions were a real enhancement to the entire experience. I've said before that the iPad will lead to a resurgence in the number of readers, especially among the younger generation, and books like these are a big part of why I think so. This digi-novel is a prime example of what can be done with this new platform. It is truly an exciting time to be a lover of reading, and with the arrival of the iPad 2, I'm really looking forward to the next digital novel and to the great creative leaps that are surely coming just around the bend.
Seller: Dare to Pass Publishing Date: Feb 23, 2011 Price: $12.99 Buy Book: Dark Prophecy