The Traveller

There's a lot of clicking through to do on this one. A LOT. It was almost to the point where I began to suspect that the entire story was really just static fiction with a "turn the page" button after each sentence. But we do eventually get to a choice to be made ... and then it's another sixty-seven million (give or take) clicks before the next choice....

The author's got a good handle on the language, don't get me wrong. The prose is well-written and conveys quite well what's going on, both inside and outside of the protagonist's head. But ... after a few dozen "click to continue" clicks, I found myself simply clicking blindly to get ahead rather than giving the prose the attention it deserved. It shows, I think, that even good prose can be defeated by questionable design.

The story is also weakened by its structure and construction. We have an opening section in which our heroine deals with the final dark days of a doomed Earth, and also gives birth to her daughter Penelope; despite its potential, this section is completely non-interactive. Then we have a section on board the spaceship as the remnants of humanity search for a new home; there appears to be only one choice open to us here, and it relates to what we tell Penelope about our old home. In the middle of all this chaos and strife, the one choice we do have is about what to say in this one conversation?

I think we're dealing here with a basic misunderstanding about how and where choices may be used to enrich a story. It seems as though all the interesting choices have been taken out of our hands, leaving us with the dull ones. Of particular note is our interaction with our daughter. If the purpose of the opening sections was to impress on us the importance of this relationship, I don't claim to be an expert, but I think it could have done better by letting us interact at a few key, strategic moments, rather than by going into detail via textdump.

The point of the relationship with our daughter is to give us a reason to keep moving after we've landed on a habitable planet. But for myself, I chose to stay on the first planet I hit simply because I couldn't stand to click through many more single-line passages and I thought this choice would end the game. It was, to be fair, a satisfactory ending, at least.

Think of it this way. We have bacon, the best bacon in the world, expertly smoked in hickory and soaked in maple. So ... we chop it into itty-bitty crumbs, boil it in water, and serve it for breakfast on a flat silver platter with chopsticks. Even if boiling the bacon doesn't change its flavour, having to eat it crumb by single crumb is going to ruin the experience. And to drink? Oh, that's okay. A double espresso. Heaven knows the experience has left me feeling a bit jittery.