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Ellinor's Litventures

This blog is about my literary adventures in different genres. I like variety in my reading and will read books from most genres but particulary book with some literary merit.

Arcadia by Iain Pears

Arcadia: A novel - Iain Pears

With Arcadia Iain Pears is trying an experiment: He wrote a novel whith several interwoven storylines which can be read in the traditional way from cover to cover. At the same time he created an app which depicts how the storylines are interwoven and which enables the reader to read the different stories independently and switch from one to other whenever feeling like it or one two or more of the characters' meet. All of this sounds great and it was great to read and to work my way through the app at the same time - but only up to a certain point.

There are three different settings in this novel: Oxford in 1960, Mull, an island off the Scottish coast in around 2200 and Anterworld, a fictional realm with somewhat medieval structures. There are 10 different (main) characters whose stories can be followed. There are timetravel, a spy-story, a murder mystery, a love story etc. This sounds a bit complicated - and it is. You really have to concentrate to remember where in which storyline you currently are, who is who and when is when. The confusion is usually settled once you reach the point when two characters meet but this often takes very long.

The novel is quite complex but at the same time most of the storylines seem very trivial. The Young Girl's Tale was my favourite until it became a rather ridiculous lovestory. The spy story was so very predictable as was the murder mystery. All the time I was waiting for something great, absolutely new to happen. And when that finally seemed to be the case the novel simply ended and too much was left unexplained. Maybe I just didn't understand it (I sometimes have my problems with the logic in timetravels). I was also quite disappointed by the way most storylines ended, either somehow disappointing and unfinished or once again very trivial.

At the beginning I really liked the app. It gave more structure to the novel and made it easier to follow the story. There was also additional info on Anterworld which explained why Prof. Lytten constructed it the way he did. But once the story progressed I noticed that there were simply some flaws in the app. The app shows the different characters' stories as lines which cross when the characters meet. To be completely correct they would have to be ordered so that they show how the events happen chronologically to each character. I can understand that this is not always manageable because it would give away too much of the story but in the Assisstant's story this makes the app just wrong and useless.

(I received a free digital copy via Netgalley/Faber & Faber. Thanks for the opportunity!)