I was introduced to my first digi-novel™ the other day—the world’s first, in fact: Level 26: Dark Origins (Dutton), “from the visionary creator of CSI, Anthony E. Zuiker with Duane Swierczynski.” Evidently the printed page cannot contain the boldness, the daring, the sheer digi-ness of a digi-novel™: to quote from the front flap (yes, a digi-novel™ still retains some of the attributes of that artifact, the old-fashioned novel): “Level 26 takes the best features of books, film, and interactive digital technologies and rolls them all into a raw, dark, and intense story-telling experience.” We’re following an international team of investigators led by Steve Dark, “the ultimate crime-scene tactician on the tail of a killer so brutal law enforcement has invented a new classification of evil to account for him.”
Every few chapters we are encouraged to visit a companion website, and there to unlock a “cinematic Cyber-bridge” that will “take the experience to the next level, immersing you in the action and putting you inside the twisted mind of a serial killer” named Sqweegel. He is a dapper fellow who favours a white latex bodysuit so tight that he needs four and a half sticks of butter to get into it (you can’t make this stuff up, therefore it must be true). Each Cyber-bridge is “a three-minute motion picture scene with A-list actors you’ve seen in blockbuster films and award- winning tv shows” (apparently “the visionary creator of CSI” believes that a modern reader’s imagination needs help—“a rabbit punch to the visual cortex,” to briefly adopt the writing style of Level 26).
Well, if this is the future of literature, then I am in desperate need of a time machine, destination: the past. Perhaps if we act quickly we can drive a stake through the heart of the digi-novel™, and let those A-list actors go back to their blockbuster films.