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Serenade to a Dream, September 29, 2012
Dreams are difficult material for a writer; most often, literary dreams are just narrative laziness or cowardice, and resemble actual dreams very little. apple, however, attains a sort of Lynchian semi-coherence -- a faint shadow of the senseless power of actual dreams, but about as good as can be expected in a waking state.
The author was in his teens when he wrote this, and there's a definite adolescent feel to the whole thing: Tarantino-slickness, transgressive (though not porny) sex everywhere, the cool-meta vibe that Hollywood went frantic over in the late 90s and early aughts. It's very much a beast of that era, back when school shootings evoked controversy rather than resignation.
It's not much of a game; the interactivity is slight, more about engagement and focus-changing than about altering the course of events. There are one or two cool use-of-medium tricks in here -- as when the narrative turns into a TV script -- but they come across as throwaway and irrelevant. There are great big textdumps. At the time, to a sceptic, it would have looked like the logical extension of the malign influence of Photopia: short stories trivially dressed up as IF, cheap pressing of the audience's buttons. Formal purists, people who see the game/puzzle aspect of IF as essential, are basically going to hate this.
What's striking about apple is that it does a pretty decent job of representing a sense of the dreamlike: fractured hints of narrative, a looming feeling of inevitability, a lurching unease. It's not perfect at this, it's not even great; but it's good.