Sunday, October 16, 2011
Dark Eden, by Patrick Carman- Review
Fifteen-year-old Will Besting is sent by his doctor to Fort Eden, an institution meant to help patients suffering from crippling phobias. Once there, Will and six other teenagers take turns in mysterious fear chambers and confront their worst nightmares—with the help of the group facilitator, Rainsford, an enigmatic guide. When the patients emerge from the chamber, they feel emboldened by the previous night's experiences. But each person soon discovers strange, unexplained aches and pains. . . . What is really happening to the seven teens trapped in this dark Eden?
You would think a story about fear would be scary, right? But although there was a definite attempt to build up suspense I wasn't feeling it. The story was moderately interesting, I was fairly intrigued to know what Wills fear was, but I wasn't gripped by Dark Eden in any kind of page turning way. In part I think this is because none of the characters have much depth to them. The story is from Wills perspective and since he doesn't know them and doesn't interact with them they never become more than stereotypes- the blond girl, the jock, the Asian kid etc. Will reveals precious little about himself as well, until the end, so I found it hard to care very much about the characters. And since caring about them was largely required so that I would worry about their fears and their cures it really killed the suspense.
I also really disliked the ending. It's possible it will be different since my copy was a very advanced BEA ARC, but if not then they killed the one thing going for the story, the mystery. Throughout you're kept wondering what Dark Eden is, who Rainsford really is and what exactly they're doing to "cure" the kids. But when it came to the big reveal at the end, instead of a tight, concise TA DAH! moment, I got one surprise, then an ending, then another surprise, then the second ending and then some trailing thoughts on the surprises tacked on to the end ending. It was very anti climatic and just a little bit boring.
This is my first experience with a multimedia book, and I'm not sure what to think. For starters I don't have a way to download the apps so I can't check them out except via show and tell on the Dark Eden website. Second of all, I don't get the point of the book versus chapter serials. Obviously the chapter serials (which you download) must be a much more concise version of the story, since there are only 14, which makes me wonder what you loose if you "read" it that way (I think it's largely acted out). Finally, what could the apps possibly add I wonder?
The book is a complete thing on its own. At no point during the story was I alerted to bonus content or did I feel it was missing something. Presumably the apps are just secondary build on the story, though maybe they're just visual and audio of some of the things you've already read in the book proper, but unless the story continues online or through the apps I don't get the point, unless of course you're just trying to give options to the non-reading kids. Personally I think it would have been smarter to focus on the book and make it really gripping and mysterious then to spread the story thin over a book and then a web page and a bunch of apps. But maybe your 12 year old will disagree with me!
Dark Eden, by Patrick Carman
Published by Katherine Tegen Books, November 1st 2011
Pre-order Dark Eden on Amazon
Check out the Dark Eden site for apps and extras