Digi-novel fell short of expectations

December 5, 2009
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Level 26: Dark Origins, by Anthony E Zuiker with Duane Swierczynski (Michael Joseph, RRP: $37):

I really wanted to love this book but, sadly, it just didn’t do it for me.

Promoted as the world’s first digi-novel, Level 26: Dark Origins is the first novel from the bloke who came up with the CSI stable of TV programmes, Anthony E Zuiker.

The title comes from the premise that those who murder are ranked by the authorities according to their level of nastiness: naive opportunists starting out at level one while the premeditated torture-murderers occupy level 25. But now, via this book, we have a level-26 killer known as Sqweegel.

Enter Steve Dark, the hero of the piece, retired after nearly catching Sqweegel in the recent past and then losing his entire family to the monster. However, he’s pulled reluctantly out of retirement to once again take on his adversary.

Every few chapters the reader is presented with a code word that unlocks online content, mainly videos. The prospect of exclusive online content sounded like just the thing to excite my inner geek but I actually found it more than a little distracting stopping every few chapters to check out a video. Apart from the final video, they didn’t provide any information not already in the book  they did add some colour.

However, there were continuity issues in the videos, and between the book and the videos, and I was irked that Steve Dark didn’t look like the “impossibly handsome” man described in the book. In fact, he was a wee bit bug-eyed and had a receding hairline. Apart from that, the production values were pretty decent.

The story itself was good if a little far-fetched but it was the final chapter and video that finished me: this book was nothing more than the setup for the next book.

Even if you’d never heard of the author, you’d know as soon as you viewed the final video that this was written by someone more used to writing end-of-series cliffhangers for TV.

Jillian Allison-Aitken

I come from the other land down under, where men are men, and sheep are nervous. I'm a sub-editor and in the past have been a proof-reader, news editor and web editor. I am also an ex-columnist, and book and software reviewer for the local daily newspaper.I still read. A lot. And surf the web. Also a lot.You'll find a little about both of those pastimes here, and on By George.

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