The Silent History
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A riveting new e-Book—Part novel, part scavenger hunt—Requires adventure in your car

By Marcia Simmons

The Silent History is a new kind of book—not the kind that invites you to crack open its spine and relax in a favorite chair, but rather the kind that requires you to jump in the car and listen in order to get the full experience. There are elements of this e-book that you can only “unlock” by traveling to the right GPS coordinates, so the experience is part novel and part scavenger hunt. You can even contribute your own location-based content for other readers to experience. With all the gadgets and techy features packed into Chevrolet’s Spark, the zippy little mover may be the perfect car for the job!

The story is told in the form of 1,500-word testimonials from the characters; separated into six series, there are 20 stories in each series. Via an app on your iPad or iPhone, you get one testimonial per day. You can read these no matter where you are, although much like a TV show, you’ll have to wait for the next installment to be available to you before moving on.

Through these daily vignettes, the novel explores the mystery of the “silents,” an entire generation of children born without the ability to speak or understand language. The doctors, parents, classmates, reporters and others who are baffled by this epidemic tell the story one by one, as each thread builds upon the last and the strange powers of the silents are slowly revealed. The testimonials start in 2011 and continue 32 years into the future.

The field reports are what make this novel interactive. If The Silent History were a DVD, the testimonials would be the movie and the field reports would be the extras or special features. You can only access field reports if you’re within 10 meters of a place specified by the app. The text of the report and the actual physical details of the location—like the view between tree branches or an unusual banister—are intertwined so that one enhances the other. Readers are adding new field reports every day, and you can add your own through the app.

This e-book packs a lot of story into its small, digital package. The testimonials, which can be considered the traditional “story” portion of the novel, are roughly equivalent to a 500-page printed book. And the ever-expanding collection of field reports keeps the book fresh. Since the field reports can be pinned to any location on earth, from San Francisco to Beijing, it’s unlikely that any one reader will be able to unlock all of them. But be careful: It’s quite tempting to rack up a lot of miles trying.

Other Unique Audio Books

Whether you’re in the car chasing down more field reports or heading down the highway on a road trip, here are some other fictional adventures to keep you entertained:

Too Dead to Swing

Instead of listening to a single narrator, experience an entire Broadway cast acting—and singing—this murder mystery about a swing band in the 1940s.

Hearts, Keys and Puppetry

“The Twitterverse” is listed as Neil Gaiman’s co-author for this literary experiment, since he used responses from Twitter followers to craft an audio fairy tale.

Superman: Doomsday and Beyond

Leave it to the BBC to turn the visual medium of comic books into a riveting radio drama.

The trademarks mentioned in this story are held by their respective owners.

San Francisco Bay Area writer Marcia Simmons’ work has appeared in Geek, Go, Shape, NOTCOT and Serious Eats, among other publications. She is also the co-author of the book DIY Cocktails.