Nicola Furlong has stepped full-bodied into the twenty-first century with the release of
Unnatural States, a multimedia internet venture based on her novel Thy Will Be Done.
This is a very bold concept for an author.
Internet renderings have been around for awhile that combine stills and live action. But these
are, for the most part, independent film shorts—I used to review them and other
independent films for an indie film site. But Nicola Furlong's concept is quite unique. Not only
are there stills and live action, but she has blocks of text like an eBook AND she also has a lot
of music, written specifically for her novel.
Written in 1999, Thy Will Be Done was the story that fostered the script and the text
excerpts. It deals with a charismatic rock star, John Jacobs, whose life has been transformed by
stigmata and the possession of a divine relic that has been passed down through his family. Known
as John the Apostle, he now uses his music in his mega-Passion Ministry to evangelize and offer
counseling to Passionates who come to his secure compound (and pay $2,000 a week for the privilege).
But inside this compound, John is harboring a holy secret involving his son Jimmy that only a
handful of his intimates knows. When a pushy reporter, a forgotten daughter who is also a spiritual
debunker, and a mysteriously evil man infiltrate this Eden-like world, everything begins to crumble
and an age-old battle between good and evil is set into motion. Not only does this story have
intrigue and mystery as well as paranormal and spiritual implications, but it also deals with many
scientific and ethical questions.
In Unnatural States, Nicola Furlong presents the story in short blocks of text that are
often broken up with photographs of key characters. On some pages, a video widget appears, and you
can click and watch a short scene between the actors. Music often plays on each page as you read,
and sometimes songs are highlighted in special video segments. There are two full-length song
segments, from John's upcoming concert.
Glynne Turner, the director for Unnatural States, also wrote the original music for the
novel. Nicola Furlong uses real musicians for John's band. Michael Farrell who plays John and Diane
Pancel who plays young singer Rosario are actually quite accomplished singers, though I expected
John's voice to have been a lot bigger than what Farrell delivered.
The acting was also good but not as professional as television or major films. It was on a par
with many indie films I've seen. Some actors were better than others, especially Geoffrey Conder who
plays Brenden, the ambitious producer, and Denise Brown who plays Virginia Darrow, the undercover
reporter. Furlong herself even appears as the reporter's editor.
Quillr, which is what Furlong is calling this blend of media, is touted for letting readers
experience novels instead of just reading them or watching them as movies. I did enjoy the whole
experience, but I would rather have preferred to sit with my feet up, instead of sitting in front of
my computer. But I understand that Quillr novels will soon be available as downloads and not
streamed as this was.
The time it takes to complete this novel depends on your individual reading speed and whether
you take any breaks. It took me four hours to get through the whole novel without breaks. You could
stop along the way if you chose. However, since this was streamed, you would have to return to the
story fairly soon after leaving it. Also, there are no navigation tools other than forward and
backward. You can't make a note of what scene you were on and find that place easily as you could
with a DVD. You would have to page through to the place you left.
New technology often benefits from tweaking and Quillr will most likely just get better
as Nicola Furlong perfects her process. I'm very excited to see what other novels she and the
Quillr will provide for us.