Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Unnatural States

by Nicola Furlong


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.

The Book

July 2009
Internet multimedia
Fiction, mystery
More at the interactive book site

The Reviewer

Janie Franz
Reviewed 2009
NOTE: Reviewer Janie Franz is the author of Freelance Writing: Itís a Business, Stupid!and co-author of The Ultimate Wedding Reception Book and The Ultimate Wedding Ceremony Book.
© 2009