The Silent History is a serialized sort-of-interactive novel available from the iTunes store. It is the story of a near future world where a significant number of babies have been born without conventional language acquisition: they don’t speak, they are not deaf but don’t seem to respond to speech, they cannot learn sign language. They simply are silent. The book is told from the point of view of several people, each with his or her own agenda and experience as the years pass and the “silents” grow older.
The book is divided into 6 parts, each of which has 20 short chapters that are being released on weekdays, so that the entire story will have been distributed after about 6 months. As I write this, four months of the story are remaining. If you buy the app, you can also become a “reporter” who submits geotagged short stories about your experiences with the silents in that place.
If all this sounds kind of cool, well, it is. The Silent History app is a triumph of interface design and a great idea. But, it is also extremely frustrating, because I don’t really want to wait four more months to finish reading this story, and there isn’t really any reason why I should have to. The conceit of the interface is not worth the waiting game. And the conceit of the geotagged reports is even worse: you can only access them if you are standing in the exact place tagged by the writer. That’s great for people living in, say, New York, where there are currently 33 reports available; but the closest one to me is somewhere in Montreal. Since these user-generated reports are presumably non-canonical, I can’t imagine why the app maker essentially makes it impossible for many users to ever see them.
The Silent History is a cool idea gone horribly wrong, promising a good story to its subscribers and then saying we can’t have it; or we can, but very slowly. I do recommend you read it if you get a chance, but you might want to wait until March.