It’s ages since I last read magic-tree.com, and I’m loving the way it merges the reader (me) with Afra, throwing me from textual position to textual position. In the sequence where Simon and Magalie find Afra’s website, I’m behind the computer screen looking out at them. A bit earlier, I was mirroring Afra, my click on the website causing her to click on the same thing, or perhaps even controlling her, rather as the ancient woman controls Aura, the young woman she’s created, in Fuentes’s novella. You see this a little in one of the first sequences in Magic-tree, where you read the description of how you find a box, in a book shop. When you move your mouse over the linked words “You shake it” the girl in the image does indeed shake the box. Clearly her movement is triggered by the movement of your mouse. In that merged movement (your mouse, her shake) she becomes your avatar, or perhaps rather your golem, a creature you controll as though by voodoo.
I’m mixing spheres of meaning quite shockingly.
I read it all. And oh, the last section is disappointing. I love the way the story’s built up in the first sections, and the ways in which the reader is involved. The way I half-merge with Afra, that’s clever, and the instructions on the box (I was lucky, I signed up early enough to get the senso-virtual Free Gift) are wonderful. The idea of combining six pages of text that “magically” come out of your printer with interactive sections, animated text and webcam sequences is interesting and well executed.
Chapter three deteriorates a few pages into the printed out section though. The dialogue and decent writing of the first parts now becomes hurried summary where the idea of the business magic-tree.com being a kind of infectious organism is explained in boring detail rather than being suggested or shown as it is in part in the first sections. The promise of the user being drawn into the centre of things isn’t fulfilled, and it feels a lot like a well-begun project was too hastily wrapped up as a deadline approached. I suppose that in real life that often does happen, but it’s a pity.
Still, even with its stilted end, the first section of magic-tree.com is certainly interesting enough that I’d recommend you have a look at it. It’s unlike any electronic literature I’ve seen before. It’s not a huge time-investment: it takes about an hour to read, perhaps a little more. Yes, it’s definitely worth a look.