4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
It won't take you long to figure out what inspired O.W. Showe's immersive novel Emergency Alert.
A pandemic virus has uprooted the daily lives of the citizens of the Collective Union (formerly known as the United States). The first stage will sound familiar: like the government trying to nail down the official rules for social distancing or toilet paper disappearing off the shelf.
Then there's the unfamiliar, like the "Silver Sneeker Posse" that attacks senior citizens, the 60-day wait to cross a regional border, violence against government officials, and the government mandating how much electricity a household can use. What lengths will the Collective Union go to in order to keep its citizens safe? Are they really better off?
At 25 pages, Emergency Alert is a quick read. Each of its six chapters gives the reader a snapshot of the daily lives of an assortment of characters. These characters range from an Air Force Colonel upset about the gross mismanagement of resources to a young woman who is concerned about what might happen to her family and small business.
Though we're only with each character for one chapter, they're surprisingly well-developed. The author manages to make them feel real through palpable, relatable emotions; they're given just enough background and quirks to make them three-dimensional. My favorite character was Zyler, a preteen orphan who is grappling with distance learning and, like any adolescent, trying to find his place in the world…which is especially tricky in a world of social distancing.
Showe builds the world of the Collective Union bit by bit, and each new tidbit will make you think about the situation we're currently living in. How much does the government really help during times like these? What kind of damaging effects can paranoia and social distancing have on our mental and emotional wellbeing? Is the cure better or worse than the disease?
Most of the chapters include an interactive element. They were mostly videos, such as a video of a flurry of text messages that showcased the viewpoint character's urgency and panic. There's also a declassified letter that the reader can only read after requesting it over email (the link automatically fills in the header and the recipient's email address for you). I thoroughly enjoyed these elements and felt like most of them heightened the story in one way or another.
The only one that didn't sit well with me was an audio recording that you're instructed to listen to as you read the chapter. It's someone reading the chapter aloud, and doing both at once was challenging. For one, if your reading pace gets out of sync with the speaker, it can be obnoxious to go back and find the right spot in the recording. You couldn't pause it when you flipped the page because the controls were only on the first page of the chapter. So, it was challenging to go back and forth between my reading and trying to find the right spot on the recording. I found it hard to comprehend what I was reading/hearing, and ultimately, it took me out of the story. I had to go back and reread it without the recording to get all of the details.
Overall, I enjoyed this book immensely. It's creative, and got me thinking about the state of the world right now and where we could be heading if things get worse. Paranoia, violence, social isolation, panic, conspiracies, vigilantes, and questionable government actions are all core themes in this interesting book. I believe it was professionally edited, as I only found a handful of minor errors. They in no way detracted from my reading experience.
Thus, I happily give this Emergency Alert 4 out of 4 stars and eagerly anticipate the second installment of this two-part series, which is set to come out in July.
I recommend this book to people who are interested in immersive books, those who are intrigued by the idea of misguided actions and potential conspiracies, or those concerned about the potentially negative effects of social distancing. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who is already panicked about the current pandemic, as it might trigger them. Additionally, if you have no interest in reading about global pandemics, this is certainly not the book for you.
Emergency Alert: An Immersive Novel
View: on Bookshelves | on iTunes