Thursday 9 September 2010

Ghost in the Machine

Ghost in the Machine by Patrick Carman (Scholastic Inc)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 1741695031
Reviewed by Dawn Meredith

Ghost in the Machine is the first of two books; it is a thriller story that blurs further the now indistinct line between book fiction and video. There is an uber-cool password protected website, which forms part of the storyline, supplementing a journal.

Ghost in the Machine tracks the current lives of Sarah Fincher and Ryan McCrae, who are trapped inside the mystery town of Skeleton Creek where there are no movie theatres but three churches. Sarah shoots video of everything she can while Ryan notes down all the clues in his journal.

It begins in a dark and dusty cellar with the prophetic words: ‘Remove this cryptix and suffer the consequence’. A dark, figure in a hat and coat appears above them and peers down in the gloom before slamming shut the heavy iron door. There is no phone signal and the air is getting thick. All they have now is each other. The video is eerie. Even I held my breath as the figure leaned down towards the camera. Was that a real skeleton face or a mask?

Snippets of video, messages passed in secret, scribbled names that don’t mean anything yet; it’s all a mystery. Has the ghost of Old Joe Bush followed Ryan home to write a message on his wall, or did Ryan write it himself and can’t remember? Somehow, everything leads back to the dredge and thirty million dollars of gold.

Each video chapter has a new password for access. I find this concept exciting! The suspense is palpable and the actors who play Sarah and Ryan do a great job. It combines modern kids’ love of video games with horror movies and adventure, but does it detract from the book itself?

With all the ‘live’ tension of the Blair Witch Project, the videos are definitely not for younger children. There is even a warning on YouTube.

Dawn Meredith writes from the Blue Mountains and is a recipient of a May Gibbs Fellowship for 2010.

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