I loved the TV series, LOST. I love disaster movies and imaginings of dystopian futures. I’m obsessed with human behaviour and I find the psychology behind group dynamics compelling. When humans are thrown together in extraordinary circumstances, fascinating things happen. In LOST, a plane full of strangers are deserted on a mysterious and isolated island, and their lives intersect, their personal narratives drawn together by a twist of fate. In Annabel Smith’s newest offering, The Ark, an unlikely group of characters are locked down in a hidden bunker under the leadership of the charismatic Aiden Fox. It is 2041 and the peak oil crisis has precipitated The Chaos; it’s the end of the world. Fox, an employee of SynBioTec, invites a selection of his colleagues and their families to join him in the The Ark, a seed bank concealed in Mt Kosciuszko.
I found this novel truly compelling, not least because of the intriguing cult-like human interactions (did I mention I love cults?). You see, this is innovative storytelling: an epistolary novel, packaged in an aesthetically slick app designed for reading on your tablet. The story unfolds in a selection of documents: newspaper articles, emails and blog posts. Unreliable narrators abound; who can we trust? The reader must construct meaning as they go, their allegiances shifting as new information becomes available. It’s a thought-provoking novel, but it’s also an easy read, perfect for single sitting. My only beef is that I wanted MORE. I was so happily immersed in the characters’ lives, and I had to leave the world of the novel too soon. There’s real scope for a sequel; let’s hope Smith has something in the works, because my guess is that the The Ark will be a real hit.