I caught part of an interview on BBC Breakfast this morning with author Caroline Smailes, who has apparently written her latest novel with no fewer than eleven different endings which the reader can choose between. Apparently she did this after readers complained the endings of her last two novels were 'too gloomy'.
I missed hearing how the technology is supposed to work but this article in The Daily Telegraph has more detail. It seems that the book will be published electronically and the readers will have to answer questions and depending on the answers the software will select an ending for them. This sounds a little too much like those quizzes that turn up on people's blogs from time to time, where you answer a bunch of random questions to find out which chocolate centre you resemble or what sort of an elf you are.
It's an intriguing idea and one that explores the possibilities of new digital technology, but I don't think it's for me. Not as a writer, and certainly not as a reader. When I read a book I'm not aware of turning the pages, I'm not aware that it is a book. Instead I slip inside the world the author has created and become a part of it, only to surface again when I turn the final page. If I have to stop and answer questions about my mood or my favourite colour it will pull me right out of the story, which surely defeats the object of the book.
And as a writer, it would simply drive me wild. The BBC also interviewed author Josephine Cox at the same time and she explained that her characters 'write' her books and that they themselves choose their own, natural, ending depending on the events they've been through. This is very much the way I write and I'm not sure a book would feel properly finished unless I'd written the last sentence and drawn a (metaphorical) line under it.
I suspect that like most new technologies it will become something of a fad for a while, but would you really want to have to do this for every book you read? Wouldn't you rather the book's author had already done the hard work for you?