Last Seen Online is being marketed as real time fiction for the WhatsApp generation, and you can see why. First of all it’s an app. Yes, you read right. It’s actually an app rather than a traditional digital book. The premise of Last Seen Online is a simple one: Amy Morris has gone missing and you have her phone. The story is told over 7 days in real time though a series of messages delievered to her phone. You read the action as it unfolds from the familiar format of an instand messager. Sounds interesting right?!
As this isn’t a traditional book, I’m not doing a traditional review. Instead here are my thoughts – also recorded in real time – over the 7 days of Last Seen Online.
LAST SEEN ONLINE – THE DAY BEFORE
I’ve download the app and what I have is basically a messaging service filled with conversations between Amy and the people in her life. One that says “read me first”, tells me how it all works.
This is definitely the biggest reading day, and I’ve spent the evening getting to know Amy through her messages and she seems nice. A typical 25 year old, single girl who lives in London. It’s really interesting getting to know a her through nothing but messages and no other narrative. Each of the exchanges shows a relationship which in turn builds a picture of her. A few of the messages are locked, and as this is a free app, this seems to be how they generate income as you can pay to unlock all of the remaining messages. I’ve not done that yet as I dont know if they’re relevant until we get started. So far I am loving this approach and it’s leaving me eager to see what comes next. Roll on 8:17am tomorrow.
So I caved today and unlocked the conversations. You don’t have to, as they open temporarily when someone messages on that thread but once you close it, it locks again. As I’m glancing at it through the day while the kids are around without always having the chance to properly read it at the time, I was missing a few bits. Therefore I thought this would be easier and have justified it to myself that it would cost me more than £2.89 for a book. So far I’m enjoying the experience, therefore have no issues paying the creators.
Things are getting interesting though. Amy didn’t make it home after her birthday night out and her friends have noticed. They’re getting a little worried but not REALLY worried yet. Reading between the lines of all the messages coming through her inbox (and in the now unlocked extra messages), something happened but you have no idea yet what that is.
So, I’m not going to give a blow by account of what’s happening in the story as I don’t want to fill this with spoilers. This is a free app so there may be plenty of you – whether you enjoy reading or just fancy being nosey at a missing girls messages – that may want to give this a go and I don’t want to spoil it for you.
What I will say though, is that this way of delivering a narrative is so interesting. Today’s been a quiet day in Amy’s messages which leaves you wondering as to the chaos and phonecalls which are happening in the background. I’m looking forward to seeing how they manage to take the narrative forward using this method as the story progresses and things get more serious.
Very interesting. It’s been a quiet day on Amy’s messages but things are definitely starting to liven up again. At the moment I’m left wondering where the next 4 days will take us, and how much this narrative style can facilitate the story now that most people are aware that Amy is missing. What I will say though, is her Dad is an arse!
Things are starting to get both interesting and sad. Interesting because things have unfortunately taken a turn for the worse, and sad because some of the messages coming through to Amys phone are just so oblivious to the fact she’s even missing. You just know that the news is going to hit them at some point.
At this point I have to wonder why some of these messages are still coming though. I can’t go into detail without giving too much away, but I guess messaging and calling missing people regardless of getting nothing back, can be a way of trying to stay connected to someone.
As arrests start to be made, there are cracks that start to appear throughout Amy’s friends and family which are really interesting to see. You don’t get a lot of messages coming through at this stage as people either know that Amy is missing, or have given up trying to get a response from her. As a result it does leave you wondering what is happening behind the scenes, and I find myself checking the app from time to time just in case a message came through and I missed the alert.
Oh my days. Let’s just say the plot gets thicker. I did not see that coming! It goes to show that without the subtext of a traditional narration, it’s more difficult to try and predict where a a story is heading.
More twists more turns, more heartfelt revelations and accusations flying as the story comes to a close. It resolves itself well considering the limitations of the narration method, but yeah. 7 days later and we’re done.
I loved the idea of Last Seen Online as a concept. I think it makes an attractive option for the non traditional reader. Don’t enjoy books, then what about an app instead?
Obviously reading something that is dialogue only has its limits, as some of the depth of character and the detail of the story are lost. However, it also gains something that is utterly unique to them. I loved the multimedia aspect that this format allows, which gives it such an interesting dimension. The story did become a little predictable in the end, but you do forgive it for that. I think 7 days is the perfect balance between keeping you interested, but not too long so that you get bored.
Overall I think Last Seen Online is a really great idea and would be perfect for anyone not keen on sitting down with a traditional print book, or anyone willing to try something a little different. Available for iOS and Andriod, why not give it a go?