review

Star*Line

by Edward Cox

E-books are an ever-growing enterprise for the modern day publisher. Sadly, the full scope of this enterprise is rarely realised, with most publishers preferring to release digital clones of paper editions. The use of hypertext is a concise way to delineate between downloads and hardcopies, and with her new book Endoma, Jessica Rainey takes full advantage of hypertext to produce a publication that is designed in every way to only work in electronic form.

Rainey begins by building the world of Endoma, a giant habitat where the human race now dwells as a merging of technology and flesh. With an eerie blend of sci-fi, fantasy and horror, she describes characters and gives them stories to tell. In “Epicene Us” the lines between plural and singular are blurred as humans form a new consciousness that fuses the generic with the individual. “Core Concept: Overskin” puts a very strange end to the manufacturing of clothes. The air of this world is kept clean and fresh by “The Greenfingered”, and the threads of “I Am” lead us deep into identity.

All aspects of Endoma’s imaginative society can be learned and explored as a linear sequence, but with the introduction of hypertext, information, explanations and narratives can be – and probably should be – acquired with a more visceral experience. Moments such as “textspeak touchadd 1”, where the indistinct single line Why do we call it tongue touching? forms nothing more than links to other parts of the story, we begin to understand why this book is destined to never see a single leaf of paper.

Endoma is a sum of its parts, an epic poem for the cyber world that is designed to be experienced. As standalone pieces, none of the poems truly work without the hypertext leading you to some tale or explanation imbedded into the whole. The book is available as a free download from KGP, who encourages us to share the adventure, and share again. And we should take time to do so. With its many prompts and ambiguities within the text, I suspect Rainey has created more ways to read Endoma than I have fingers and toes.

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Introduction to Endoma

by Edward Smallfield

All works of art are not created equal. A book of poems, or a novel, can do many things: tell a story, recount adventures, describe society, provide social criticism, create complex and troubling characters, force us to turn pages. Of the many projects available to a writer, creating a world – unique, entire, and original – is perhaps the most ambitious. In Endoma, Jessica Rainey has chosen the task of inventing a world. Like all invented worlds – Huxley’s in Brave New World, Tolkien’s in The Lord of the Rings, Dante’s in The Inferno – Rainey’s Endoma creates, inevitably, a certain level of difficulty for the reader. Any world, real or imagined, implies a geography (several geographies), a language (several languages), and a culture (several cultures). In any work of the imagination, we’re asked to enter into the minds and stories of characters we haven’t encountered before. In Endoma, we’re also invited (or compelled) to enter into a future world, very different from our own, but perhaps the result of our actions.

A new world requires a new form. The text of Endoma exists, as it should, in cyberspace, as hypertext. There are many books in cyberspace that are simply uploads of books formatted for ink and paper. That isn’t true of Endoma. The deeper form of the book encourages a non-linear reading (by clicking on the links) that mirrors the interconnectedness of the created world. The forms of the poems are as inventive and imaginative as the world they describe, morphing freely and spontaneously in both structure and language. The words and concepts create an exhilarating and dizzying ride. In addition to poems (and many of the poems are in prose and create character and narrative), we have other tools – maps, diagrams, encyclopedia articles – to help us understand and experience the complex and unfamiliar world of Endoma.

Endoma is an enthralling and utterly original text. Like all truly new texts, it asks something of its readers: attention, intelligence, an open mind. The text is beautiful, and the rewards for our efforts are enormous. The experience of the world of Endoma is rich and complex, and has much to teach us about our world – and about ourselves.

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