nickm.com > interactive fiction & e-lit
Book and Volume image, charcoal on paper, Andrea Gottschalk, 2005 Laurels, Slamdance
Laurels, Medi@terra
Laurels, Iowa Review Web

Book and Volume

Interactive Fiction by Nick Montfort

Your pager tickles you awake.

Upstairs in the house of your childhood, in your room, and it must be time for school because -- no, it's the weekend, you remember, but your alarm is going off anyway. You should have been awake already. You're going to miss the bus. Your mother climbs in the window. You're dreaming.

You're a grown-up: It opens to you again, a sluggish window summoned by a mouse click. Waking up now in your own apartment, your new apartment. Your pager is buzzing and vibrating both, serious. It is in fact the weekend, but you're not in elementary school. No one is crawling in through the window. You're a system administrator for nWare. Waking up urgently, here in nTopia.

Step 1 of 2: Download the Story File

Download bookvol.z5, the story file. Right-click (or ctrl-click with a one-button Mac mouse) and choose the appropriate option to save the linked file.

Step 2 of 2: Install and Run an Interpreter

Just as you need a Flash player to play Flash files and a Web browser to browse Web pages, you need an interpreter (specifically, a "Z-Machine" interpreter) to run Book and Volume. More recent versions of these interpreters are probably available by now, but you can download a popular interpreter for any of several platforms using the following links:

Windows Windows Frotz 2002
Debian GNU/Linux sudo apt-get install frotz
Red Hat Linux Frotz
Mac OS X Zoom
Mac System 9 Nitfol or MaxZip
RISC OS Zip2000 or Frotz
Palm Frobnitz
PocketPC Pocket Frotz
DOS DOS Frotz

After you have installed an interpreter, simply drag bookvol.z5 onto it, or run the interpreter and open bookvol.z5 in it.

Praise for Book and Volume

Book and Volume was selected as a finalist in the Slamdance Guerilla Gamemaker Competition, in Park City, Utah, 18-27 January 2007. Note: Montfort withdrew Book and Volume from the competition in protest of another finalist's exclusion from the festival.

Book and Volume was selected for the Medi@terra 2006 festival exhibition, Gaming Realities, in Athens, 4-8 October 2006.

Book and Volume was published in the Iowa Review Web, along with an interview by Jeremy Douglass, July 2006.

Book and Volume was the first IF piece that I actually read (or... played?) to completion. ... Montfort is obviously a solid prose writer, and his descriptions are what bring the 24-block city of nTopia to life. ... One ending, it seems, is the "winning" ending, although the piece does not make this very clear. That ending ties the whole work together with a some nice prose flourishes and a heavy dose of post-modern self-referentiality. I'm still thinking about the piece, mining the experience for meaning. Issues such as illusion, reality, creators, creations, and corporate culture are explored nicely.
—Jason Rohrer

Es para mí un placer escribir la crítica del juego que nos devuelve al género a uno de los mejores autores y teóricos del mundillo de la ficción interactiva. Book and volume, el nuevo trabajo de Nick Montfort, tiene dos virtudes fundamentales: es extraordinariamente entretenido e intelectualmente estimulante ... el juego deja, como los buenos vinos, un estupendo retrogusto y una extraña melancolía. No sólo porque el final abra al jugador la puerta a múltiples interpretaciones y apasionantes reflexiones, sino además porque toda la locura que lo envuelve acaba encontrando su sentido, aunque no deje nunca de ser una locura.
—José Manuel García-Patos
It is my great pleasure to write the review of the game that brings back to the genre one of the best authors and theorists in the IF community. Book and volume, Nick Montfort's latest work, possesses two fundamental virtues: it is extraordinarily entertaining and intellectually stimulating. ... the game leaves, like good wines do, a great taste and a strange melancholy. Not only because the ending opens the door to multiple interpretations and passionate reflections, but also because all the craziness that wraps it up finally finds its sense -- even though it never ceases to be just that: craziness.
(reviewer's translation)

On the plus side the growing realization that something odd is definitely going on is well done. The conclusion fits nicely with the game's feel even though it is difficult to interpret and I don't think anyone will see it coming. It may have some meaning that was lost on me. The game is technically sound and I did not find any bugs. I had no problems doing what I wanted to do and tasks that should not be difficult, ie working with your laptop, are made simple.
I don't think this game will appeal to everyone. If you don't know your server from your waiter you may find the game uninteresting and a bit tedious. But if you are a techno/sci-fi enthusiast you may appreciate some of the goings-on and general feel of the game.
—Neil Butters

Montfort's game is one of the zaniest, yet coherent, games I've seen in quite some time. ... The descriptions are hilarious and at the quality of a good romp of a novel.
—Matt Barton

Nick was kind enough to let me play several pre-release versions, and I completed the game to great satisfaction. It does take some effort to complete successfully, but persistence is rewarded. I highly recommend the game to IF experts and newbies alike. In fact, in my opinion, Book & Volume makes a number of interesting and worthwhile statements about the medium itself.
—Ian Bogost

I'd recommend this game to anybody, although it is fairly dense and telegraphic - like "Ad Verbum," it presumes a certain amount of familiarity with nerd culture in general and interactive fiction in specific.
—Brian Kerr

I accidentally washed the usb flash thing you gave me [containing Book and Volume] in the laundry ... good news is, though, it still works!
—Jonathan Blask

Reviews, Online Discussion, and Resources

Author's Note and Acknowledgments

Book and Volume is an [auto mata] release.

Thanks to Andrea Gottschalk, who drew the illustration for this piece.

I greatly appreciate the help I've received from the interactive fiction community (particularly those who have discussed IF with me on ifMUD), the broader electronic literature community, and my literary collaborators. Thanks to all the authors, players, poets, reviewers, and others who have led me to think about writing, computing, and interactive fiction in new ways.

Book and Volume was written in Inform, a language for IF development created by Graham Nelson. It runs on the Z-Machine, a software computer developed by Joel Berez and Marc Blank.

I particularly want to thank the following people, who played pre-release versions of Book and Volume and who offered their thoughts and transcripts:

Thanks to Andrew Suffield, Brian Rapp, José Manuel García, Brian Kerr, Jeremy Rogers, and Andrew Plotkin for post-release bug reports.

Also, I'm very grateful that I was given the opportunity to read from pre-release versions of Book and Volume at The Richard Stockton College, at The Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania, and at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities at the University of Maryland.

Finally, thanks go to these Philadelphia coffeehouses, in which much of Book and Volume was written: Intermezzo, Crimson Moon, Capriccio, and The Last Drop.

Release Notes

If you've already started in on Book and Volume and have saved a session, you probably don't want to upgrade, since you won't be able to restore your old session on a new release. I'm fixing minor bugs as soon as I hear about them, and have been making the current release available here. Although the changes are minor, there is no reason for new interactors to use anything but the latest release.

The current version of 2005-11-25 is Release 8. Releases 2 through 6 each incorporated minor bug fixes. Release 7 just changed the wording in minor ways in a few places (about four). Release 8 added a few synonymous actions.

Release 1 was made available 2005-11-17.

Online Preview: Look at Book and Volume on the Web

A Web edition of Book and Volume is available for online interaction, to offer a quick idea of what this interactive fiction is like. While this Web edition is complete, downloading the story file and an interpreter is the only real way to engage with Book and Volume; SAVE, RESTORE, and TRANSCRIPT are disabled in the Web interpreter.

2007-01