Tuesday, November 23, 2010


by Jason Shiga
Published by Amulet Books

STOP! This is not an ordinary comic!

This is the loud disclaimer in the book as you flip to the first page. But you already know that having judged the book by its cover. Meanwhile is not ordinary in any possible way. How can it be, when you can pick your own path through the book, and stumble on some 3856 story possibilities, while you are at it?

Jason Shiga is a graduate in Pure Mathematics. I looked up 'pure mathematics' online, because I wasn't sure what it meant. Mathematics motivated entirely for reasons other than application; distinguished by its rigor, abstraction and beauty.

"In Meanwhile, you make the choices that determine how the story unfolds. Instead of one story, Meanwhile splits off into thousands of different adventures."

And it starts at a place where a boy walks into an ice cream shop to have ice-cream. He has the choice of chocolate or vanilla. Or rather, we do. we get to pick what he has. And each flavour of ice-cream, will mean a different flavour to the story. Its kind of heady....having this much control over a book.

Illustrated in comic strip style, it is fast paced and each strip is connected to the next through a tube, which might lead you to a page, some 20 leafs away, only to bring you back to the very same page. It is exhausting for sure, but worth the zany ride! There is adventure and action and a mission too, as you strive to hit upon that one magical permutation and combination of choices that will lead you to the secret access code, which is a must to avoid the impending disaster. Yes, it is dark in some places, and most of the science goes flying above your head, leave alone your child's, but somehow it is easy to skim over that as you race to find that elusive choice that will lead you down the right path.

Winkie had and continues to have an absolute blast with this book. It has occupied him on many a quiet afternoon, when the attention can wander and boredom can set in. He has bookmarked pages in an attempt to start where he left off, the minute he gets home from school.

Together with a pure value of entertainment and absorption, Meanwhile would serve as a wonderful way of understanding the concept of permutations and combinations in mathematics. An interesting tidbit from the book....

"Once the outline of the story was structured, a computer algorithm was written to determine the most efficient method to transfer it to book form."

It took an algorithm running for 12 hours straight for this solution to be arrived at. Another 6 months before layouts were finished, a year of prep work and finally production which was completed one year later.

Phew! I think it might take us just as long to crack that code! :)


utbtkids said...

This book is amazing isn't it?! Truely an interactive book.

sathish said...

wow. Extremely interesting.

utbtkids said...

Satish, I saw this in SFMoma museum store and waiting for a sale in Amazon to bag it.

Vibha said...

Wow! Sounds like a wonderful treat. Thanks for the lovely review.

artnavy said...

sounds very engaging- reminded me a bit of the moview 12B in Tamil...will check in flipkart if available

sandhya said...

Had seen a review of this book on another blog I follow, and had been fascinated by the idea of multiple possiblilities in the story since. Reminds me of the Goosebumps series. I also remembered a story by Issac Asimove called 'What if?' where multiple directions that a situation can take if some key events happened/ did not happen.
Will look out for this one. Thanks, Tharini.

Choxbox said...

WOW. What an amazing concept!

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