Michael Grant is a highly prolific author in the young adult fiction space, with over 150 books to his name. Grant worked on the popular Animorphs and Everworld series with his wife Katherine Applegate and recently went on to release the Gone series on his own. For his newest project, Go BZRK, Grant is trying something different: he’s attempting a project that “was fully conceived as a multi-platform experience with the books only being one aspect of a bigger picture.”
In a Q&A on Go BZRK‘s meta-site, Grant explains that the project is an experiment in transmedia storytelling that extends across websites, blogs, a mobile app, and video. The BZRK novel itself is slated for publication in Winter 2012 under the Egmont Publishing label, but the alternate reality game has already started, with content slowly trickling out over the month of August as the story ramps up at month’s end, “just in time to distract the kids from their schoolwork.” While the story hasn’t begun in earnest yet, the tantalizing tastes offered so far already present a rich cast of over-the-top characters that dominate the experience.
So far, the plot centers around the cult Nexus Humanus. The cult’s spokesperson, Armand Cage, founded the organization after failing at his previous careers as a Canadian meteorologist and a stand-up comic. Mixing the very worst traits of both professions, Cage promotes the cult with an earnest enthusiasm that leads one character to describe him as “like some kind of hypnotized Mr. Rogers.” Cage’s overly personable demeanor is offset by Nexus Humanus’ perpetually stiff president, Billie Carloff.
After watching videos of Nexus Humanus, it’s exceedingly hard to view the organization as remotely threatening. However, digging a little deeper raises some disturbing questions. On the Society Twins blog, twin sisters Sophie and Sylvie Morgenstern wonder if Nexus Humanus had anything to do with the disappearance of their brother Davis, an intern at the United Nations who had a real knack for crossword puzzles. At Death or Madness, Sam Kascewicz feels compelled to commit his dreams of Nexus Humanus founder Jay Howard Thompson’s early life to paper in the form of a comic. And Nexus Humanus member Katsumoto Hasemi turned up dead near his office after testing the cult’s Mental Apparatus training, scheduled for general release on the Nexus Humanus website on August 30th.
While Grant’s stories target young adult audiences, they often take a gruesome turn, and Go BZRK is set to continue the trend. Grant describes the story as:
a battle for the soul and freedom of the human race carried out simultaneously in the world we know, and in a world that you’re never going to expect. It’s a world where if you make a false move, you’re going to lose your mind . . . . It’s going to be vast, bloody, and beautiful.
Squeamish as I am, Grant has me hooked with the compelling characters that populate the Go BZRK storyworld. Each character introduced so far has his or her own distinct voice, and the quality of writing carries through to complement the multimedia assets. After only a handful of videos and blog posts from each characters, I find myself caring about their fates.
To dive into the story, create an account at NexusHumanus.com, check out the game’s wiki, and take a gander at Go BZRK‘s surprisingly entertaining behind-the-scenes blog by Connor, an editorial assistant at Egmont UK.