By Ady Tang
In Kate Pullinger and babel’s “Inanimate Alice, Episode 1: China”, the authors describe the young life of eight-year-old Alice living in Northern China with her parents as her father works for an oil company: “My father has a lot of equipment, and he uses it to look for oil”. However, after two days of her father’s anticipated return home from the oil field and her father still nowhere in sight, Alice and her mother start to get worried and head out in their Jeep to look for him.
The story is illustrated through a user-controlled Flash, allowing the reader to “flip” to the next page when ready. In addition, each page is accompanied with music, which at times can be bothersome. However, the music is used efficiently as it compliments Alice’s thoughts while she tells the story. For example, the scene when Alice and her mother are driving in the Jeep, she describes the quiet as an electrical hum: “It’s getting darker. The sky is humming. The sky hums up here, I don’t know why, as though it’s electronic”. In fact, the humming sound which is prevalent throughout the piece often felt like noise in the background even if it allows the reader to experience what Alice is experiencing. At times, it creates an anxiety to want to change the page in hopes of music more soothing to the ears.
“Inanimate Alice, Episode 1: China” narrates the story of Alice and her mother’s journey to find her father. Living in such an isolated area, Alice’s only friend is her Ba-xi, a technological device with multiple functions such as sending messages and drawing. During the search for her father, Alice plays constantly with her Ba-xi which aggravates her mother: “She tells me to turn off my player, it’s annoying her”. It suggests that children are often easily attached to electronic toys.
On the other hand, the story also illustrates the fact that Alice was deprived of some things that many children who live in the city have access to. For example, she could not own a dog: “…so I say, Can I have a dog? and they both laugh and smile, but I know they’ll say no, we travel too much to have a dog, we are always on the move, always”. However, the authors have chosen to write without proper punctuation as it enhances the fact that Alice is a young girl and speaks quickly without a pause, just like many children do.
At times, the piece was even interactive. For example, as Alice took pictures of wildflowers, the computer cursor became the shape of the Ba-xi and allowed the reader to click and interact with the material. It gives the reader a taste of “owning” Alice’s Ba-xi and participates in the activities she does on the Ba-xi.
The story was nicely presented through Flash media which contained remarkable graphics, video clips, cute drawings, and captivating photos which makes the quest to find Alice’s father a lot more interesting.