Thursday, July 5, 2007

Matt Richtel's "Hooked"

Matt Richtel is an author, journalist, and cartoonist.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to Hooked, his debut novel, and reported the following:
Damn font.

When I wrote Hooked, I had in mind a handful of principles: hyper-speed plot, pointed dialogue, humor, and meaty observation about people and place (it's set in San Francisco/Silicon Valley). It's a book of twists with an underlying question: are we deceived by our perceptions?

Page 99 betrays us.

It is almost none of those things.

Page 99 isn't actually a page at all. It's a quarter of a page, a stump of a page. It's the last moments of chapter 22 -- with the dialogue and action ending after just a few lines, setting up Chapter 23.

I blame the font. Had we picked a different size, or style, page 99 might have been longer, or fallen at a different place, or given us the proper symbolic insights we crave from this prescient, insightful, augur of a page.

And, yet, perhaps, I don't give this font enough credit. Has it built page 99 like this for a reason?

The page is dialogue exchange between our protagonist, Nat Idle, and a tech-savvy friend. The friend has discovered that a laptop Nat has been carrying around is host to an unusual computer program. At this point in the story, we don't have any insight that the laptop may be playing a role in the violence (fires, explosions) besetting Nat's life. But his tech-savvy friend gives us a concrete hint on Page 99's last line, when he says: "It wasn't the program that interested me. It's the fact that it's being guarded by the most sophisticated encryption scheme I've ever seen."

What IS characteristic about page 99 is that it ends with a hook. It's tough, I hope, for the reader not to turn the page to chapter 23 to discover more. And the hook that ends chapter 22 involves computers, which play a central role in the book's conspiracy and resolution.

In that sense, my page 99 represents elements of the book. But fewer than I hope symbolize the book at its best. I blame the font. Now page 128, that's a doozy.
Visit Matt Richtel's website and his blog, and read an excerpt from Hooked.

--Marshal Zeringue