By Mark Konkel
Disaster Park is a science fiction novel by Mark Konkel.
Imagine that you could experience the greatest (or worst) disasters in human history, be on board the Titanic as it leaves Southhampton docks on the 10th April 1912 or perhaps a visitor on the 92nd floor of the North Tower on that fateful day at the World Trade Center. Maybe even witness the birth of a nation with the historic Siege of Yorktown that sealed America's independance.
If there was absolutely no danger in experiencing first hand these disasters would you take part?
That's the premise behind the novel Disaster Park who's principal protagonist is Arnie Hetzel, a forensic computer programmer who is still dealing with the aftershocks of his own very real disaster after his wife and 2 daughters die in a house fire. When astronauts suddenly begin appearing in a disaster set in 1903 and then tests of the famous "Battle of Gettysburg" fail miserably, Jase Delaney, the founder of the Delaney Corporation (the creators of this Holographic disaster theme park) manage to convince Arnie that his efforts on the project could be therapeutic.
"People want to be a part of something important, even if it’s just in a hologram," founder Jase Delaney explains. "They want to be able to say that they have been there…" Plus, there’s only five months until "Living History" opens to the public and Jase can’t have malfunctioning programs.
So Arnie delves into this living museum of holographic disasters, where visitors can experience an completely immersive environment of military battles, infamous disasters, and grisly murders. As he does will he be saved from his own tragedy? Or will he find it disrespectful to recreate a mass murder in hologram, then charge admission?
A very original and thought provoking story lies at the heart of the book, written in style and with a good degree of intelligence. Of course we've seen lot's of stories about theme parks that have turned into disasters such as "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (written by Ray Bradbury in 1962), Jurrasic Park which was written by the late Michael Crichton who also wrote the original theme park disaster classic Westworld (all 3 books have been made into films of the same name). None of these novels (or any others I can think of) actually set the theme park ride itself as the (holographic) disaster, it's a completely original idea and not one i've ever even considered.
The plot is fairly pacey and the back story quite convincing, set in future society that obviously has full, lifelike 3D holograms which is a little like the holodeck for those Star Trek fans. This use of future tech is very appropriate with the recent launch of 3D TV's, and the plethera of 3D films (not to mention a 3D version of the Nintendo DS on the way). The 3D TV's depicted here though are vastly superior bits of kit, with a "cube" shape that you can view from a full 360 degree angle.
The characters are interesting, but not as finely honed as I feel they could be, I never really felt drawn to them which meant that when something dramatic happened I didn't care as much as I could have. I think part of this was the limited back story that the protagonists receive, I don't think it was quite enough to really flesh them out.
The main story here is clearly society's glorification of disasters, led by the media but ultimately fed by the populous, why do we love to rubberneck about others miss-fortune and how long should it be before a historic event can become de-sensitised enough that it can be safely dramatised?
Disaster Park is original, thought provoking and despite a few rough spots, a very enjoyable read, recommended.
Written on 3rd December 2010 by Ant .