If anyone can write a book on interactive storytelling, it is Chris Crawford. He has a career of pioneering in the field of interactive entertainment, and is the creator of the first and only interactive storytelling technology publicly available.
This jewel is a humorous, intelligent overview of the current state of Crawford's fourteen-years-long research into the subject. Choosing to present the material in this way - as a status report with many loose ends and as many questions as answers, shows great honesty and modesty - and it also allows the author to concentrate on what he does know instead of trying to conceal what he doesn't. In an intellectual field populated by many instant experts and charlatans, this work really stands out.
But don't get me wrong - Crawford knows a great deal about the subject. Perhaps the greatest benefit that you'll derive from this book is learning how not to think about interactive storytelling. For example, it shows why one shouldn't think about the subject in terms of other artistic media, including literature, theatre and cinema, as well as computer games, interactive fiction and hypertext literature. Even before I was aware of Crawford's work, I had been very interested in interactive storytelling. While reading this book I found that I had been making many mistakes in my thinking that were obviated by Crawford's lucid arguments and explanations. The man saved me years of cogitation.
Crawford also presents several of the chief concepts that have guided his research. He offers the best definition of interactivity that I'm aware of, and explains how it can be combined with stories. He makes many important points about the nature of the artistic works resulting from such a combination. All of these ideas are highly valuable, and allow the reader to ask the right questions, which is all one could ask for, since, as yet, no one has most of the answers.
The author also presents the core technologies required for any interactive storytelling system to be successful, and explains their function and role in the system. This explanation is thorough but not overly technical, and really helps to create a practical grounding for all the book's theories.
There are also several smaller topics addressed in the book, like an overview of other research projects on the subject, and a discussion of the mindset required from an interactive storyteller.
This work is a mirror image of Crawford's project - a state-of-the-art work-in-progress filled with inspiration and insight and based on a great deal of expertise attained through trial-and-error. It is also infused with Crawford's excellent sense of humor.
This book is a must read for anyone interested in the great adventure of birthing a new artistic medium.