Literary Limbo: The Unnerving World of the Dead Tower

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Andy Campbell and Mez Breeze’s The Dead Tower is a strange experience, certainly. The player/viewer is tasked with navigating a three-dimensional landscape, with the eventual goal of entering a tower which looms menacingly in the distance. Littered around this landscape, suspended in midair, are lexiae, some of which hang still enough to be read, some of which fly quickly, allowing the viewer to glimpse a word here and a word there. What’s more,  a bus is partially overturned in the gray dust, and a couch sits at the foot of the tower. Both objects are covered in words. I won’t spoil what I believe to be the story, but suffice it to say, the whole thing is as inscrutable and odd as those two concepts can be. Besides, I don’t really find the story to be the real star of this piece.

What I truly loved about this work of IF was its ability to create an atmosphere. As with any piece of electronic literature, this story forces the user to interact with it in order to progress through the text. In this case, that progress is made through an expansive, dimly-lit wasteland while being constantly threatened by ominous music and the sound of a hell-born wind whipping across the vast, cracked, desolate plains. The seeming openness, combined, notably with the feeling of being alone (in this respect, I would compare this story to Slender) was horrifying in itself, and as soon as I saw the tower in the distance, I knew it had to contain something less-terrible than this cold, gray desert. However, while I felt myself spurred onward, I also felt curious as to how I came to such an unearthly place, and I was compelled to read the floating lexiae in an attempt to make sense of the situation. The lexiae were no less disconcerting than the wastes, being written strangely. Single words, for example, would be interrupted by a word-fragment in parentheses, such as s(hell)kull comparing the words shell and skull, while also putting an image of Hell into my mind.

I found The Dead Tower to be a creeptastic trip through a world I hope to never truly see, and hope that you take the time to experience it too. Any observations on the atmosphere, the form of the lexiae, or any other facet of this experience are entirely welcome.


  1 comment for “Literary Limbo: The Unnerving World of the Dead Tower

  1. mstange
    February 9, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    I also felt that this piece has a really interesting feel to it. It felt very open due to the darkness surrounding me at the beginning, but it also felt really claustrophobic, because the tower that seemed so far away ended up being much closer than I thought it would be. The use of form here was also interesting with the inclusion of abnormal text characters, such as underscores and empty brackets.

    In terms of understanding what this is about, the only thing I can seem to gather is that the character we are playing as is most likely dead from the bus crash, and is navigating their way to the next plain of existence. That could explain the strange, small world we are given to explore. It would also make sense with this coming from Dreaming Methods, and how abstract Inkubus was.

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