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James Patterson, amid the world’s bestselling authors, has never shied from experimenting with the storytelling form—or the storytelling business. He agreeably accepted e-books back they were new; he’s launched a alternation of super-short, $4 books (“like account a movie,” he says); and these days, he relies on coauthors to advice him advance his astonishingly abounding output.

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But his newest novel, “The Chef,” attempts the best aitionist agreement yet: It’s told absolutely through Facebook Messenger, one argument at a time.

You’re acceptable to acquaintance it yourself, back it’s free; bang actuality if you’re on your phone, or actuality if you’re on your computer. (In February, Hachette will activate affairs the atypical in acceptable cardboard anatomy for $28—at over alert the length.)

The novel, coauthored by Max DiLallo, tells the account of Caleb Rooney, a above New Orleans ex-cop who, forth with his ex-wife, runs a admired aliment barter in his off hours. As the huge anniversary Mardi Gras anniversary approaches, Caleb tangles with blackballed FBI agents, avalanche in adulation with a admirable affiliated blonde—and charge arch off a adverse agitator advance on the burghal he loves.

As you ability apprehend of a Patterson novel, this one bubbles forth with affluence of action, abrupt dialogue, and artifice twists. There’s lots of violence, but no profanity, and alone the softest hints that has occurred. And if you’re attractive for subtlety, appearance development, or backstory, this isn’t your novel.

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(“My anatomy of writing,” says Patterson, “is chatty storytelling. It’s not fancy. It’d be abhorrent if ‘100 Years of Solitude’ was accounting the way I write. But it’s good, I think, that somebody’s autograph this way.”)

There is, however, a lot of weirdly over-the-top aliment talk. Caleb Rooney, apathetic man of action, occasionally lapses into flowery, alien descriptions of “sugarcane rum–braised Kobe beef, truffle-braised scallops with an orange-saffron vinaigrette, and a casting iron–seared avoid accomplished with a licorice-tinged absinthe glaze” or “a citrus-glazed swordfish amandine that promises to be tangy, flaky, and brittle all at once, and a delicious lamb chop Clemenceau.” That may be the aing affair you’ll get to experiencing Rooney’s close life.

Once you blaze up Messenger and alpha reading, you bound acknowledge some of the acknowledgment ancillary furnishings of this beginning storytelling form. For example:

But the absolutely huge advantage of this commitment arrangement is that curve of argument and babble can be interspersed with photos, audio recordings, and, notably, video scenes.

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Left: “The Chef” intersperses video scenes with the prose. Right: The capital appearance has an Instagram profile.

“It’s a absolutely air-conditioned experiment,” Patterson told me. “It’s like annihilation you’ve anytime done before: account and again watching film, account and again watching film.”

Well, yes—super low-budget film.

The producers attack to absolve their alternative of which sections to blur by adopting the “found footage” concept: They’re all scenes allegedly captured by aegis cameras, car dashboard cameras, and so on. But that conceit does beggarly that we absence out on all of the action, including a four-airplane blow and some acute Mardi Gras agitator mayhem. (Anything, that is, that would accept amount a lot of money to film.)

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Story Continues

“Ah,” you say. “But isn’t that the adorableness of a novel? That you get to brainstorm these agitative events?” Well, sure—but again why accumulation videos at all? Either they’re account accomplishing or they’re not.

In this case, I ancillary with the creators. True, the videos alter your imagination’s appearance of the characters and scenes with added accurate ones, prescribed, cast, and produced by Facebook and Patterson’s team.

But it’s an absolutely new experience. It’s not like seeing the cine adaptation of a book, area the moviemaker has reinterpreted, adapted, and abridged the original. This is the original, and the video and accounting scenes were all created by the exact aforementioned bodies with absolutely the aforementioned adventure to tell.

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Often in “The Chef,” the videos and photos artlessly arise amid the book paragraphs, after comment—and at those moments, the storytelling appearance absolutely sings. They slyly accompany you into the hero’s world, absolution you pore over the clues absolutely as he’s encountering them.

Sometimes, bulky babble that’s adequate on the folio of a boiler sounds cool advancing from an actor. (“This is the being of nightmares appear to life,” he says at one point. Or: “My Crescent Burghal was still alive, unbowed and continuing strong.” Accept anyone anytime acclimated the chat “unbowed” spontaneously in a sentence?)

At added times, seeing the video clips is a thousand times bigger than aloof reading. Back Caleb gets the smug, boastful villain on a FaceTime call, complete with casual arresting dropouts, it’s creepy-good and chilling.

“I’m absolutely actual pleased, and yet I apperceive that there’s a lot added abeyant here,” Patterson says about the final product. “It works, but we could do article that’s much, abundant better.” He says, for example, that—had there been abundant money for it—he would accept adopted about a third beneath text, and a lot added videos.

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Well, he’s absolutely right. “The Chef” has its allotment of clunkiness, and cipher will aberration the blur assignment for Christopher Nolan’s.

At the aforementioned time, the agreement is absolutely acknowledged in proving the architecture can work. “The Chef” works abnormally able-bodied on the buzz … abnormally back you’re active about in life, award a few account of account time actuality and there … and especially, I’m guessing, for the adolescent audiences that Patterson has spent so abundant of his activity aggravating to get into reading.

“The Chef” may be alone the 1.0 adaptation of the Great American Text-Messaged Novel. And nobody’s adage that it will alter any added formats, like printed books or e-books. But it’s abundant to get you aflame about what adaptation 2.0 or 9.0 ability attending like—something with a bigger budget, maybe added able actors, greater clairvoyant interactivity.

“It’s different,” Patterson says, “which I anticipate book publishing needs.”

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David Pogue, tech columnist for Yahoo Finance, welcomes comments below. On the Web, he’s davidpogue.com. On Twitter, he’s @pogue. You can assurance up to get his being by email, here.

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