On Wednesday, the American thriller author James Patterson’s new book Private Vegas was made available as an e-book to 1,000 lucky participants. The book’s website released a series of codes which could then be used to download an app on the iPad to read it. The catch, of course, was that you had 24 hours to finish it before the book would self-destruct.
Quartz decided to send an operative (me) to complete the mission. This is my story.
Wednesday, January 21
2:55pm: I stare at the book’s website, waiting for the next batch of codes to be released. I realize the iPad is at 2%. I plug it in.
3:00pm: The codes are released, and I am selected to receive one! (I wonder, is anyone not selected?) I download the app in order to start reading.
3:08pm: The iPad dies. It apparently cannot handle running the app on such low battery. Perhaps a sign of things to come?
3:19pm: Using a laptop now, I check into my profile on the book’s website. It has geolocated me to the wrong side of Manhattan, but it’s close enough. Someone “steals” 15 minutes from me. (The book’s website has a map of everyone who has downloaded the app and is reading the book. You can click an item to “sabotage” a person, taking 15 minutes of reading time away.)
3:46pm: I open the app on the iPad again and start reading. I read five pages before more minutes are stolen from me by a cowardly, hidden foe. Time to take a break.
5:05pm: I pick up where I left off, with 20 hours and 31 minutes remaining.
5:06pm: A small box in the top left of the screen tells me I have book 72/1,000. I don’t know if that means there were only 71 other brave souls reading the book at the time I received a code, or if I was arbitrarily assigned the number 72 upon downloading the app. I suspect it’s the former.
5:08pm: Fifteen more precious minutes are taken from me, but this time I catch the perpetrator. Susan from Long Island: I will have my vengeance.
5:13pm: I am prompted to choose my “tension level.” My choices are Goosebumps, Nail Biting, Mind Blown, or Heart Attack. There is no option for None of the Above. I select Goosebumps, because I enjoyed those books as a child.
5:16pm: I am told that I am only now beginning Part One, after reading 14 pages of what was apparently an introduction. Part One is subtitled “90210.” Time for another break.
5:21pm: This is the most fun I’ve ever had reading a self-destructing James Patterson e-book.
5:52pm: I go onto the map and sabotage all of my Manhattan competition. I then begin sabotaging people indiscriminately across the United States. Kristen in New Mexico, Jacque in Missouri, and Sarah in Connecticut fall victim to my reign of terror. I’m a monster.
6:46pm: Now I’m home from work, and ready to read. I open the app, read the words “Part One: 90210” again, and close the app.
7:29pm: I do other things that are not reading Private Vegas. I pick up the novel I am actually reading, book two of Jeff Vandermeer’s beautifully imagined Southern Reach Trilogy. I am reminded of the power of good writing. I watch Tuesday night’s season six premiere of Justified, which I had missed due to the State of the Union. (A promising start to the show’s final season after what was a disappointing fifth season.)
9:20pm: I keep thinking of Private Vegas as a soldier named Vegas. Saving Private Vegas.
9:27pm: At some point during my extended reading break, more than four more hours are stolen from me by other players. I try to make up some ground. Ugh.
9:30pm: I listen to the soundtracks from The Social Network, Gone Girl, Inception, and Interstellar hoping it will make the story seem more interesting.
9:42pm: It does not work.
10:00pm: I have reached page 43. Chapter 12. I am 12% through the book. (Yes, the chapters are very short.) Does that mean there are 100 chapters? That’s nice. Fittingly, I also have roughly 12 hours left on my timer.
10:01pm: I don’t think I like the book nearly enough to complete my mission. I am tired, war-torn, ready to submit. I summon the last vestiges of my resolve and trudge on.
10:04pm: I literally can’t even.
10:05pm: I am not going to finish the book. That leaves me with two options. 1) Flip through the pages (without reading them) and get to the end so the app thinks I finished the book, or 2) Allow the timer to run its course, and be blown up.
10:06pm: I accept my fate: Live by Private Vegas, die by Private Vegas. We’ve been through a lot together. I can’t leave this book to die alone. In less than 12 hours, I will explode alongside my comrade.
11:30pm: One last slumber.
Thursday, January 22
7:30am: I rise to greet my final day.
7:45am: I check the app. A little over an hour left. I start putting my affairs in order.
8:52am: Less than 15 minutes to go. If someone sabotages me now, it would literally be murder.
8:54am: I consider changing my tension level one notch higher, to Nail Biting, but that would be a lie.
8:55am: The box in the top left of the screen says 52 other books have been destroyed before mine. So much carnage, and for what? Who wins here?
8:59am: I’m not going to go out lying down. When I explode, I’ll be reading James Patterson’s Private Vegas. That’s how it was meant to be.
9:00am: I read the line, “Both he and the big male dog had hair triggers. The dog, though, was permitted to go bug-fuck.” No, that line doesn’t make sense, even with context.
9:06am: One minute left. This will be my last entry. Goodbye.
9:07am: The pages disappear to reveal a C4 bomb underneath them. A very corny animated explosion occurs. A message, signed by James Patterson, tells me I survived.
I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but I did.