The Boat by Nam Le: Fantastic free graphic novel (read online)

The Boat: A Free, Compelling Graphic Novel Adaptation

The Boat is a digital graphic novel produced by SBS, an Australian public broadcasting company.

The Boat is a digital graphic novel produced by SBS, an Australian public broadcasting company.

Devices: Optimized for desktop but mobile-compatible (use landscape mode; audio doesn’t work)
Length: 30 minutes or less
Technology: HTML5
Cost: Free

I stumbled on a multimedia gem the other day. Called The Boat, it’s an online graphic novel adaptation of The Boat by Nam Le. Cleverly designed and complete with audio and animation, it delivers a powerful message about the Vietnam War. It’s also free.

The project is mesmerizing. Right from the opening screen, the smoothness of the animation and quality of the sound is striking. How did they get those rain droplets to work, anyway?

Masterful illustrations, as well as music and sound effects, create a strong sense of place.

Masterful illustrations, as well as music and sound effects, create a strong sense of place.

The project has a strong sense of environment and transports us to distinct locations, each with a different look and feel: a boat at sea, the main character’s childhood home, a bustling city, a river in the middle of the night, and others.

Not only that, the drama is compelling and well worth the read.

Photographs are interwoven with artwork to remind us that this story happened to real people.

Photographs are interwoven with artwork to remind us that this story happened to real people.

The Boat is already a praised collection of short stories. The graphic novel takes after the book’s title work and uses about a third of the text; while I haven’t read the original, the prose present indicates it’d likely be a good read.

It was no trivial amount of effort to put this together: there are 300 illustrations, 59 of them animated. I found myself incredibly excited to learn more about the artist, Matt Huynh, and his other work, which apparently includes a few other digital graphic novels.

The interplay between parallaxing backgrounds and foregrounds is, shall we say, sumptious.

The interplay between parallaxing backgrounds and foregrounds is effective and immersive.

Some other notes: The project is built in HTML5, the sound doesn’t work in mobile devices, and it was produced by the Special Broadcasting Station (SBS), a national public broadcasting station based in Australia, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon in 1975.

Definitely check this out and share the love — The Boat has plenty of shares, but the project is cool enough that everyone interested in multimedia should know about it.

Liberation from the printed page allows for some compelling design and animations choices.

Liberation from the printed page allows for some compelling design and animations choices.

P.S. When can National Public Radio (NPR) start making some multimedia graphic novels?

About the author

Artemio Morales

Artemio Morales is a programmer, digital literature enthusiast, and founder of AltSalt. Perpetually stricken with wanderlust, he enjoys playing music, social dancing, and making awesome work with talented people.

1 comment
True Legends app puts the 'flash' in flash fiction - Alternative Salt - May 2, 2016

[…] space here differs from the space in say, a more graphic-novel focused approach like in that of The Boat. The effect this has on the reader is one of total immersion into the world, rather than perceiving […]

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