The Mr. Robot Book Is One Last-Minute Gift Idea That Will Pass the Sniff Test (Literally)
So you waited until the last minute to do your holiday shopping and now you're kinda screwed. And isn't all this holiday commercialism just another excuse to sink deeper and deeper into debt while large corporations line their already-overfilled pockets with inflated credit card interest paid by our disproportionately meager wages? Well, sure. But that doesn't change the fact you need to get your Christmas shopping done.
The official Mr. Robot companion book may be the answer to your shopping woes AND it passes the sniff test, literally. Titled Mr. Robot: eps1.91_redwheelbarr0w.txt -- or more colloquially, Red Wheelbarrow -- it's the only tie-in book for USA Network's award-winning series and contains original illustrations and seven removable artifacts throughout.
Modeled after the journal that Rami Malek's character Elliot Alderson is writing during season_2.0, Red Wheelbarrow is so authentic that not only does it look and feel exactly like a composition notebook, but also fans on Reddit were convinced that the scorched cover had a burnt smell to it.
"There's a burn mark on the cover that we did some treatments on to depress it," explained John Morgan of Melcher Media, the company that produced Red Wheelbarrow for Abrams Books. "Somebody had written online that you can smell it and there's a burn smell that we put on it. We did not put a burn smell on it, but the fact that people were thinking we did, indicates that everything right up to that burn smell is selling it. That's definitely our goal."
The folks at Melcher have an excellent track record of producing these types of tie-in books and were also behind J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst's S. and Tom Clancy's The Division: New York Collapse -- two other very cool immersive companion pieces. Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail, who penned the tie-in book along with series writer Courtney Looney, was keen on the idea of doing a "found object book" for Mr. Robot and the fact that Elliot's journal would figure prominently into season_2.0 made it the perfect tie-in piece.
Melcher worked closely with Looney on how they could turn around the production of the book, while Mr. Robot was also trying to turn around the second season of the show. In the same way that the writers room can function -- with someone writing a script and the head writer then signing off -- Looney took the reins on writing Elliot's journal, while, ultimately, Esmail made sure that it fit seamlessly into the world of the show. Then, to make the journal seem even more authentic, Melcher had the entire manuscript hand-written with the help of the firm Headcase Design.
"We do the handwriting and we scan it," Morgan said. "But then we treat it in different ways to retain that handwriting-ness of it, while also being able to mass produce it."
For the illustrations throughout, it was important to pick one artist and stick with her drawings for consistency's sake. "Karina McKenzie was the artist that was doing the illustrations for Elliot and we wanted them to look messy," Morgan said. "Elliot's not an artist, but we also wanted them to be fun and integrate different parts of his personality. Everything was definitely run by Sam and Courtney and also many of the original illustration ideas were from them and then we all got in the mix."
And then, of course, there are the puzzles in the book, which had to feel organic to the story of Mr. Robot season_2.0 and also work as a fun, challenging puzzle for fans. "Whenever you're putting a puzzle or a code into the book," Morgan explained, "it can feel counterintuitive [because] you start with the conclusion -- a solution to the puzzle -- and then you work backwards to figure out how it can be expressed. We had a puzzle design team that we had worked with before on some of those previous books and I think a lot of it was figuring out how best to prototype those puzzles, test their difficulty, and then run them by Sam and Courtney for creative input."
Despite all of the production value that went into Red Wheelbarrow, the Mr. Robot book is available at an affordable price -- the hardcover is listed for $29.95 and it's selling on Amazon right now for $19.46. And you know what that means... with Amazon Prime you get the book with free two-day shipping. Just in time for Christmas!