A simple answer is that these three works are stories. The most coherent world might be shown in “How to Rob a Bank,” which tells a story from multiple points of view that can be engaged with in any order. The two tracks I spent the most time with were the journal of Elizabeth and the Huffington Post submissions of Nancy. They were both subjective but were unified by the overarching idea of a couple robbing banks and its perceived impact. This fits easily into the idea of a linear narrative because the story does not change it just has various perspectives. I was not engaged by “My Boyfriend Came Back from the War.” Though it develops a sense of characters its navigation, which approaches randomness, is disjointed, and for me off-putting. So, I can say that work did not draw me in at all. Regardless, the fractured nature of the presentation does lead to a sense of brokenness which is perhaps the important current that flows through and unifies the work. “With Those We Love Alive” was trickier for me because I was engaged and explored more. The tricky part was I was hooked by the question/answer portion and, when the switch was made to a story, I was invested in exploring the world that was presented. The world building aspect of the work established simple and clear elements like the workshop and the temple. I explored some of these options until they were exhausted.
One important aspect of these works is that they are, for me, related to a chose-your-own-adventure book. I have seen other hypertext works that are exactly that. Those stories are interactive and rely on audience choice to complete the story beyond just a turn of the page. There is also a reliance on associative thinking in some of the early pre-web hypertext/hypermedia works that breaks away from what would be typical in most books that tell stories, as opposed to encyclopedias and dictionaries which are indexed. Although, in my experience of these later books I tend to go down the rabbit-hole of associative linking. Wikipedia is a good example of hypertext with associative linking in digital form.
Is linear sequencing important? I say yes. Whether it is clear or vague if there is no story, or perhaps even a simple theme, I doubt the work can be engaging. Even if the work is purely sound-based or purely visual there has to be a cause and effect that I can grasp or the work will be beyond me. Surprise as an effect is the same in that the surprise needs to be understandable or somehow able to be contextualized by the audience. In the end, if it’s a story it must communicate something. I think the three works did that.