War of the Worlds for iPad: Classic read with interactive fluff


Spoiler alert! If you already have a copy of H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds in one of your digital libraries, I’m not sure you will want to add another one, however cool. But if you don’t, or you want to get your kids to read a real book that isn’t based on teen vampires or video games, smashing idea’s semi-interactive release of the book could be the encouragement they (or you) need.


Christmas has finally passed, as have all of the weekend football games. With luck you’ve packed all but the most intransigent relatives who came to visit back in their cars, the kids have passed out in their rooms from massive sugar overdose, and you finally have a few moments to yourself.

You might want to catch up on all the episodes of your favorite TV shows that you missed while trying to arbitrate between your spouse and your mother, your spouse and his or her mother, your kids and everybody and the family members who didn’t visit but did keep calling you on the phone to arbitrate between the disputes at their houses.

Unfortunately, the networks knew you recorded all their broadcasts on your digital recorders, and so did their sponsors, so they broadcast nothing but low budget specials with actors whose careers are in a nose dive and who are scrambling to gain a little time in the spotlight in a desperate attempt to return to fame and fortune and who, as a consequence, are willing to work for the pitiful compensation permitted by the low budget advertisers who couldn’t buy spots during the rest of the year and they buy-airtime-in-bulk-to-drive-down-rates advertisers who run the same commercials every fifteen minutes in the hope that you can’t hit the fast forward button in time to miss their plug.

You could watch a movie on your blu-ray player or digital download service, but the grandkids left their bubble gum in the disk drawer and the kids are using with your computer and iPad to sell the hundreds of dollars worth of real presents you bought them on eBay.

You could clean the mess the family left behind in their wake, but who has the energy for that?

So what’s left? You could read. Or, if your kids are driving you nuts because they’ve sold their presents and now they’re bored, you could give them something to read. But if you’re anything like I was when I was a kid, or if you’re anything like half the adults on my family, you don’t want a book without pictures to break up all that boring text.

Don’t scoff. Why do you think coffee table books sell ten times as many copies as Derrida and Plato? And why do you think the best selling Bibles have glowing pictures of Jesus and Moses (not to mention the red letters to tell you which passages you can skip over safely)?

Unfortunately, book publishers are convinced people who want to read only want to read words. This is especially good for them since it’s cheaper to make books that only have pictures on the cover. That leaves the rest of us with our iPads, which now deliver books with pictures. No just any pictures, but pictures that do things when you touch them.

So this week I’m going to review two interactive books on the iPad. Mind you, there are suddenly hundreds of them released just in time for Christmas but after I had already written the reviews. So I had to pick out a couple, because they don’t download for free, and I chose The War of the Worlds for iPad for adults, and Food Fight, which is a book for kids that adults should enjoy.

Frankly, interactive books have always been dodgy propositions. Even the ones with good reviews are often disappointing. The text is readable and some of the art moves. Or you click on items and another little object pops out. I worked on the development of interactive media projects for most of the nineties and I was dismayed by how little thought was actually given to the concept of interactivity besides “click on the button to go somewhere or make cute things happen.”

The War of the Worlds for iPad has the advantage of being able to graft minimal interactive content between chapters so that the book itself remains intact. And since the book itself is a decent read that inspired countless science fiction movies—a couple pretty good and most of them terrible—the kids might even be willing to crack the digital covers of this one.

If they need encouragement, remind them that Tom Cruise was in the latest version on the big screen. Never mind that it wasn’t all that good; if teens were known for artistic appreciation we would never have suffered through movies like Porky’s and Hot Dog.

Beware, however, that there must be a dozen digital versions of the book available in the App Store so you want to make sure to download the version The War of the Worlds for iPad by smashing ideas (remember, however, they didn’t actually write the book; the book was written by H.G. Wells, a die-hard socialist who would have been on Rush Limbaugh’s hit list if Rush ever bothered to read).

Make sure to download the smashing ideas release of the book if you want the interactive content.

Click image to see full size

The War of the Worlds for iPad has been hyped as the kind of app the iPad was made for. I’m not sure I’d go that far. Readers who expect pictures, animation and audible dialogue will be sorely disappointed. It’s still the original book, which means readers will actually have to read it.

The interface is quite simple. It reads exactly like a standard ebook, with the entire page visible and no navigation elements to interfere. Tapping the bottom of the screen, however, reveals a typewriter icon. Touching the typewriter brings up a list of chapters, each with its own interactive illustration.

The typewriter icon brings up the chapter list with all of the interactive illustrations, allowing readers to jump to the different sections.

Click image to see full size

Each illustration comes with its own interactive element. Like many of the better games, the interactive element of the illustration isn’t obvious. The reader will have to explore the image to find the picture play. Nothing is spectacular, but the animations have their own internal logic.

The illustrations themselves are gorgeous hi def and completely in keeping with the best of science fiction style and the elaborately detailed color plates of early twentieth century books.

It may take a while to discover the interactive elements in the illustration, but this adds to the fun.

Click image to see full size

To me the book’s biggest selling point is that it’s still the original text of Well’s War of the Worlds. The book remains a classic for a reason. Like his contemporary Jules Verne, Wells produced pulp prose, but pulp prose that stands the test of time. The developers haven’t forgotten this.

Jenny Manytoes rates The War of the Worlds for iPad

Jenny Manytoes would purr next to The War of the Worlds for iPad. This isn’t a dazzlingly spectacular original piece of design work, but it’s good interactive development framed around classic popular fiction. If I were going to pay for a copy of Well’s famous novel, this is the version I would buy.

Actually, I did buy it.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System


Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

Contact me at Email iPad Envy, or
Email The Hidden Grimoire.

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About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
This entry was posted in 4 Stars - Purr, Entertainment, Reading and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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