'War of the Worlds' gets interactive on the iPad

Definitely not for little kids, H.G. Wells' classic tale of alien invasion gets enhanced with animated attacks, spooky sound effects, and other interactive goodies.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
2 min read

If you need proof of the iPad's unmatched acumen as an e-book reader, look no further than Smashing Ideas' smashing version of the H.G. Wells classic, "The War of the Worlds."

The landscape-oriented app presents the full text of Wells' chilling novel, with side-by-side pages that, to me, seem more book-like than if the words stretched from one side of the screen to the other.

Of course, the highlight here is not the presentation of the text, but rather the 27 illustrated, animated, interactive pages interspersed throughout the book. The artwork is dazzling--and occasionally a bit gruesome, as when you unleash the Martian tripod's heat-ray on a field of onlookers (who literally burst into flame). The accompanying screams of horror make the experience that much more intense.

This isn't a still frame; your finger activates the Martian heat-ray and fries the innocent onlookers.
This isn't a still frame; your finger activates the Martian heat-ray and fries the innocent onlookers. Smashing Ideas

Which begs the question: do gimmicks like these enhance a book--or distract you from it? I think it's a little of both, as I found myself hurrying through the text to get to the next animated page--but then using those pages to help fire my imagination.

In any case, this isn't the first e-book to mix animation and sound effects with the story (credit for that goes to Alice for the iPad), but it's definitely one of the first that wasn't developed with children in mind. Indeed, it's perhaps the only non-children's story to receive such a splashy makeover. Here's hoping it's not the last.

I do have a few quibbles. You can't adjust the font size or style (though I found both easy on the eyes), and you can't read in portrait mode if you want to; War of the Worlds is landscape only.

The app is currently selling for the launch-special price of $3.99, which I think is very reasonable. If you're interested, grab it before it jumps to its regular selling price of $7.99.

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