Imagine if you found out about the plot to start World War I, and the person who told you was killed, leaving you framed for the murder. That’s the setting for The Thirty Nine Steps, which is a classic thriller by John Buchan that has now been transformed into an interactive app. The book was originally published in 1915, and there have been a number of film adaptations including a version by Alfred Hitchcock. The story revolves around Richard Hannay, and it’s the first of five novels for the action character. The app takes the essence of the book without the clutter of hundreds of pages, and creates a whole new experience.
You don’t realize how much of a book is composed of detailing the setting, until you see something like The Thirty Nine Steps. There are hundreds of hand drawn pieces of digital artwork to depict all the scenes of the book. Since you can view the scene,, that text is stripped out leaving just the action sequences, character background, and quotes remaining. The atmosphere is delivered visually allowing you to focus on the actual storyline, and it creates a rather immersive experience with a laser guided focus. Each scene gives you just a few lines to read through, and then there are interactive items to explore, special branching subjects to read up on, and a few touch gestures here and there.
The story itself is a finely crafted thriller with new events occuring all the time, but this is an app review, not a book review. John Buchan’s thriller is great, but it feels brand new with the app with so much emphasis added to the main components of the story. It does take awhile to get into, and there are some slow stretches throughout the entirety of the book. It would be nice to have the option to advance things a bit faster with a double tap, as the new scenes, and lines can really slowly fade in at times. Still though, there’s just such a finely crafted experience to dive into, which keeps the intrigue high with such a sharp focus throughout. The app blends book, and movie into one, though it would be nice to see some more interactive elements.
The Thirty Nine Steps ($3.99, iPad) is a brand new reading experience that you will enjoy every step of the way making it worth picking up.