Author: P.C. Martin
Publisher: Noble Beast, 2013*
Length: 8 Chapters*
Available on iTunes
Beloved consulting detective Sherlock Holmes has gone steam in Steampunk Holmes: Legacy of the Nautilus. In this play between two classic tales, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Bruce-Partington Plans and Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, author P.C. Martin takes all the fun and innovation of steampunk, and puts it at the disposal of Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Watson, and … in the interest of not spoiling the story, we’ll just say others.
P.C. Martin does a wonderful job of stylistically keeping with the feel and flow of the Sherlock Holmes stories we’ve come to know and love. Her characters are generally true to their historical personality traits, with a little give and take here and there, as dictated by modern convention and the fact that she has, delightfully, made Mycroft Holmes ‘sister Mycroft’ rather than ‘brother Mycroft.’ Sister Mycroft is considerably slimmer than brother Mycroft, so she is somewhat more active, perhaps in part to explain away what would otherwise be a remarkable metabolism, but sister Mycroft is no more pleased at disturbances in her preferred routine than brother Mycroft has ever been. Given Doyle’s original description of Mycroft Holmes** in The Bruce-Partington Plans, it would seem the author’s compromise (when choosing between keeping true and pleasing current fans, or changing and perhaps getting angry letters accusing her of being indelicate, from those who had never read the original stories) was very well done.
Steampunk Holmes will be a series extending beyond Legacy of the Nautilus. The series as a whole will bring in other classic tales besides that of Jules Verne to mash up with those of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Legacy of the Nautilus is only the beginning; but oh, what a beginning. The enhanced eBook app for iPad was funded on Kickstarter in May of 2012. The Kickstarter page lists future mash-up possibilities including “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, H.G. Wells’ Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man,” and more. Follow @SteamHolmes on Twitter for updates.
With art by Daniel Cortes, music by Abney Park, and voice acting by Gerald Price, Shash Hira, and Nicky Barber, the enhanced eBook app for iPad is exquisitely rendered in every way. Illustrations include pencil sketches and paintings throughout the book. There are subtle hyperlinks in the text and a toolbar overhead which the reader can also use to view many of the illustrations at any time they choose. When the illustrations are opened for closer examination, they become even more interactive, as the portraits blink their eyes or blow smoke. Diagrams for mechanicals are also included, right down to that of our dear Doctor Watson’s arm. Further examination of these diagrams, by tapping each part of the diagram, show working parts, and burst-views slide together to show how everything fits one piece into the next.
Readers can choose, by virtue of a toggle, whether or not to have musical accompaniment, as well as whether or not they’d like to have the narrative read aloud to them. There is also an option to have the page turn automatically when the narrative is read aloud, so the reader may either read along and explore the interactive nature of the visuals, or simply listen, as with an audiobook.
The page-turn itself, though, with this app, is a bit of an experience. This is no ordinary eBook in that respect, and those particular people, like myself, who hold a strong preference for paper books over eBooks will be especially appreciative of the attention to detail given here. Playing at the edge of the page, the app acts more like paper than anything I’ve ever seen: fluid, rolling, and realistic. As you can probably tell, once I noted the difference, I got distracted playing with it for far longer than I’m willing to admit.
The only drawback to the app that I noted was that although text could be copied or defined, there is no way (currently) to highlight or underline favorite passages, nor is there any way to take notes within the app, as there is in most eBooks.
All in all, the Steampunk Holmes: Legacy of the Nautilus enhanced eBook app for iPad is a fascinating and fun experience that is truly interactive. Noble Beast has brought eBooks to an entirely new level.
*Other versions of this work were made available in 2012, including print and eBooks which have only a few illustrations. These versions contain 144 pages. An audiobook version is also available.
**”A moment later the tall and portly form of Mycroft Holmes was ushered into the room. Heavily built and massive, there was a suggestion of uncouth physical inertia in the figure, but above this unwieldy frame there was perched a head so masterful in its brow, so alert in its steel-grey, deep-set eyes, so firm in its lips, and so subtle in its play of expression, that after the first glance one forgot the gross body and remembered only the dominant mind.”
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Bruce-Partington Plans