I’ve been a long time fan of novels that go the extra step and bring the reader right into them. They could be called Augmented Reality Books, but Transmedia actually sounds cooler. They are a type of book that really reach out to its readers, in more and interesting ways than ever before.
A few years back, I had the immense pleasure of enjoying the Cathy’s Book trilogy by Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman. This was before most people could afford an iProduct of any kind. The first books set up (carried on through out the series) was to solve the mystery, read the book and call the numbers.
It was a heck of a lot of fun. The only problem I had was that there was really nothing to solve, it was a complete story in that it didn’t involve a lot of mystery. Thus the extra evidence that came with the book (photos, an old coin, a napkin marked with lipstick, family trees, drawings) didn’t really have much to do with the mystery of the story itself.
Neither did the phone numbers. It was cool trying to figure out which phones to call, which voice mails to listen to, which places to leave a message to get one in return. This is where the book really came alive and it didn’t charge me any long distance either. Again, however, there was that disconnect. The phone numbers you could call didn’t have any connection to the book.
I was a little unnerved that there was no relation to the story and the Transmedia element to the story. It ended up feeling like a package for the story. I still love that trilogy of books, don’t get me wrong. They got almost everything right. It was a great story with some really cool twists and the first time that a novel had tried to become something more.
Patrick Carman stepped things up with his award winning Skeleton Creek series. The series of four books works on a simple premise: One half of the story is told through Ryan’s journal the other half through Sarah’s videos. There’s a web site where people can enter passwords to view the videos. In order for the rest of Ryan’s journal to make sense, you have to watch the videos. This can be limiting if you’re reading the books away from home, but they are quick, fantastic reads and shouldn’t take you longer than a day or so to devour.
With Skeleton Creek, Transmedia Novels took a step forward. Patrick Carman created a multi-platform adventure that worked: the books and videos worked in synchronicity with each other and brought novels to a new level. Carman would later bring Transmedia Novels to the next level with Dark Eden, a book app that is part video, part novel and part audio book. The amazing thing about Dark Eden, aside from its multi-media aspects, is that the story isn’t lost. The books work great on their own as books but come to life as an interactive app.
When The 39 Clues came out, I was intrigued…until I realized that you had to collect carda long with the series and have a chance at winning prizes. I passed on reading the books solely for this reason. It all felt like a gimmick to me, getting kids and parents to spend money on card packs when the books and their online elements should have been enough. Sure, the online elements looked cool and it was perhaps marketed more to boys than girls (the whole card trading thing) but it certainly didn’t excite me.
The Infinity Ring series. Book One: A Mutiny In Time by James Dashner came out recently and I had to admit that I was curious. It’s published by Scholastic, the same people that put out The 39 Clues series. I checked out the transmedia elements before picking up a copy of the eBook.
The Infinity Ring: The King of Diamonds is free to play, either online or in app format. There is a web site where you can go to register and enter codes that come with your books. That’s it. The game is free online and it’s a free app. All you have to do is buy the book. Getting the book gives you codes you can enter online. I’m not sure what the code gives you, to be honest, except access to play each episode of the game that will come out with each book in the Infinity Ring Series.
Online components don’t work too well for me as I don’t play a lot of games online, but they are catering to everyone and not everyone has an iPhone or iPad or iPod. The web site is stylish and the app is fantastic fun that works well as a companion to the book (as in, the whole thing makes a whole lot more sense if you’ve read the book). My only complaint was that I didn’t like the voice acting in the game, but that’s easily turned off. It’s good to note that the app does need wifi to play it, even as guest, so The Infinity Ring: The King of Diamonds won’t work well on your iPod with wifi while you’re away from home for the day.
Added to this is the fact that the game is really well linked to the book. You can play it without reading the novel, but you’ll be missing out on the story that really helps the characters to come alive when you play the game. The book even comes with a Hystorian’s Guide in two formats: If you get the physical book, the cover come off and the reverse is the guide. If you get the eBook, the Hystorian’s Guide is included or you can download the PDF from the www.infinityring.com web site. The app is a quest game with little mini puzzle games as you go along and the whole production of it is just gorgeous. The joystick controls to move your character are a little wonky, but the app is just amazing, so you can overlook that. It even gives you the ability to take 3D pictures of Paris as you roam through its streets which become part of your online profile.
Of course, all this would be moot if the book was subpar. Thankfully, it’s an incredibly well written and historically accurate time travel adventure that will have you hooked from the first page. Set in a future not unlike our own, Dak and Sera must use the Infinity Ring to fight the SQ, a corporation responsible for some of the most dangerous natural disasters the planet has seen. In order to do so, they become part of a secret organization known as The Hystorians, first begun by Aristotle. Sera and Dak will have to travel back in time to fix the past in order to save the future.
I started the book last night and I’m almost half way through. Here’s the thing that I was really impressed with though: the transmedia elements to the novel (web site, Hystorian’s Guide and app) really made me want to read the book. And having read most of the book already, I’ll get more out of playing the King of Diamonds app. I was really impressed with how well they have seamlessly woven the relationship between the book and its multi-media elements. Both can be played or read independently of each other, but both come alive when used together. Best of all, there are no card packs to buy, nothing to collect, nothing extra to pay for.
The Infinity Ring Book One: A Mutiny in Time is a flat out thrill ride transmedia experience. And I’m not ashamed to say that I’m totally hooked and can’t wait for The Infinity Ring Book Two: Divide and Conquer by Carrie Ryan which comes out in November.
The Infinity Ring Book One: A Mutiny in Time is the next step in Transmedia Novels. I can’t wait to see where the series, and transmedia, are going to go. I, for one, am along for the ride.