App of the Week: iDrakula

Name: iDrakula
Platform: iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch (requires iOS 4)
Cost: Free preview (first five days) and $1.99 to finish the story

I’m kind of obsessed with Dracula and I rather enjoy my iPhone, so when I heard that Bekka Black had written a modern retelling of Dracula that I could read on my phone, I had to have it. ‘ Like Stoker’s original version, the story is told in correspondence, in this case, through texts, emails, voice mail, and browser history.’  Check out these cute YouTube promotional bits.

Here’s the title page and contents:

There are two options for accessing the story, you can wait for updates, so you read a little bit at a time, or you can choose to read the whole thing at once. ‘ ‘ I lasted about 1/3 of the way through getting daily updates, before I had to click “read the full story now.” ‘ I think the daily updates would be appealing to teens because you get a reminder message that there is new content to read in iDrakula on your phone, and then you can go read it. ‘ For busy teens, a daily piece of story that shows up on your phone and asks you to read it is a great way to keep reading ‘ without feeling like you have to sit down and devote a large chunk of time to it. ‘ If you get hooked and need to know what happens next, you have the option to do so at the touch of a button.

The interface is quite simple. ‘ For each day in the story there is a list of messages. ‘ You can click on each message, use arrow keys to go to the next one, or simply slide your finger to turn the page. ‘ The design is an amusing gothic version of the regular iPhone interface- each screen has a blood red background with details that make it look like you’re reading through smashed glass. ‘ It sets the mood quite nicely. The app runs great over 3G for a perfect read-anywhere experience.

iDrakula is also available in print, and as an ebook, but I am skeptical of how it would translate to these media.’  It tangibly loses something in print because you can’t play the voicemail messages, but I think it would lose even more because it is a story that exists in the realm of cell phone communications. ‘ When you read it on your phone, it’s like you’re evesdropping on the action as it occurs.

The story both simplifies and deviates from the source material, as it obviously must to translate a 300 page novel into an eighteen day set of cell phone communications. ‘ The author readily admits that some of the things she changed because she “thought they were cool”. ‘ As a Dracula purist, there were some changes that I did not like. ‘ (Mina and Jonathan’s relationship is rock-solid in the original, but this is not the first adaptation to reinterpret that.) But Mina remains sufficiently bad-ass, she references placing well in a martial arts tournament. ‘ And some things that are left out of this condensed story are referenced, most notably missing characters who turn up as a police officer named Quincy Morris and a doctor from a blood bank called John Seward.

Ultimately, the story itself comes across as very contemporary, but still hits most of the important beats of the original. It uses the iPhone medium to great advantage and was a fun story for the Halloween season. ‘ I would recommend it to anyone who likes action, vampires, and iPhones.

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