Sunday, April 28, 2013

Choose Your Own Adventure #20: Escape

It's time for more Choose Your Own Adventure goodness and where better to rejoin the series than with a book that one critic raved about with lines like "this is another average book" and "it's rather uncreatively (that's not actually a word, dude) developed." Wow, if that's doesn't get you pumped for this read-through I don't know what will. Let's get ready to thrill to the mediocrity and sink deep into the "uncreatively" realized world of the future!

 World War 2 fighter planes...of the future!!!

And make no mistake, this is The Future, specifically 2045. The USA has collapsed (nice going Obama) and Balkanized, with an evil police state called Dorado and a relatively benevolent Democracy called Turtalia vying for control of the ruins. In a strange bit of reverse nepotism I've been sent on a dangerous spy mission to the Evil Empire, despite being the son of one of the "Panel of Five" that rules over the spiritual successor of America. The story starts with a prison break out and now I've got to cross hostile territory to get back home. 

He seemed so trustworthy.

Joining me are resistance leader and action girl Mimla, the tough guy Matt, and quiet, nerdy, nervous guy Haven who is obviously either going to go crazy and/or betray us at some point. We're waiting for a "motor-glider" to come get us, but it's late by several hours. We decide to wait and Haven is getting more and more twitchy by the moment. Could you at least try to be subtle about your imminent psychological collapse? To really hammer the point home the author even flat-out tells us "there's something strange about him." Honestly, a giant neon arrow that says "Traitor" pointing at him would be about as subtle.

 "I got your back, don't worry."

My patience is rewarded with the arrival of the plane. Wait, plane? I thought it was a "motor-glider." This must be that future naming convention deal where everything gets a new name for no good reason because future. Let me type that out on the alphabet-rectangle and then smile as I read it on the glowing box output device. Plusgood.

Anyway, the "Windmaster" is a 2012 (Future!!!) design that apparently combines glider features with that of an airplane because technology often takes unnecessary backward steps for no good reason. At least my in-book avatar is impressed, wishing he had one of his own. Unfortunately, the pilot, "Bill," picks this exact moment to have a heart attack. I mean, what are the odds? I'm all "don't worry, I've got glider training." You know what, we've seen this exact plot device before. In fairness, this one was written much earlier, so let's not jump to any conclusions or damn this book as "uncreative" just yet.

  Come spend the night inside my sugar gliders.

Given a choice between flying and setting off across the desert in a truck it's not hard to decide, especially with my glider credentials. I manage to take off in the bizarre concept-plane and it isn't long before we're flying over some mountains. Then the next danger appears: cumulus clouds. No, not clouds! I'm told they could easily take the wings off, which even someone who never took a single class at a sugar glider school could tell you is not a good thing.

I get past the clouds. I guess when the threat is introduced and resolved in two short, consecutive paragraphs it kind of hurts the drama a little. Anyway, Matt is willing to take the controls for awhile so I can rest. Next we get a choice between "circling" and hoping the weather improves or making a run for Denver, capital of the New America. I don't think you escape anything by going in circles, just sayin'. 

Heading into bad weather we get the Choose Your Own Adventure equivalent of one of those flight simulator computer games. It's just a little less complicated: up or not. Seeing as we're in mountains, I'm going to go with "up."

The long-awaited expansion, featuring 70% more ads for Red Bull and new "fly up" mode!

My extensive knowledge of flying (down = crash = bad) saves the day from the bad weather, but we're not out of this yet. Three Doradan "patrol planes" which are the World War 2 fighters depicted on the cover are closing in! I'm all "how did they know we were here" which is a fair question considering the limited range of that sort of plane combined with the bad weather and mountain range. It's almost as if there's someone in our group helping the enemy, perhaps a twitchy nervous fellow...nah, it's probably just very bad luck.

Obviously my lame glider isn't going to outrun this 1942 technology, so I duck into the clouds (now apparently no longer dangerous) and try to lose them. Friendly radio messages! We give some codes and get a dramatic moment where we wonder if it's going to work or if friendly fire will ironically get the job done where the enemy and Mother Nature failed. We get permission to land, Haven acts creepy again for no good reason and then we successfully touch down. Victory! 

This one was fun. The plot is straightforward and there's a decent amount of tension. Sometimes less is more. You're in a hostile country, now escape. That works. The flight simulation that made up a decent amount of my run seemed reasonably realistic and the author probably knows at least a little, even if he doesn't hold an advanced sugar glider degree. Maybe finally getting another "good" ending is prejudicing me a little, but I'd say this one's worth a look. Just make sure you don't trust Haven, dude is sketchy, for real.

Aaron Zehner's first novel The Foolchild Invention is available in e-book format at and Barnes & Noble.

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