Friday, May 24, 2013

Choose Your Own Adventure #17: The Race Forever

Last time out I defeated a lame introduction, caused all kinds of mischief as a monster hero, ate corpses and massacred Lord of the Rings second-stringers but then got killed by a bicep bro who probably curls in the squat rack and invites people to the "gun show" without a trace of irony or self-awareness. Overall, a pretty good run, but it's back into the shallow end of the pool for another Choose Your Own Adventure entry. Today it's going to be all about racing, cool cars, and exotic locations. It's called the Race Forever and I'm all set to go off like I've been personally insulted when it does end, just like with "NeverEnding Story."

We get the usual introductory plot dump. In this case the "you" of the story has extensive racing experience and is traveling to Nairobi to enter an ill-conceived combination rally race/speed race. I'm guessing it will start in Kenya, detour through the Witchcraft belt, pass through a few semi-autonomous regions currently locked in unwinnable civil wars and then finish up in South Sudan. "Hey, we had a choice between Monaco, Daytona, Tokyo or Suba. We made our choice and we stand by it."

  The race course will basically go from one side of the red "no go" zone to the other.

Rather suspect choice of location aside, there's every reason for optimism. Like I said, I'm an experienced driver in both rally and, well, not rally, racing. In fairness nepotism also has played a role, as my father is a motor sports veteran who can name-drop "Le Mans" and "Nurburgring." Time to add " N'Djamena" and "Bamako" to that list, I guess. I should also point out this is the second instance of a "fortunate son" getting odd semi-preferential treatment from this author. I'm not sure if that's a motif he always works in or not, but it is fun to imagine that R.A. Montgomery is the "nepotism crudely wielded" Choose Your Own Adventure author, while most of the others prefer the "horrible fate suffered by a child" signature.

I decide to sign up for the "rough road" race first. While waiting in line, yes the turnout for this "bad idea written all over it" event is that significant, I notice a sign warning drivers to watch out for "animals, bad roads, snakes and fatigue." A more honest version might include warnings about "child soldiers, absence of any centralized authority, human trafficking and land mines" but I'm sure a reptile or being tired is more of a danger than some rebel with a RPG looking to bag their first American.

"Don't worry about it, I'm fine."

I get a choice between a "British Land Rover" and a "Japanese Nissan Pickup" and decide to go with the Nissan. I'm teamed up with an African (yeah, that's how specific the book is) navigator named Amos. He shares a story about Nigerian novelists, but I'm all "let's start jumping puddles in this Nipponese bad-boy." I decide to take the faster route through "hill country." We make good time and quickly reach the first check point and the mandatory one hour rest break. Some older guy is all "hey kid, have a beer!" but for whatever reason I'm not given a choice to drink and drive in an endurance race in arguably the world's most dangerous area. 

Instead he starts menacing me with "broken knee-caps" and I'm offered 5000 British Pounds to throw the race. But, but, the integrity of this great sport is surely worth more than that? Well, it isn't, but if I'm not taking drinks with this guy I'm not taking a dive for him either. Also, this is pretty dumb. Since the race is timed instead of head-to-head he has no way of knowing if I'm even a serious challenger. Plus, there's lots of other drivers. Is he going to make similar offers to all of them, hoping none of them blab this to race officials? I may have found a logical problem in a thirty-year-old book aimed at children. Please try to remain calm.

They totally ripped this off for "Fast and Furious."

Since I'm being all "my personal integrity is worth more than the price of 5000 medium quality tacos" I also snitch this guy out to race officials, which was pretty much guaranteed to happen anyway. This is a fantasy world, so the guilty are promptly punished by a super-efficient and honest administration, Amos turns out to have a "sixth sense" for navigating and we go on to win the race. Aw, yeah. Now for the Speed Race.  

But it's so rewarding!

Time for some fast driving! We get some pointless German-bashing (they're serious!) and I decide to go with a Subura WRX, which I'm assuming does not stand for Wreckz 'N' Effectz. All I want to do is the zoom, zoom, but first I'm paired up with a Russian! And it's a woman! Sadly, she's pretty taciturn, so there's no tales of her crazy Volgograd childhood. I decide to push the car "flat out" using the logic that this is a "race" and that is generally what one does in a race. 

Sadly, sexy Olga is firmly from the Soviet school of careful planning and somehow causes an explosion while refueling the car, getting burned on the hands and arms in the process. I'm given the choice to go back to a "village" to seek medical treatment (it's a village, what facilities would you reasonably expect them to have???) or keep racing and I chose the latter because Olga would want that and let's be honest, the other alternative is just dumb.

Ze kar is, how you say, burnink."

My heartless pragmatism is rewarded with the injured Russian failing at her navigator duties and we end up hopelessly lost. We keep ending up at the same watering hole, vultures are circling, general bad vibes. We don't finish the race either, although the ending does imply that we eventually limp back, completely defeated. Well, one for two isn't bad. I'm better at tattling than showing basic human compassion, that's for sure. 

This one was decent. I liked the "two races in one!" gimmick and the setting is interesting, although in my play through we might as well have been in rural Illinois instead of Africa. Just be sure to snitch at every opportunity and maybe watch the open flames around gasoline. 

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

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