Sunday, August 18, 2013

Twistaplot #6 Crash Landing

After leaving my wimpy personal submarine for no good reason and promptly being turned into a beautiful corpse by a sea snake I've decided to go back to Twistaplot, where I won't have to worry about issues like "high expectations" or "I remember this being better." Although in fairness both of those would have applied at one point, but after revisiting several books in this series I've come to the conclusion that my younger self might have actually been less than discerning in regards to free time activity. Well, expect for those thousands of hours of Ms. Pac Man. That still goes on the top of every resume, right next my Super Mario high scores. Anyways, let's just accept that this probably isn't going to be very good and dive right in.

"Hi kids, we're home early!"

Having unquestionably the worst cover ever certainly doesn't help matters. I mean, look at this shit. There's a lot not to like, but what puts this over the top is the positioning and facial expression of the couple at the bottom, both of which suggest the parents walking in just as they were starting to "get busy" more than the aftermath of plane crash. I could also mention the lame fire, the poorly drawn plane that is conveniently labelled as a "747" the fact that the "crash landing" apparently caused no damage whatsoever to the forest and so on, but I want to keep this review under the 100k word limit.

I'm flying home from Argentina. In keeping with the Twistaplot theme of amateur athletics gone horribly wrong I'm told I won the trip to South America in a balance beam competition. My thoughts are focused on my family and school and getting back to them and we actually get a fair amount of throwaway details about my alleged connections to other human units that I won't bore you with. Still, I'm philosophical about the whole experience, noting that my "Spanish is improved, at least." See kids, Spanish is the official language of Argentina. These books are educational and not at all overly snarky, mind-rotting garbage.

Everything else I know about Argentina. Not pictured: Evita, soccer.

Suddenly the plane starts bouncing around and flying erratically. Either it just fell in love or we've got some mechanical issues.We then get a long exposition dump delivered by a guy name "Wayne" that goes on for much longer than necessary and boils down to "plane crashing, jump y/n." For a normal person this might be a tough call, but with my extensive sugar glider background it's a snap. Make the jump, float harmlessly into inhospitable territory, maybe survive longer by eating Wayne's corpse, no problem.

Suicide is preferable to participating in a Democracy.

Things go well and I float my way down, eventually deciding to land in a nice hospitable jungle. Before it can bring me down (huh) I find some of the other jumpers, including Wayne and two other people that are described as "young people" on a rocky shelf overlooking the jungle. I get a choice between trying some mountain climbing with the punk kids or following Wayne into almost certain death on an "ice field." Better stick with Wayne, since he got more than two words of description and actually seems semi-competent. Yeah, we'll be fine.

Only a few hundred more miles of this and we'll be safe.

Wayne more than vindicates my trust by promptly plunging to what I assume to be his horrible death. Jeff, the male half of the young couple, displays his heartless pragmatism by declaring "he's had it!" but I've got to go check out what happened. And get the knife back. Altruism and basic decency were left back on the crashing plane. So sorry.

I come up with this convoluted mountain-climbing rig that I hope can rescue Wayne's ruined mortal shell while keeping that very useful blade. Incredibly, it works. Even more amazingly, Wayne is remarkably uninjured and is mostly concerned about how I unbuttoned his shirt while he was out, becoming pretty accusatory for a guy that just cheated death. "It was for medical reasons, Wayne! I didn't do anything to your unconscious body, honest!" 

With the whole "serious injury groper" issue settled, it's revealed that Wayne can't walk, so he actually is hurt pretty bad. Well, at least when I get back to school, somehow, I can reflect on how my paramedic skills improved...just a little. We decide to stay the night together, no weird stuff honest, and hope we're spotted by a rescue plane.

I then have to make a choice based only on if I "saw or heard an airplane today." Yeah, never thought I'd be happy about that airport expansion, but there it is. Midway through a night of camping where nothing out of propriety happened, I swear, we hear a plane. Next morning we lay down cloth strips in a giant "H" to symbolize "help." This touches off some of the most painful wackiness imaginable as we get a plane communicating with us via skywriting who then thinks we've fallen in love with him and honestly I can feel the interior of my head being damaged recapping this.

Everything just totally falls apart. We meet the other survivors, get this story about a "diamond smuggler," realize that this explains Wayne's bizarre reaction to my totally clinical exploration of his body and turn him in when we get rescued. All this nonsense happens in rapid fire, with no choices to break it up. I'm a hero, Spanish marginally better, guilty punished, blah blah.

It's too bad because I was liking this one right until I had to make a choice that was a glorified coin toss and then everything just went into a cocked hat. I actually got pretty lucky with my run, other paths give you b.s. like "if today's date is an even number" and "if you play a musical instrument" to make choices. This gets no love from me. The whole point is the highly limited agency to guide the story and once that's gone there's nothing left but cringe-inducing attempts at humor and blood diamond-fueled touch freaks. 

Aaron Zehner's first novel The Foolchild Invention is available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.

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