Sunday, December 8, 2013

Choose Your Own Adventure #22: Space Patrol

The good news is we're done with the wild west, the bad news is we're returning to another highly cliched setting for today's entry. Yes, "space," the new frontier of massive emptiness that's extremely hostile to the human biology. For some reason it was once a "cool" thing, long before anyone could have guessed that NASA would eventually become a pandering organization for religious minorities instead of colonizing Mars or the like. Yes, when this book came out (1983) the dream of journeying to an amazing desolate vacuum was still very much part of the National Vision.

As the twenty-second book in the series there's a few things of note before we dive in. We've got a new author, now that increasing demand for new books is exceeding R.A. Montgomery's ability to crank out hippie drivel and we've got another adult protagonist. Yeah, I was really wrong about that.

"Can't help you kid, I'm needed at a Tolerance Meeting with some Imams."

I'm basically a space cop, cruising around in a ship run by a computer that is "absolutely reliable." Yup, I'm sure it doesn't malfunction and kill you in a significant number of the 26 endings, that's not going to be a thing, no way. Some of my duties include dealing with "pirates" that prey on the Venus-Earth-Mars trade route (this author actually seems to understand the immensity of space and wisely confines things to the solar system, yay.) helping radiation storm victims and getting space cats out of space trees.

If there's two writers it should be twice as good, right?

I'm at the end of one of my six month tours and am looking forward to a well-earned vacation where I won't even think about space. Nice to see a minor variation on the "only two days 'til retirement" doomed officer. I'm thinking of going to Venus, which has a reputation as a "pleasure planet." Dying a horrible death where your body literally melts doesn't seem to square with those expectations, but let me have my dreams. Even as I'm mentally sliding into a Venusian hot tub the computer goes off with warnings of "meteorite debris." I decide to let HAL handle it, because I love tempting the "what could possibly go wrong?" odds.

This is what happens.

Wouldn't you know it, the very first choice ends in explosive, fiery death. There's an unexploded bomb from the "Second Solar System War" and it decides now would be a good time to finally perform its intended purpose. I'm "instantly vaporized." Yeah. In the hands of another author I'd at least get a lecture about the evils of unexploded ordnance and the futility of war and why can't we just turn over control to the United Nations and other various pinko ideas. Here, it's just all over, just like that.

I can't really say much more about this one. It looked like it could have been good, but having a 50% chance of death on the very first choice is not the best design choice, especially when you're dealing with someone who blindly trusts any and all electronic devices. I was promised nothing would blow up, after all.

Seems trustworthy.

Shill Section

Aaron Zehner is the author of "Posts from the Underground," now available in paperback and e-book.

His first novel The Foolchild Invention is also available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.

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