Sunday, July 6, 2014

Choose Your Own Adventure #80: The Perfect Planet

Last time as a doomed hero I successfully busted up a massive counterfeiting ring. No, not the federal reserve. I'm talking about The House of Danger where criminals used holograms of damn dirty apes to conceal their funny-money scheme. It was that sort of book. Knowing full well that almost anything is going to seem weak trying to follow that sort of insane goodness I just reached in the box, knowing the law of averages would probably produce some mediocre space title.

Sure enough.

If you weren't alive back then (1988), firstly, get off of my lawn. Secondly, you have to understand that the space obsession was once a very real thing. We were going to travel to other planets, build space stations, birth horrific monsters out of our chest, all that goodness. I guess today this fad is long dead and the latest Mass Effect game killed any enthusiasm that might have remained, despite the fact that I'm told your character can have sexual intercourse and you sort of get to watch.

You know what, let's just do this shit.

 My advice: "Keep running!"

We're at a interesting point in this series, where the threadbare premises of early entries have given way to lengthy exposition dumps, but the full collapse that would be embraced by the triple digit efforts remains on the horizon. You can see it coming, though. Anyway, there's "habitat unrest," which sounds like the title of an Al Gore fictional work, on Utopa. The thing is, this is the perfect planet alluded to in the title, so something isn't computing. Could it be that something actually could possibly go wrong? I'm going to find out. In the single digits we'd get a choice by now, but we're eighty deep, so the set-up continues.

I recall sitting in space college and offering my pathetic opinion on what would constitute the platonic ideal for solar satellites. Naturally, my answer is lame and human-normative and I promptly get punked out by the teacher who is all "what about the zebra getting eaten by the tiger!" and I've got no ammunition to fire at that mighty rebuke. She goes on to explain that on a truly perfect world everything would eat plants, since their feelings apparently don't exist and/or matter.

There was more, but I don't remember it. Sounds about right. "The prof was babbling away about how Western Civilization is pure evil. I don't know, lots of bad stuff, like eradicating small pox and eliminating banditry, whatever. I kind of zoned out."

Still better than that ungood family performance.

Everything on Utopa eats "slaif" a plant that is totally nutritious and most certainly is not made of people. I don't claim to be a biologist or any of that b.s. but I have a hard time imagining how this ecosystem would regulate itself, what with the absence of predators or even scavengers, but I'm supposed to be embracing the wonder weed and not applying critical thought, so let's just move on. 

For reasons unknown the people have stopped harvesting this miracle of botany and, as you might expect, this has led to starvation and unprecedented hostility from the animals. Yeah. Finally a book that dares to examine the implications of the "if everyone did weed we'd never have war!" rantings of that scumbag at the bus station.

It's, like, the perfect planet, man.

Time to use those crack investigative skills and get to the bottom of why people got sick of a non-violent, vegetarian lifestyle. Before I can start taking depositions, my wussy R.A. Montgomery-style "scout ship" gets destroyed by rampaging mumba beasts, who are themselves a wussy version of bulls. Everything bursts into flames and I'm basically stuck. After the obligatory "You blew it up, you maniacs!" stunned inaction I decide to inspect the wreckage, presumably to harvest useful twisted metal and bits of wire.

Incredibly my "radio transmitter" is intact, and even more implausibly I'm quickly able to make contact with a previously unmentioned "Federation Scout" who suggests we meet near the creatively named "Green River" but cuts off before explaining the details, as the laws of drama demand. I head upstream and encounter whitewater rapids. It wouldn't be a perfect planet without a place to shoot Mountain Dew commercials and rural rape-horror films, I guess.

My secret weapon in that "degrees of Kevin Bacon" game.

We get this pointless aside about a "rock wall" that I easily climb thanks to the "weaker gravity" but then get all cocky and sloppy and fall back down, avoiding horrible death because of relative deficiencies in the Weak Force. Then there's a trail and I follow that. Seriously, that's an entire page of this book. 

I find the ship of the federation scout, but it's crashed and he's dead, presumably a victim of the mumbas that ran up on me earlier. With no cynical commander to "ride me" I'm free to wallow in emotionalism and maybe plant a little American flag or two, but eventually heartless practicality kicks back in and I loot the ship for "vitro bars." The future!

I read the dead guy's space log, and quickly discover an account of an evil alien named "Kodor" who has been using "robot controlled eye ships" to terrorize Utopa's population, driving them into caves. Well, that solves that mystery. It's just eye ships under the control of artificial intelligence doing the will of some space dictator in a ship with a "cloaking" device. We can all go home.

Right. The ruined ships.

Still, "the fleet" is on its way, although it might not be a match for the more advanced technology of this space menace. In light of all this, you have to wonder why I was sent alone to dick around with cliff faces and white water rapids. 

So I chill in the wreckage, eating those amazing super future bars, watching the "eye ships" do their rounds and generally spewing out wack prose about the horror of the situation, the sad fate of the animals and my own bad luck. See, this is why you recruit bitter realists for this sort of thing.

They ruined an entire planet.

I'm rescued and taken to a warship where the Admiral wants to hear all about my goofy adventures, which I guess is better use of his time than planning strategy for the coming battle or something. So I tell my lame story. "Yup, went right up that cliff like I was on American Ninja Warrior, but then I got too confident and fell. Yeah, I was fine, low gravity, that sort of thing. Also there was some whitewater, like in that Kevin Bacon movie. No, not Friday the 13th! That one with this nerdy kid who's afraid of everything and goes to camp..."

It turns out that Kodor is stealing entire plants. Yes, not just leaves and stems, the book tells us, but the entire crop. Evil aliens stealing my trees, kids. Say no to drugs.

I'm all "if he can grow is own bud, he'll leave us alone," but the Admiral doesn't share this naive optimism. You don't get high on your own supply, after all. For some reason the Admiral lets me make the decision to attack or not, for reasons that I'm sure make logical sense but are never explicitly laid out for whatever reason.

We lay down some of that shock 'n' awe, after a lengthy meaningless digression about "ion shields" that never really comes into play but certainly helps pad out this already way too long story. Kodor gets his lunch eaten, but then we get about the fiftieth Star Trek "homage" when advanced beings materialize, criticize our violent ways and send us back to Earth until we learn that defending yourself is wrong and you should never do it. Good bye, Perfect Planet, there were monster there and truly we were they.

What. The. Fudge.

This one read like R.A. Montgomery at his absolute worst. Pointless space filling, constantly stealing from obvious sources, "we'll solve the theft of our space weed and the eye bot terrorism with LOVE" hippie nonsense, wussy vehicles, the list goes on and on. I'd say there were some decent elements and more of an attempt to tell a story in multiple acts, but the actual execution was a dog's dinner. Science fiction is a lot harder than it looks, I guess.

Check Out My Books!

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

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

No comments:

Post a Comment