Friday, August 29, 2014

Choose Your Own Adventure #12: Inside UFO 54-40

Last time out my danger sense failed to protect me from deadly ice and a promising "You've got ESP!" yarn ended in abrupt and meaningless tragedy. This time we've got one of the most memorable books in the series, featuring a lame gimmick that teaches kids valuable lessons about how rules are for suckers and cheaters always prosper. But I'm getting ahead of myself. We're going to be dealing with the 1982 non-probing version of alien abduction and might well end up in a galactic zoo. Let's get this mother on.

 Vertical mouth, stiff and upright cigar shaped object, head...paging Dr. Freud...

Before we start the story proper we get a "Special Warning!!!!" outlining the ill-conceived Gordian knot that would earn semi-immortality for this one. It involves the search for Ultima, the planet of paradise, not to be confused with the dreadful Perfect Planet by the same author. Packard had some issues with removing the flaws from solar satellites, no doubt about that. Anyway, one can't reach Ultima by making choices or following instructions, which basically implies this paradise is going to be full of dangerous psychopaths.

The solution, of course, is to just leaf through the book until you find the entry containing Ultima, since no decision leads there. As a very wise man once said "Too clever is stupid." 

No Ultima for me on this read-through. I'm going to follow the rules like a sucker and thus insure failure, just like in real life.

 Children's programing for your budding sociopath.

I'm chilling in a supersonic concord, crossing the Atlantic, reflecting on how supersonic travel is the inevitable wave of the future, along with removing airport security as society reaches moral perfection and such intrusions are unnecessary. I'm heading toward Paris for reasons unknown, maybe to see an iron lattice tower or something. While straining to see Greenland out the window a glistening object rushes toward the plane. I do a heavily truncated version of that Captain Kirk Twilight Zone episode and black out, waking up in circular room. An alien voice in my head explains I've been recruited for a galactic zoo. 

Is it wrong that I think this would be a pretty sweet gig? Is "I'd be willing to be a zoo animal for aliens" a sign of personal weakness? Nah, probably not. It was righteous as hell in Slaughterhouse Five, after all. Put in a fake stock ticker and watch me go crazy, maybe some hot actress, aw yeah.!!!

I make a pathetic demand to be sent back home, which produces the dismissive response you might expect from an intelligence that has mastered both interstellar travel and telepathy. I'm floated down a passageway and deposited in a room with other humans. I'm all "Hey, fellow Terrans!" but at the same time I'm really eager to get some sleep going. You know what, this zoo thing is probably going to work out. Just learn to like eating for hours and being stared at and I'll have the full skill set.

You can get to Robot Storage by following directions...I think.

When I wake up there's a metal compliance band around my head, beaming in pacifying thoughts sort of like in that Roddy Piper movie where he doesn't have any gum. I'm told I'll be happy if I'm good. Pulling at the device produces pain, so I decide to leave it on and bide my time. Obviously, in a book so anti-authority it demands you break its own rules this is the wrong move. I start to feel really groovy, but then have a freak-out just like a square adult alcoholic and "time stops." Yeah. 

I can't prove that Edward Packard did lots of drugs when he was younger, but I could build a strong circumstantial case. I'm just saying.

 You take "The Ticket" and have a "Bum Trip." The End.

From what I experienced, this one is probably pretty good overall. There's a lot of wild stuff going on, that's for sure. It's too bad that finding Ultima overshadows everything else, especially considering how lame the problem and solution really is. When I was twelve I found the Ultima entry and then tried to reverse-engineer how to get there by finding the relevant choice, which didn't exist. When I'm on my death bed I'm really going to want those fifteen minutes back.

Quick, turn to page 101!

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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.

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