Friday, February 13, 2015

Choose Your Own Adventure #16: Survival at Sea

After dying of altitude sickness and leaving behind a beautiful frozen corpse that will presumably be found and revived by the future miracle society that will replace the compost heap we're living in right now, I figured it was a good idea to stay with the survival theme. I'm a big fan, clearly. Think about it: Mother Nature really is the ultimate villain. She's totally insane, has neither mercy or remorse and only sees us as a biological singularity that needs to be returned to a happy stasis serving as fuel for her murderous savage gardens. Today this relentless force of evil will take the form of the South Pacific, as it's time to float that boat and feel the motion of the ocean.

 You're not welcome in my grim man vs. nature story, Seasick Sea Serpent Cecil.

Through channels unnamed I've managed to ingratiate myself to a Dr. Vivaldi, an expert on anthropology. At first glance this is a stock Edward Packard character, but even that dismissive assessment is giving Fast Eddie too much credit. There's really no continuity between her appearances or memorable personality traits, so I think it's fair to say she's a reoccurring name he uses. As lazy and pathetic as this is, I guess it does spare us from having a Dr. Mussorgsky or Professor Bartok, so there's that.

Anyway, she's all "Want to go sailing in search of a dinosaur that might still be out there?" and naturally I'm an eager participant in this plan, totally ignoring the fact that this isn't, strictly speaking, the sort of thing an anthropologist does. I suppose I should glass-half-full this thing and just be happy it's not my Uncle trying to use a boat to work out his relationship issues. We're joined by action men Eric and Jack and I'm doing my best to ignore how derivative of earlier Packard books this all is. We'll be setting sail on a boat called the Allegro. Yes, #amwriting newbies, classical music should be your go-to source whenever you need to name something.

 At least it wasn't this Allegro.

Before sailing I listen to a televised interview with an Australian captain who insists he saw the sea monster, although he conveniently leaves out the part where he'd been drinking those over-sized beers all morning. Still, Dr. Mozart Vivaldi is intrigued and insists that the part of the ocean where this dipsomania-fueled encounter allegedly happened would be the perfect environment for this dinosaur. How she would know this  based on her educational credentials is a mystery, although I guess there is such a thing as a talented amateur.

Two days later we're sailing through calm sees, keeping a watch for any Cretaceous period anomalies that might pop up. Instead, we get a message on the radio informing us that a volcano 200 miles away has erupted. This is a Bad Thing because it causes deadly waves, we are told. Eric, who I guess doesn't really take the long view, insists this is our only chance to find the living fossil and that we should sail into the "danger zone." Suffice it to say, I don't find that argument compelling.

Metal under tension beggin' you to touch and go

I'm immediately told my sissy decision doesn't even matter, because here's a fifty foot high wave! Yeah, that's really what happens. All aboard the Survival at Sea railroad, all stops have tidal waves. Ugh. I somehow grab the wheel while we're catching this totally gnarly surf and must decide "which way to steer." I honestly don't think it matters at this particular moment, but figure it would make the most sense not to try to go left or right while in the middle of shooting the curl.

Naturally this leads to my horrible death as another wave is right there to finish the job. If this is what playing it safe gets you I can't even imagine what the "danger zone" would have entailed. Major wipe out, dude.

I did, but it didn't help any.

Another short failed run and this time the book was at fault and not your humble reader. This one sucked.  I should mention the lame gimmick I never got to use: a map on page 13 to help make navigational decisions. Well, the only decision I got to make about our course was choosing between danger zone and non-danger zone. For some reason non-danger zone turned out to be super deadly. Why even give limited agency if it doesn't matter? This problem has been the downfall of many of these books, and Survival at Sea is just another one for that pile. 

This, on the other hand, totally owns.

Aaron Zehner is the author of "The Foolchild Invention" available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.

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