Friday, April 17, 2015

Choose Your Own Adventure #29: Trouble on Planet Earth

After becoming an undead horror but failing to parley that into factory ownership or whip kink I'm back for another R.A. Montgomery masterwork. This one promises some undefined trouble on our little blue dot. I guess it could have been more vague, like "Some Difficulty or Unpleasantness Somewhere in the Universe" but close enough. We're going to get conflict and we've got this amazing Third Planet backdrop for it. What more could you want? Stir in some gray ponytail "We got bombs but can't FEED people, man!" philosophizing, wussy vehicles and dwarf bashing and the result has a chance to be pleasingly tepid.

UPS shorts and high danger!!!

I'm maxing and relaxing in front of the moron box, enjoying all the societal collapse dispatches. It turns out all the world's oil has abruptly vanished. Time for the doomsday clock to strike midnight, in other words, but I'm cynically detached from this bizarre disaster. I tell my brother "Ned" that this means the "Earth has given up!" All because we had to have non-sissy means of travel, presumably. Also, our planet is still rotating and going around the sun, dude. It's not over.  

I'm told Ned is well known for his wild ideas. Considering I just assigned human characteristics to a giant ball of dirt and magma I'm hardly one to talk. He's also a problem solver with some of that "ESP" that we used to all believe in until it was ruined by 900 number hucksters. Right now he's going into his psychic aura or whatever and the upshot is he wants us to go to Saudi Arabia, which I guess is on the table is a viable option for some reason. I want to go to the CIA. The Middle East or trying to get help from the government. These are not good choices.

Perhaps realizing this R.A.M. tells me to flip a coin instead. Lucky Maryland quarter comes up Maryland.

Another reason to mourn the death of "ESP" as a meaningful shared myth.

Well, it's off to Saudi Arabia. I'm told I have "plenty of cash" from earlier, unspecified adventures and plane travel into a world terrorism hot spot was still easy when this was written so before the next page can even finish Ned and I are in Riyadh, a city described as "crowded" and "hot." I'll cut Montgomery a break, it wasn't easy to research things before the internet and those extremely general facts are probably true. 

The goodwill is immediately ruined by typically R.A. manlet bashing, this time a "small man" inviting us into one of those unlicensed cabs that you've probably heard a lot of good things about. Even if you weren't aware of the author's short = evil prejudice this whole situation screams trap. We'll just shoe ride it, thanks. 

Maybe one day a real rain will come and wash away all the pirate taxis.

I guess I'm feeling homesick because I decide to go get an English language newspaper. Naturally, while I'm doing this Ned gets taken and my particular set of skills acquired over an extremely short life will have to be deployed. Skills like distrusting the short, wandering off for no adequately explored reason in a foreign land and making darkly humorous remarks when the television news announces the coming global crash into Mad Max chaos. Yeah, those.

I wander around yelling Ned's name and blaming him for his abduction and likely torture porn victimization. I can be a jerk. Out of nowhere an old man taps my shoulder, name-drops Allah and assures me that my brother is actually safe. Nice to see all that paragraph-long drama resolved so neatly.

I ask him how he knows my brother and get a weird, evasive answer that's apparently good enough. It's off to his cool shop, chuck full of mandalas, geometric paintings used by Sufi mystics to induce their trances. I know I rag on Montgomery a lot, but he does seem to have a very sincere appreciation for other cultures. Of  course being a dirty drug-addled hippie "Global Citizen" I suppose that would be expected. Ned's peeping the art and I decide to join him. 

Perfect for the side of your love van or motor glider.

Time for some mind expansion, as all this starts to get very significant. Ned produces a bronze box that he claims was under some prayer rugs and offers some of the salve inside. Come on, you're not afraid to get high, are you? My brother rubs some on his hand and walks right into one of the pictures. Far out. 

I'm not some wimp who follows rules or worries about permanent hallucinogenic compounds in my spine, so I follow after, entering a world of shapes and colors. Yes, this children's book contains LSD imagery. Ned tells me he's solved the problem of the world's oil. Man, tripping fixes everything. He promptly vanishes. Whoa. A moment later we're back in the store.

Ned declares victory, while I innocently compare my acid test to a "trip to Disneyland" and wonder what he could possibly have done to set things right. Then everything completely falls apart, I mean even more so, as we take a taxi (licensed and driven by someone of average height or taller, I would assume) into the desert, set down one of the pictures from the store, perform a chant, and out comes the oil. "It's a time pipeline!" is the non-explanation. What. The. Fudge. 

Solving problems like "sanity" and "not eating your own fingers."

I really don't know what else to say. I get that the author is probably no stranger to "mystical trances" but I don't think that really makes it all right to put this nonsense in a book intended for a pre-teen audience. Even setting that aside, this one was a bizarre mess. Say no to drugs, friends. And unlicensed cabs, of course.

  Oh no, drugs destroyed my artistic ability. Look at this garbage, seriously.

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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