Sunday, June 14, 2015

Which Way Books #15: Star Trek Voyage to Adventure

Dying a soccer-related death was such a bring-down that a long time has passed since this most noble of projects has seen a new entry, but here we are. The good news is two things I love, original Star Trek and interactive fiction from the Reagan administration have made sweet love and produced a 118 page bundle of love. Unfortunately, in fine monkey's paw fashion this long-held wish has been twisted and corrupted. It's a Which Way book, noted for its "Report due Monday, started at eleven Sunday night" quality and a prose style that could most charitably be called unadorned. Nevertheless, this series was an undeniable powerhouse within the genre, as witnessed by scoring this amazing crossover. Let's put on our space girdle, split some infinitives and set the phasers on "fun."

Sorry McCoy, you didn't make the cut. Green monster guy, you're in.

The limitations of writing a story within an existing setting and established mythology immediately become clear, as we get a highly disappointing introduction. Usually the set-up is one of the few bright spots this series provides, such as bad television reception provoking get-even against a castle or intelligent slime taking over a small town in fly-over country. Suffice it to say, we get none of that delightful madness here. Instead I'm a recent graduate of Starfleet Academy, packing my "space bag." Yes, space bag. They really went all out on establishing this setting. 

Before being assigned to the Enterprise I get to listen to a speech by an Admiral outlining the best practices for boldly going. We're supposed to promote peace, obey the prime directive and in general follow all those rules the series ignored in favor of big right hands, judo throws and destroying entire cultures via speeches delivered with stilted bombast. None of that for me, though, I'm going to obey all the rules. After all this thrilling packing and listening I get to choose my assignment by picking it off a board. Apparently going where no man has gone before is a lot like being a Freshman at a state school.

Set riot shotguns to "ruin."

I select science, because I fudging love science. By that I mean neat pictures and pretending to be superior to others, not yucky equations or trying to figure out the mystery of magnets or something. Spock is busy with a computer that is totally different from any I've ever seen. Maybe an extra disk drive or something, who knows. It turns out the Vulcan is messing with the space time continuum, because that generally goes well. Naturally, things start going wrong almost immediately, with crystals shattering and my new boss getting caught in a "time field." Technically speaking, I think we're all caught in one of those. I obey his instructions not to do anything. Man, easiest job ever.

Yeah, don't even ask.

Spock promptly vanishes and I'm stuck holding the bag so to speak. I don't think "it was like that when I got here" will be enough of an explanation for this. Instead I try to make sense of some notes, but they're in "Vulcan shorthand" and as such indecipherable. All that remains is to pull a lever, because if there's one thing I know for sure it's all the complexities of Wheelchair Man psychics can be distilled down to random lever pulling. 

I yank it back, earning a strong wind and a rush of colors. The clock on the wall is running backward. Huh, seems like I've figured out this incredibly complex mystery device. Spock returns, turns the machine off and is all "Thanks, Bro" and promises to be more careful in the future. The End.  

 See, I'm being very careful.

I can't really call it a disappointment, since I knew pretty much what I was going to get. All the Which Way tropes are here: Three stories to select from, just enough description to get the job done, binary choices that amount to coin tosses and abrupt and unsatisfying endings. On the other hand, Star Trek. Beam me outta here.

Alternate cover looks like a bad photoshop.

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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