Saturday, April 16, 2016

Which Way Books #7: Curse of the Sunken Treasure

It's been so long I have nearly no recollection of the last trip into this rich vein of "I sorta 'member dat" but apparently it involved tracking the snow beast and promptly giving up because of inclement weather. Monster hunting and baseball, it's got more in common than just the huge, disfigured creatures birthed by chemistry experiments gone horribly wrong. Be that as it may, it's time to get back in the groove with some more Which Way mediocrity.

Will I ever finish this series? It certainly looks more promising than the doomed enterprise of finishing Choose Your Own Adventure, but on the other hand the same could be said for Twist-a-Plot and I don't even want to look at the cover of one of those again, let alone endure the lazy soul-rending snark within. At least Which Way hasn't broken my will to resist, but on the other hand there's a few books in the series that aren't available for a reasonable price, so this is probably a doomed enterprise that will end in miserable failure. Now that we're suitably fired up, let's crack open today's subject.

Never steal anything wet.

Even disregarding the encounter with nothingness I just had it's hard to be too optimistic about this one. The title sounds like something one of those random generators would spit out and the cover promises more thrilling undersea adventure, that's new and exciting. This might be the most phoned-in Which Way concept yet, which is really saying something. You know, maybe we should just quit stalling and actually start.

We get our usual inspired opening, always the highlight. I'm having "disturbing" dreams and then wake up to a mysterious glow coming from the harbor. I live in a seaside town, you see. Call me Ishmael this shit isn't. I almost wonder if this was written by a human being and not a BASIC program loaded up with R.G. Austin tropes. Better check the television reception to determine how personal this is gonna get.

I get a "compelling need" to investigate the glow. Believable motivations, intriguing heroes tormented by the world beyond the wall of sleep, a harbor...we're just laying down that strong prose game in this thang. I paddle my way out toward the light because what else would someone reasonably do? Next thing you know I'm on a ship with "Captain Abel" who insists we set sail immediately without questioning why random strangers are coming on board. Man, now Biblical imagery, this is like Moby Dick but superior in every way, from the literary styling to the reduced amount of whaling minutia, to say nothing of not having such an unfortunate title.

One day I won't giggle like a schoolgirl at this, but it won't be today or tomorrow either.

Captain Ahab Abel actually does give me an opportunity to back out, since the journey is going to be dangerous and no doubt highly symbolic. It turns out his own particular obsession/metaphor for the uncaring forces of fate is a green diamond "the size of a basketball." Somehow having the grizzled sea dog talk about hoopin' it up out of no where makes this even better. From Hell's heart he shoots the orange! Yes! And it counts!

As you probably already guessed the roundball-sized rock is from the Planet Galinka, curses anyone who owns it and is currently at the bottom of the sea with exactly two million dollars American worth of pirate gold. This ship sunk when it hit a glacier, you see. The mysterious light is caused by the reflection of the diamond, somehow. Go home and sleep it off, R.G.

Before I can even process this madness another man named "Stix" is proposing a mutiny and I'm wondering what I did wrong in the last few days to deserve this agony.

Getting a random disease and dying in 1890? Must be the curse of that diamond!

I decide to stay loyal to the crazy old guy I just met, always the best policy, and Stik simply accepts it and leaves. Well, all right then. Now it's time to choose a direction to sail with absolutely no information provided. This book sucks.

Ten days pass and the light steadily grows brighter until we're directly over it. Those random direction choosing skills doe, what can you say? Diving suit on, down I go. As you probably saw coming Stik is already there, somehow, sitting on the treasure chest and holding a knife. 


Using gestures or whatever I form an unstable alliance with the kind of guy who via unknown means, without a ship or anything, got to the treasure first and then was just chilling down there with a blade out because just use your imagination or whatever. We raise the chest, a feat that would probably be impossible considering the weight of the gold but I've stopped caring and I just want out. We also simply leave the diamond behind because who wants to be cursed by alien wizards or the like and head off, celebrating the considerable windfall. But wait! It's a pirate ship!

This is cultural appropriation and it's not okay.

My ingenious tactic of sailing "west" is enough to outwit the sea brigands and we're heading home with big money and Mr. Stabby/Mutiny isn't even going to betray us because unpredictable changes in the few traits a character has rules. I'm even offered a chance to "explore a cave" after the ending, but decide against it.

Now I remember why I wait for months and months between these reviews.

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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