Sunday, September 18, 2016

Choose Your Own Adventure #23: The Lost Tribe

After another uninspired Which Way offering it's time to return to Choose Your Own Adventure. To sweeten the pot we've got another debuting author for this series, Louise Monro Foley, who was last featured on this site as the creative genius behind a Twist-a-Plot mess. Despite this, it's hard to tamp down my enthusiasm when today's subject features a glossary of Maori words and the promise of plenty of South Seas violence. Travel to exotic locations, meet interesting and exotic people, explore ancient cultures and try not to get killed and eaten. Let's go.

Engage in thrilling head-squeezing battles!

In keeping with a well-worn tradition the action kicks off with yet another wacky uncle, this one with an unhealthy interest in a Tasman Sea tribe that was exterminated in a canoe war by another, similar tribe that was better at handing out deadly violence and has since faded into legend. Genocide, head-hunting, "glowing caves;" this is clear a job for someone like myself who used the awesome power of the library (!!!) to learn some general knowledge facts about these long-dead people groups. To wit, I've even learned some crazy foreign words, mostly important stuff like "parrot" and "white man." Yeah. Really.

Y'all savages got any parrots?

With a head full of islander terms for colorful avians and delusional ideas about exploring and finding the Lost Tribe (what part of "War of Annihilation" don't you understand?) it's off to New Zealand to begin the adventure. I meet up with my uncle Charlie and his friend "Murdoch." We get equipped with supplies and build up some more hype for this well-conceived expedition. I might even see "skeletal remains!" I still cling to the possibility of finding actual living members of the Lost Tribe, in spite of more attempts to explain the whole concept of how they were killed en masse and then, presumably, cooked.

Naturally, things start going wrong almost immediately as Charlie and Murdoch forget the archeological tools that we will need to hunt for exciting human remains and decide it's wise to go back and get them while leaving me alone in a jungle to "set up camp." But not before giving me an official permit to show government officials, because having ihnen papiern is a lot higher on the priority list than the numerous dangers this environment offers. I'm even given the chance to wander off once they're gone, but decide maybe I should get that camp going, like I promised.

No one without a permit will be allowed in the Great Patriotic War.

While setting up tents or whatever a dog pops out of the bushes and knocks me down, provoking unpleasant Sugarcane Island flashbacks. Luckily, this is a much more effort-intense narrative, so the encounter with the dingo is followed by a shirtless native who calls me "white man" (that library trip keeps paying off, see kids!) in a scornful fashion while brandishing a tomahawk. Granted, my polyglot privilege isn't actually useful as I get punked out (he's more muscular and I don't even squat, you see) and tied up with vines to be frog-marched deeper into the forest. If only I'd learned how to say "I taste terrible" instead of "parrot."

It turns out there's more tribesmen and they've also captured Charlie and Murdoch, somehow. I mean, they left in a boat in the opposite direction, yet here they are bound, completely helpless and ready to be mistreated in hot, hot ways. Apparently the villains "got their boat" but I'm really not content with that fig covering what may be a minor logical error in a children's book from 1983. This probably doesn't matter, because they're debating where to kill us, in English I guess, unless I also learned all fifty of this tribe's words for "murder the captives" at that amazing library where you can really get that learn on, young people.

I'm giving a choice between trying to run and simply resigning myself to our fate, so of course I choose the path of resigned despair. That should improve the situation!

You're questioning my cowardly defeatism because you have "weak nerves."

So it's more marching in search of a more suitable place to get murdered. During this tedium Charlie informs me that our captors are actually escaped convicts from the Auckland prison, so that's at least good news. Instead of being grilled to mouth-watering perfection by savages they're just going to kill us and leave the bodies for carrion animals. Enjoying this story so far, kids? First they want our boat, and it turns out I've got the only set of keys. The logical course of action obvious.

The keys go into the drink and the criminals are less than thrilled, but gullible enough to believe that my uncle is now willing to hot wire the boat for them, if they just cut him loose first. They even decide to cut me loose too in order to "make something to eat." Can we outwit New Zealand's dumbest criminals? Turn to the next page to find out!

I put "roach powder" in the food and it promptly gives painful stomach cramps to the most trusting hard cases in the entire world. Rendered helpless, it's an easy matter to get the boat going, turn in the escapees to local authorities and celebrate our victory with an steak dinner because they now "don't trust my cooking." As for the Lost Tribe, I guess we won't be finding all their split open skulls, but life is for the living and all that.

This one wasn't bad, although I wasn't expecting a crime thriller based on the set-up. Either way, it was perfectly serviceable and the gaping logic holes would probably be less obvious to the intended audience. Besides, a rare happy ending covers any number of sins and it's not often that displaying apathetic resignation in the face of deadly danger is rewarded, as we all know it should be.

Yeah, get over yourself.

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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