Thursday, 28 November 2013

Gone, But Not Forgotten

This is my 200th post on this blog (not the 200th playthrough (that'll be in a few weeks), nor the 200th gamebook featured (which should come a few weeks after that)), and I felt like doing something a little different to mark the occasion, such as it is.

What with having disposed of a significant proportion of my gamebook collection in the 1990s, and having done a fair bit of gamebook trading to help rebuild the collection once I got back into the genre, there are a number of gamebooks that I used to own, but no longer have. Possibly as many as two dozen, depending on how you define terms. I'm not particularly bothered about replacing most of them, but I would like to say a little bit about a few of those gamebooks that have some significance to me anyway.

1) Tracker Books # 6, Skyjacked
I got this at the annual second-hand book sale held at Christ Church on Vale Road. The viewpoint character is taken hostage while en route to a holiday in France, probably escapes and gets recaptured several times, and most likely winds up wandering around a sewer until reaching one of three endings - total failure, partial victory (the criminals go to prison but keep the ransom money), or complete success.
Significant because it was my first gamebook, and inspired me to write one of my own (Smugglers, which was highly derivative and pretty shambolic, but did get finished, which is more than happened with most of the ones I started to write in later years).

2) Choose Your Own Adventure # 15, House of Danger
I bought it from the Book Exchange on Goods Station Road, primarily because it featured the same principal characters as book 27, The Horror of High Ridge, which I'd acquired by collecting tokens from cereal packets. It involves investigating a house in which strange things are happening.
This one is significant because it sowed the seeds of my dissatisfaction with what I call 'Schroedinger's gamebooks'. The explanation for what's going on in the house varies depending on what decisions you make. I remember my friend Simon having a couple of goes at it, and getting very confused second time round, because the apes that were just holograms the first time he played were suddenly real and dangerous. When the facts are changeable like that, acting on information learned during previous attempts can be harmful to your character's health, and I don't like that.

3) Endless Quest # 22, The Endless Catacombs
I was given this along with 3 of the Wizards, Warriors and You books and one other EQ book. The eponymous catacombs are actually very limited in scope, and the 'collect items to defeat the evil wizard' plot is not enlivened by the way that the correct choice in pretty much every decision is blatantly obvious. Seriously, it's almost like:
The undead monstrosity is about to attack. What will you do?
Encourage your brother to search for the hero inside himself, claim the magic sword that is his birthright, and save you and the rest of the party from certain death (turn to 35).
Geoff Hurst in the 1966 World Cup final (turn to 74).
It's significant because of the striking image of the crystal coffin on the front cover, which stayed with me long after I'd parted company with the book, and eventually inspired a significant element of the mini-adventure I wrote for issue 9 of Fighting Fantazine.

4) Find Your Fate # 3, Indiana Jones and the Giants of the Silver Tower
I got this one in a charity shop, possibly the Cancer Research one near the War Memorial, along with the following book in the series. The viewpoint character is an unidentified juvenile associate of Doctor Jones, accompanying him on a quest to find the Giants referred to in the title.
It sticks in the memory because exhaustive reading of the book failed to turn up a conventional 'win' ending. There are paths on which it's possible to survive, and partial successes, but there doesn't seem to be one in which finding the Giants' tower provides the fortune and glory for which Jones is hoping. In keeping with the tine of the movies, then, but a stark contrast with the other Indiana Jones-themed gamebooks I'd read, in which it is possible to get whichever mystical McGuffin the plot revolves around. Indeed, that aspect make IJatGotST unlike most other gamebooks full stop.

5) Which Way Books # 2, Vampires, Spies and Alien Beings
In May 1989 I visited Rickmansworth to try and find the café mentioned in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I found a café - don't know if it was the café, or even if there really was a specific café that Douglas Adams had in mind. But I also found this book in a charity shop. It involves a visit to a film studio where they've managed to reduce costs by using a machine that turns fiction into reality. Naturally, the device goes wrong, and the viewpoint character becomes caught up in the events of one of the films being made - either a James Bond-type blockbuster, a horror story, or a sci-fi epic. Or possibly all three, if you manage to find a path that allows for crossing between studios and genres.
The preposterous concept is a big part of what makes this book memorable. Beyond that, the 'spy' plot thread had some interesting ideas in it, and I borrowed a few concepts when creating my first semi-original scenario for the James Bond 007 Rôle-Playing Game campaign I was running for the school RPG group. Despite its flaws (such as the fact that it is possible to endlessly loop around, and some moralising almost as clunky as in The Endless Catacombs), the book was fun enough that I wouldn't mind owning it again. But I'm not sufficiently fussed about it to pay as much as postage would cost for a second-hand copy via Amazon, so it's not likely to wind up gracing my shelves any time soon.

I'm sure I can't be the only fan who doesn't still own every single gamebook they ever had. Anyone else out there with significant memories of gamebooks they no longer own?

1 comment:

  1. Alas,'twas a sad memory. It happened a year earlier,when I was moving.Some of my FF books were gone when I unpacked my stuff at the new house. I realised one box was missing,but I could never find it.I lost Magehunter,Black Vein Prophecy,Daggers of Darkness and a few others.I managed to replace the few others but have never seen the first three ever since.(Where I live,it is nearly impossible to find even one CYOA,not that I buy them.)