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Choose Your Own Adventure…

June 25, 2010

Dear Wife and I were talking the other day about books, and about reading.  We’re both pretty avid readers.  But whereas I read almost exclusively in the speculative fiction genres, and venture outside those boundaries only rarely (if you’re going to read for enjoyment, you might as well read what you enjoy, and so I do), Dear Wife reads widely across many different genres, including non-fiction.  As we were talking, Dear Wife commented that she didn’t want B.T. to read only fantasy and science fiction.

“Didn’t you read anything else, when you were a kid?” she asked.  “Like, the Hardy Boys or something?”

The Case of the Dancing Dinosaur

The Case of the Dancing Dinosaur

Well, no, I couldn’t remember ever reading any Hardy Boys books, but I did read several books in another series of boy-detective books, the Three Investigators.  Most memorable of these, to me, was The Case of the Dancing Dinosaur.  “You should blog about that,” Dear Wife said, so I am.

What was unique about The Case of the Dancing Dinosaur was that it wasn’t a straight-forward sort of novel.  It was one of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” or “Choose Your Own Fate” style books that were popular during the 1980s among younger readers.  This particular book was about a dinosaur fossil (encased in gold, as I recall) that went missing (and of course, a requisite murder mystery to boot), which the mystery-solving friends had to recover.  But, I’ll tell you this secret: though I loved the book (this was during the “everything with Dinosaurs in it is cool” phase) it was frustrating to no end.  I never solved the case, to my memory.  Rather, I let one or all of the boys die almost every single time I read through the book.

Those two facts are the only things I still remember, today, about both this particular book and about the Three Investigators in general.  I read two or three of the regular Three Investigators novels, but the most memorable of the books for me was always that one Choose Your Own Fate novel that stumped me time and again.

So, did any of you ever read those Choose Your Own Adventure books when you were younger?  Share your memories in the comments!

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. June 25, 2010 11:32 am

    Oh I loved those! Every time I’d go to the library I’d search the entire thing for more Choose Your Own Adventures. Sometimes I got through it ok, other times the ending was unsatisfying. I would go through as many paths (make different critical choices) and times to see what would work out, and so I’d re-read the same story over and over until I did get to a good ending! I guess it was kind of cheating, but I didn’t want to put the books down until I achieved all possible endings.

    • June 25, 2010 11:41 am

      Yeah, I tried doing it with the Dancing Dinosaur book, but could never make it work.

      In hindsight, I should’ve employed an algorithmic approach, determining what all the branching points were and where they lead so I could figure out which branch lead to the satisfying conclusion. Alas, I have long since misplaced the book, and may never get the chance to brute-force it.

    • June 25, 2010 11:41 am

      And no, I don’t think it’s cheating. I mean… who’s going to know?

    • June 25, 2010 10:59 pm

      I only read a few of those books, because I did the same thing. Just looking for the good ending. And in the ones I read, the “best” endings had really short paths, and were therefore unsatisfying. Oh, and the “you” in the picture was always a boy. That ticked me off.

      As an adult, I appreciate the concept of making a game of sorts out of reading. But as young reader, they didn’t quite do it for me.

      • June 26, 2010 5:10 pm

        I think you’re right that these kinds of books were probably often written primarily for boys… a real missed opportunity.

        I wonder what a “choose your own adventure” written for adults would look like. Would adults read such a book?

  2. June 25, 2010 1:50 pm

    I read a few of those some time ago! They are a strange concept indeed. Kind of like an ancient video game, eh what? The problem I had with them was that they were so morbid. “Oops, looks like you fell into a river of toxic liquid! The end!” Or, “Oops, you’ve been locked in a cage with a starving tiger! The end!” Yes, interesting concept, but they weren’t that satisfying, you’re right.

    • June 25, 2010 1:56 pm

      Indeed. But, it was fun to try.

      I kind of thought of them, after-the-fact, as being like single-player narrative role-playing games. Some of the choose-your-own-adventures even took this model to it’s logical conclusion – there was even a series (though I never read any from them) that used random dice-rolling as a part of the book…

      It makes me want to try my hand at this sort of non-linear storytelling…

      • June 25, 2010 4:10 pm

        I would tend to cringe away from this sort of writing. Maybe because it doesn’t seem like as sophisticated to write a choose-your-own novel than a linear one. I dunno. :-s

      • June 25, 2010 4:17 pm

        It might not seem as sophisticated – but I think it presents a unique challenge. You have to plot out not only the primary story of your novel, but a satisfying number of alternative scenarios – and you need to break this up with choices presented to the reader that ring true.

      • June 25, 2010 4:41 pm

        I actually do have a couple non-linear stories kicking around. The biggest headache was staying organized and plotting out all possible story paths to see if most of the interconnections actually made sense. It gets more difficult the number of paths / options are available. At one point I tried drawing out a search tree, but LOL there were too many lines to make sense of it!

      • June 25, 2010 4:46 pm

        Wow, kudos to you for giving it a shot. I only started thinking about it when I wrote up the blog post.

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