since i promised the Internet and/or Ogre that i wouldn’t let this update slide for more than one week, i took a short break from coughing up a lung and journeyed to my parents’ home to look for this turbo-excellent box of books belonging to one of the greatest series of all time, Choose Your Own Adventure, as well as any stray Choose Your Own Adventure books that might be lying around their house. in the process, i found some mysterious D&D “Endless Quest” books that are basically like Choose Your Own Adventure except with a lot more nerd-talk about “revolt of the dwarves” and some kind of “dragon of doom.” yes, you guessed correctly: they are ALSO excellent. but i digress.
if you’re not familiar with the Choose Your Own Adventure series, here’s the relevant internet description: “Choose Your Own Adventure is a series of children’s gamebooks first published by Bantam Books from 1979-1998 and currently being re-published by Chooseco. Each story is written from a second-person point of view, with the reader assuming the role of the protagonist and making choices that determine the main character’s actions in response to the plot and its outcome. Choose Your Own Adventure was one of the most popular children’s series during the 1980s and 1990s, selling over 250 million copies between 1979 and 1998, and translated into at least 38 languages.” blah blah blah … basically, you flip back and forth through the book trying to avoid some kind of unpleasant literary death.
and since i had a pile of these books that i collected in a box, i figured it would be some kind of fun to rate the 13 best/most ridiculous books in the Choose Your Own Adventure that i own. and maybe make fun of the books a little in the playful way you tease people you like. here we go!
13 MOST RIDICULOUS AND THUS BEST CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE BOOKS THAT JANKLOW OWNS
hey, way to eat the hero of our adventure (that we chose ourselves), giant squid!
13. the Abominable Snowman (book #13, 1982)
tagline: “FACE-TO-FACE WITH THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN!”
reasons this book is awesome: you know, it doesn’t even matter what happens in this book (you search for yetis and find them, or don’t find them, or get denied your permit to enter Nepal) because of two things: it’s book #13 (awesome) and there’s a two-page spread of you and a guide riding an elephant. RIDING AN ELEPHANT! this is the greatest book of all time! there’s also a pretty solid drawing in there of a tiger that eats you if you don’t choose wisely.
favorite ending in this book: so most of the endings are what you expect, and some involve you getting saved by a yeti (that runs off) or seeing a yeti (and having no film). ho-hum. there’s one, though, where you walk around a corner and come face-to-face with a trio of yetis that proceed to shoot you with a cannon. yes, that’s right, with an ancient bronze cannon. why the fuck this happens i have no idea.
12. the Dragon’s Den (book #33, 1984)
tagline: “TREASURE AWAITS YOU IN THE DRAGON’S DEN!”
reasons this book is awesome: because treasure is being phrased in such a hostile fashion? no, but seriously, it’s an adventure where you help a wizard and a girl dressed as a boy look for treasure or something; there’s also a villain who inexplicably comes from the future and packs a pistol, which gets confusing because it’s implied he’s from the modern world, yet i KNOW our past didn’t include swarms of dwarfs or dragons. also, even as a child, i took issue with the fact that a description of dwarfs with crossbows was paired with a drawing of dwarfs with bows. how annoying!
favorite ending in this book: i’m not going to go with a crazy ending this time when i can choose one where dwarfs give me gold nuggets and i survive… unless it’s the ending where the dwarfs bust out their little crossbows and shoot you full of arrows that are small, but deadly!
11. the Third Planet from Altair (book #7, 1980)
tagline: “THIS DARING SPACE MISSION COULD BE YOUR FINEST – OR IT COULD BE YOUR LAST!”
reasons this book is awesome: well, it certainly seems like the opposite of awesome, because the cover depicts a rather lame-ass space crew clad in terrible, terrible spacesuits and flying the least reasonable spaceship design of all time … while you get eaten by a space-plant of some type. why would i want to read a book where it’s implied i can’t even handle the NON-sentient life in space? it’s only going to get worse when i meet giant rat beasts or hungry blobs!
favorite ending in this book: well, space involves a lot of depressing scenarios, mostly involving your ship flying into a black hole or self-destructing, but there’s this one ending where you wait too long to go into hibernation and thus you hang out in space being super-depressed and dying of it. now THAT is my kind of ending!
10. the Horror Of High Ridge (book #27, 1983)
tagline: “WHAT IS THE HORRIBLE SECRET OF HIGH RIDGE?”
reasons this book is awesome: you know, on closer inspection, i’m not sure i ever read this book when i was young; there’s a lot of talk about ghosts and Indians and prospectors and it all seems very foreign to me. but from what i can tell, it’s filled with bloody encounters with ghost Indians, and that right there sounds pretty damn awesome!
favorite ending in this book: okay, as you can probably imagine, the most gory deaths in any Choose Your Own Adventure aren’t described in detail and aren’t shown in picture form; however, in THIS book, there’s an ending where you get killed by prospectors with guns. fair enough… except there’s also a drawing of you and your two young friends catching a SWARM of bullets in your Jeep; you’re flying all over the place and there’s no blood, but it’s still crazy. and the other death endings (knives stabbing you, you flying off cliffs) seem comparable. wow, i SHOULD have read this book.
if there’s one thing we can deduce from this cover, it’s that gunfights in the future will involve aliens that simply adore short shorts
09. the Phantom Submarine (book #26, 1983)
tagline: “TACKLE TERROR BENEATH THE WAVES!”
reasons this book is awesome: okay, it’s got a crazy story about you adventuring underwater in a crazy manta-ray-shaped submarine named, oddly enough, the Manta, and that’s cool. but what’s mostly awesome is that inside this book i found an old 1988 football card declaring “[Los Angeles Rams QB] Everett races downfield.” wow, THIS is the single football from my youth that didn’t get stolen or destroyed? awesome. as a downside, in this book, you’re portrayed in the pictures as a girl, which i frankly think is a little lame.
favorite ending in this book: well, you’re constantly getting trapped and crushed underwater in this book, but i do like the alternative twist on the bad ending where you end up working in the titanium mines of some lobster-looking aliens called Erboltians. and i think i know some guys that believe those aliens are real…
08. the Mystery Of The Highland Crest (book #34, 1984)
tagline: “IS THE CREST A BLESSING – OR A DEADLY CURSE?”
reasons this book is awesome: for the most part, i think i recall the crest – some Scottish thing with a weird bird on it and the motto “Dread Wisely” – being a blessing, but these things can go both ways. in any event, i think this book is a large portion of why i find Scottish stuff off-putting and creepy: you’re always having fatal run-ins with an angry ghost, and faeries are all OVER this goddamn book. which brings us to a common dilemma in faerie-related things: if they’re bad, you’re in trouble, but if they’re good … well, it’s not very manly when faeries help you out.
favorite ending in this book: you’re CONSTANTLY falling out of windows (or maybe into a basement) in this book, which really indicates that the clan motto should be “WINDOWS CAN BE TROUBLE,” or having your remains never found. but i guess i prefer the one where my remains are never found AND faeries are fucking around with bulldozers. oh Scotland, you’re so ridiculous.
07. Invaders Of The Planet Earth (book #70, 1987)
tagline: “CAN YOU SAVE THE EARTH FROM ALIEN INVADERS?”
reasons this book is awesome: we can start and stop with the cover: despite the fact that the plot has you fighting furiously against alien invaders, the cover has you strolling in a red sweater and jeans as piles of aliens take escalators out of an alien ship … and then appear to FREAK OUT when they see you. this does not strike me as the most daunting of alien invasions. also, these aliens have somehow banned electricity and your weapon in the book is something called a “gravbar” that looks like a futuristic zip gun but apparently shoots a disintegration beam or something. things can get wild in the implausible future!
favorite ending in this book: despite the fact that i personally love to freedom-fight against aliens, i ADORE the ending where i become a traitor working for the Taurons (bad aliens) and zoom around in a stereotypical UFO blasting Vorkians (good aliens) and their spaceships into fireballs. it’s depicted with an awesome drawing in the book … and i get a medal!
06. the Cave Of Time (book #1, 1979)
tagline: “YOU ARE THE HERO OF YOUR OWN ADVENTURE”
reasons this book is awesome: okay, beyond the fact that the tagline is weirdly generic (though it IS the first book in the series, so that might help make some sense of the matter), let’s just note that it involves you adventuring in a cave that exists outside of time and space. i’m not sure how i was supposed to make sense of this when i was about 7, but apparently i did. also, if you play your cards right, you might just get a chance to hang out with Abraham Lincoln. one downside, however, is that i’m not a huge fan of the protagonist’s “green sweater and jeans” look.
favorite ending in this book: the one where i build a thriving printing business and it “begins to look as if the Eighteenth Century is a pretty good time for you to be alive.” it’s WAY more ridiculous than the generic “bad endings” where you get eaten by the Loch Ness Monster or killed by Chinese people.
in which you appear to be escaping from some kind of gigantic (if totalitarian) flower
05. Vanished! (book #60, 1986)
tagline: “WILL YOU BE LOST FOREVER IN THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE?”
reasons this book is awesome: because while the premise starts the same – your friend has gone missing in the Bermuda Triangle and you take a plane out to look for her – the encounters are incredibly varied: deadly waterspouts and seiches, versions of yourself from the future, robots from the even more distant future, fish people from beneath the sea, angry shirtless pirates, and ghost pirates (pirates who are ghosts, not ghosts who are pirates). it’s also cool that the book’s title involves an exclamation point!
favorite ending in this book: okay, so it’s hard to top ghost pirates… but then again, there’s also an ending where you get attacked and eaten by a giant squid (your friend does escape, as i recall). and everyone knows i think giant squid are awesome. what’s even MORE awesome is that this sad, fatal ending is depicted on the cover of the book.
04. Terror Island (book #59, 1986)
tagline: “CAN YOU STOP THE OMICRON MASTERS?”
reasons this book is awesome: oh, i LOVE it when the taglines just make you MORE confused about what’s going to happen in this book, which involves you getting marooned on one Bounty Island, where there’s something called the Omicron Masters who are working on “mind control and genetic mutation.” in practice, this seems to involve adventures with anti-gravity devices, the creation of Tyrannosaurus Rexes and getting attacked by teams of mind-controlled tigers that wear special matching helmets. the cover of the book also seems to imply there’s a vampire that fought for Japan in World War II involved, but i couldn’t actually find one in the book.
favorite ending in this book: so it’s pretty ridiculous to get attacked and killed by a swarm of helmet-wearing tigers, which can (and does) happen in the book. but what’s MORE ridiculous is to get attacked (and theoretically killed) by a swarm of helmet-wearing RATS.
03. War With The Evil Power Master (book #37, 1984)
tagline: “WILL YOU SAVE THE UNIVERSE FROM TOTAL DESTRUCTION?”
reasons this book is awesome: so the tagline is already awesome… and the title is already additionally awesome… and the cover features you and your alien sidekick (who wears short shorts) shooting an evil alien in the chest with a laser (said alien is wearing He-Man pants) under the smiling face of the Evil Power Master. the major things i have learned from this book are a) aliens in the future will NEVER wear more than one article of clothing and b) even though there’s an Evil Power Master (and that’s his full name, he’s not just an evil Power Master), there doesn’t appear to be a Good Power Master. sad.
favorite ending in this book: …having just said that, there’s an ending where you cave in and side with the Evil Power Master because you’re not sure he’s really evil. (he is.) however, i prefer the ending where you join up with a super-intelligent robot, which appears in a picture hovering and seemingly giving you a high-five.
02. Escape (book #20, 1983)
tagline: “THE YEAR IS 2035. YOU ARE IN ENEMY TERRITORY.”
reasons this book is awesome: well, for starters, i actually thought this book was called Sabotage (there is a book in this series called that) and that i couldn’t find it, which concerned me because this book is TURBO-RIDICULOUS. how so? well, here’s how it starts: “the year is A.D. 2035. a combination of civil wars and foreign attacks has split the United States into three hostile political areas–Dorado, Rebellium and Turtalia.” AWESOME. and you’re an spy mission leader escaping from Dorado (the evil country in the former US). and not only do you adventure in a futuristic plane from 1997, but also awesome is the fact that where i hail from – Rebellium, or “all territory east of the Mississippi” – is a “haphazard collection of minor city states” that’s not helpful. i choose to assume this means janklow himself could be running his own city state in 2035.
favorite ending in this book: there’s this one ending where you don’t risk using a jeep and head off into the desert, but here’s the thing: it’s completely ambiguous. you don’t know if you live or die or escape or not. it declares “good luck” and leave it at that! “good luck?” i wanted a real ending! anyway, awesome.
are you a bad enough dude to stop a space vampire? eh, probably not. look how much smaller and weaker you are!
01. Space Vampire (book #71, 1987)
tagline: “ONLY YOU CAN STOP A SPACE VAMPIRE FROM LANDING ON EARTH!”
reasons this book is awesome: really, i even have to explain why SPACE VAMPIRE is the best of all possible scenarios? okay, if there was a “rocket zombie,” MAYBE it would be in contention… but what we have here is space vampires and the related scenarios, and that is plenty good enough, even if the book doesn’t top it all off with a drawing of an elephant. the only real downside to this book is that the protagonist is constantly drawn as looking like a moronic douchebag. and best of all, unlike some of these books, where you can do wild and random things, there’s NO WAY you can avoid a vampire confrontation.
favorite ending in this book: most endings involve the vampire drinking your blood or preparing to drink your blood. duh. but i like it best when he gets loose on Earth; it’s like the Alien IV i never got, only with vampires!
so there we go with a glimpse into my childhood. i hope there were associated jokes.