"The Golden Path, Volume 1" -- Part 1 of a Multi-Part Review
Click here for A Short History of "Choose Your Own Adventure"
Click here for Miracle Jones' "Golden Path Review, PART TWO"
Click here for Goodman Carter's "Golden Path Review, PART THREE"
Click here for Xerxes Verdammt's "Golden Path Review, PART FOUR"

A while ago, we at fictioncircus.com brought you the inside skinny on the history of Choose Your Own Adventure. As a result, we've been given the rare opportunity to review Chooseco's next great hope, the forthcoming The Golden Path, Volume I, written by CYOA heir apparent Anson Montgomery. Upon this man's no doubt broad shoulders--and on The Golden Path itself--rests the fate of a literary dynasty.

So you appreciate the seriousness of the situation, the political importance of The Golden Path to the future of world fiction. Our continuing coverage of The Golden Path begins today. It may or may not continue until the book's release on April 25th. We hope you enjoy it.

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Nietzsche postulated two basic modes of art and experience: the Apollonian and the Dionysian. The Apollonian art--the novels of Dickens or Balzac, for example--is the art of plasticity, of superficiality. In Apollonian art, the characters all have names and jobs and conflicts, and you as the reader sit back and laugh and cry at their little problems, so far apart from your own. Apollonian art is safe art. It is weak art.

Dionysian art--a fury of unformed emotion, of primal being-before-consciousness--is no better. The Dionysian novel--the work of Kathy Acker or William Burroughs, for example--trucks in dissonance and logical impossibility. It does so in an attempt to break through the superficial forms of thought, in an attempt to express some arcane awareness of the chaos and incomprehensibility of the prison of existence. Dionysian art is incoherent art.

But one novel dares to do what hasn't been done since the days of Sophocles: to combine the Apollonian and the Dionysian. To combine weakness and incoherence to create something that transcends both. In Nietzschean terms, this is the tragic art.

And The Golden Path is a true tragedy.

The plot is deceptively simple. The main character, known only as "you", attends a boarding school with his or her devoted friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Like Oedipus, the three attempt to overstep the bounds of human knowledge by researching a piece of mysterious pottery found at an archeological dig in New Mexico. And--like Oedipus--the three lose all that they have. They are expelled from boarding school and set to fend for themselves in a society full of dog murderers and Quebecois insurgencies, a world where life is cheap and liberty itself is on trial. A world where the United States has conquered Mexico and cell phones have been made illegal by a brutal dictator.

In Nietzschean terms, the tragic art is that which is aware of its own necessity. In the deepest sense, Prince Hamlet does not have a choice of whether or not to murder Claudius at his prayers in Act III. The nature of Prince Hamlet dictates what Prince Hamlet must do. The Golden Path operates in a similarly rich literary vein. The book makes it clear that as "you" goes along with his or her quest, "you" fundamentally has no choices to make. The five or six alternatives offered to "you"--including the choice of whether or not to swerve around a moose in the path of "your" hover-car, or simply to hit the moose--only underscore this deep awareness of fate. Volition, in the world of Anson Montgomery--much as in the world of Shakespeare--is only an illusion.

This is what we in the fiction business term "irony." It is the sign of a noble and courageous art.

In the end, it is fate that brings down "you", as he or she recklessly decides to steer a boat into a massive whirlpool that leads to the center of the Earth, despite knowing full well that only one of the engines on the boat is operational. Everyone knows that you need at least two working engines to steer a boat into a massive whirlpool that leads to the center of the Earth. As "you" dies on an ice floe, screaming for his or her lost family, unable to feel the loving touch of Ron and Hermione at his or her brow, the last thing "you" sees is the empty sky. It is a void that "you" sees. A void of choices: a terminal future, azure and mysteriously limitless.

With The Golden Path, Volume 1, the Choose Your Own Adventure series reaches new heights of greatness. Only Anson Montgomery could have created this postmodern milestone: the Choose Your Own Adventure book that dared to eliminate the core idea of allowing the reader to make choices. It is a concept worthy of John Barth, at the very least.

Posted by future on Tue, 18 Mar 2008 22:09:24 -0400 -- permanent link

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