"The Golden Path, Volume 1" -- Part 2 of a Multi-Part Review
Click here for A Short History of "Choose Your Own Adventure"
Click here for Dr. Stephen Future's "Golden Path Review, PART ONE"
Click here for Goodman Carter's "Golden Path Review, PART THREE"
Click here for Xerxes Verdammt's "Golden Path Review, PART FOUR"

Earlier this month, I wrote "A Short History of Choose Your Own Adventure" in which I narrowed my eyebrows at CYOA's parent company "Chooseco" and speculated that for a brief time in the eighties the makers of CYOA must have been traveling the world and snorting crushed up diamonds from the breasts of Prime Ministers with all of the money they were making from the adventures that YOU were having.

The very next day, I got a letter from "Chooseco," and an offer to review their newest book before it came out.

The new book is called "The Golden Path" and it is the first in a nested, seven volume series.

Letting us review it is about as Christian of them as could be, and after poking around and finding the blog of the founder of CYOA, I am forced to admit that Ray Montgomery is most likely someone whose casual company I would enjoy, in the same way that I enjoy the company of sober drug dealers and politicians who laugh too hard and too long about war.

But still, really, I did not want to read a CYOA book.

"Come on," said Dr. Future. "It will be a ripe gas."

"But I do not like those books, and I never did."

"That is because you read them with an eye toward victory. The true way to read those books is exactly once, making choices, living with them, seeing how it all turns out, and then closing the book and never picking it back up, forever wondering where you went wrong."

"Fine," I said. "If I have to read it and review it, then we ALL have to read it and review it."

"Perfect," said Dr. Future. "For we shall each have read a different book. Fiction Circus readers may "Choose Your Own Review." Ha ha."

"We're not going to call it that," I said.

"Oh my," said Dr. Future. "LORD no."

The book showed up last week, but Future got to it first. Soon after, while grinning like he does, he handed me the squat, glossy paperback; my punishment for tangling with the marketing department at Chooseco.

Stripped of its gimmicks, the book is life itself. Throbbing, complete, morphological, cruel. Unlike others who play this game for "fun," I will live with the choices I make. Every choice will be fixed and immutable and my fate will depend upon my ability to read for context-clues, to understand the justice system of the writer (Anson Montgomery, heir to the Montgomery legacy), and to feel my way through the options without second-guessing myself.

Given such a challenge, the book becomes fun again (hypothetically).

Not only will I be reading the book certain to die in some fascinating way, but I will only be the second person in the world to make this plunge. It is a GALLEY copy. There are pages missing, there are empty placeholder sheets mocking me: choices I can never make, holes in the fabric of this golden new reality.

This book will reveal the hidden springs of my decision-making process. What kind of man am I? What kind of YOU am I?

I crack the book open and light a candle. I am not afraid.

* * *

I do not understand why this book happened, I'll tell you that right now.

In impulse and design, this book was the result of some strange conversations and (I hope) arguments.

Stripped of the pulp tradition and Victorian globetrotting that the elder Montgomery used as compost for his scenarios, the younger Montgomery falls back on a baffling mixture of Rowling, Umberto Eco, and David Foster Wallace. You and your friends Ron and Hermione all attend the same exclusive East Coast boarding school, where you are investigating the supernatural qualities of a piece of rock you found at an archaeological dig over the summer.

The world you live in is full of contradictions. There are terrorists. There is a tyrannical government that keeps order with symbols, death, and illusion. Cell phones are illegal.

The plot begins promisingly, albeit only in the sense that it is crazy: the government wants your rock and they courtmartial you to get it in a school tribunal bereft of constitutional protections.

After being expelled, you go back to your home to find that your dog has died after being locked up in a garage for too long, and that your parents are gone, gone to hell, gone forever, victims of god knows what. Your friends stick by you, and you decide to investigate.

(No choices yet, by the way.)

Suddenly, the road birfurcates. You can either go to New York to visit with your parents's financial planner who has "information" for you, or you can go to Carlsbad to meet with your "Uncle," which is what your beloved mother tells you to do in an email from beyond the grave.

I know from his review how Dr. Future met his end. He went to New York and ended up dying on some lonely ice floe. His death is my opportunity. I am not ashamed to light my path with the oil from his bones. I know he would want it that way, and I know that others after me will do the same. And so I decide to go to Carlsbad Caverns, to meet this "Uncle" of mine.

Ron, Hermione, and I get in the FAMILY JET, and away we go!

Suddenly, there is a strange flash of light in the distance!

"If you choose to try to explore the brilliant flash of light alone, turn to page 107!"

I choose. Lord help me, I choose.

The flash of light is a burned-down village. A man in the burned-down village tells me that aliens did it. Then the man turns into an alien. And then he tells me that he is a semiotics professor. And then he tells me that my parents raised me wrong. He tells me: "The Inner Earth is like a Moebius strip, once on it, you never get off...unless you break the strip." Then he disappears!

And then, at the bottom of the page:

"Continue on your quest in "THE GOLDEN PATH, VOLUME 2, page 37. Good luck."

The end.

This is a bad book. I'm sorry. Montgomery family: why do you hate children?

Posted by miracle on Mon, 24 Mar 2008 04:53:33 -0400 -- permanent link

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