I find choose your own adventure books incredibly frustrating, though I sure didn't when I was a kid. Even reading something like Meanwhile: Pick Any Path. 3,856 Story Possibilities., which is the absolute top of the heap when it comes to choose your own adventures for children: beautiful paper, well-designed, light-hearted and funny, turns into me paging around in frustration and then throwing it down with a bah. I think reading has periods, though this is a stupid way to put it. I find the boy, who is 8, happily running his finger through the threads of that story, choosing, re-choosing, running the possibilities over and over. As a child, your reading life is nothing but time, but older, it turns into the flop sweat of get in as many books before you die
. Er, maybe not everyone, that may just be me.
Anyway, zombie apocalypse may be the best possible topic for an choose your own adventure aimed at adults, because hey! it's all flop sweat and dying! No more yelling at the tv as people go back for their wedding albums and let human caring cloud their judgement when their friends get bitten! Chop chop! You are a 25 year old Manhattan douchebag when the zombies begin to reanimate in New York. Based on my various choices last night, the plots diverge wildly, ending up in all kinds of locales, hat-tipping a thousand genre conventions, and not just the zombie ones. The writing, ham-strung as it is by the action! action! action! necessitated by the choose your own format - I mean really, you just want to see whether your choice was the right one, not muse on the inevitability of death or man's capacity for evil or some shit. Some situations are wildly funny: on the run with a ninja stripper, beating down zombies with the Yankees and Babe Ruth's bat. And when you choose in one situation to abandon TEH CHILDREN to the zombies, you turn to a conclusion that went something like, yeah, you live, but you have to live with what an asshole you are. Oh, pointed ethical commentary! I stuck to the choose your own thing for a while, and ended up paging through until I threw it down with a bah, but it took a heckuva lot longer than I expected.
You may notice that I'm writing this review mostly in the second person, and it might be bugging you like it does me. I had never noticed before that the choose your own adventure format is likely the largest body of second person narratives. I can think of a couple novels in the second person: Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas, which I did not like, and something by Charles Stross that I have never read. There's a "you" in When You Reach Me, but it's not truly a you-reader. Anyway, second person is super annoying because "you" keep doing things and being a person that isn't you. I kept chaffing when the protagonist douchebag kept thinking and doing things that I would never do. Seriously, that stripper is hot, but there is a godamn zombie apocalypse out there, you idiot. There's some choices to be be made, and that alleviates some of the frustrations, but the writer is still in charge of the character, and that character is you. Rawrr. I'm just griping about the second person though, mostly. The book's general cussedness and gleeful goofing minimize the "you" problem, I'd say.
Oh! And I was super jazzed when one of my strings of choices left me in the Union Square Barnes & Noble, reading zombie books that some thoughtful B&N worker had laid out on a display table. (It's on page, 267, if you want to check it out.) I'm thinking it must have been Karen, although I'm sure a table put together by Karen would be more interesting. The books were:
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
Day by Day Armageddon (This has a super horrible cover.)
The New Dead: A Zombie Anthology
The Walking Dead Compendium Vol. 1
The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead
The Zombie Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Living Dead