Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Is Back; If You Decide to Buy This Trend, Turn to Page 18

Writing on the Guardian‘s books blog, David Barnett reports that a couple of publishers are getting back to basics and doing choose-your-own-adventure books again. He notes a few symptoms of the apparent resurgence.

  • First, the Fighting Fantasy series, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2007, has been reissued in full.
  • Second, there’s a book called You Are a Miserable Excuse for a Hero, which takes mundane contemporary life as its subject and forces the reader to make decisions like, "If you want to have sex with your ex-girlfriend, consider getting back together with her, then think better of it, go to page 183."
  • Third, there are some Web sites that post stories in installments and let readers vote on what should happen next.

Barnett also links to this site, which belongs to a small publishing house that puts out choose-your-own-adventure books by a guy named Ray Montgomery. There’s a ticker at the bottom of the page that tells you about the number of possible endings in each of the books they’ve published. House of Danger has 20. Escape:27.

Is this the way to make reading an interactive process, which Web 2.0 theorist/enthusiast Clay Shirky says it must do in order to survive? Maybe, except that as Barnett points out, a lot of this recent choose-your-own-adventure projects seems fueled more by nostalgia rather than an impulse towards narrative innovation: People read these books in 2008 the same way they might play the original Nintendo. Even those Web sites that let you vote on what the author does next are kind of regressive (despite being on the Internet!), channeling American Idol more than the immersive alternate reality games created for TV shows like Lost and Heroes.

Which reminds us: Heroes creator Tim Kring is working with Dale Peck at this very moment on a three-book series called The Flag of Orpheus, an alternate history thriller that will come fully equipped with a rich and intricate online component meant to draw readers into the fictional universe in which the books take place. Crown signed this series up in April, paying a whopping $3 million for it and beating out a number of other houses for the privilege. One wonders why no one else has taken up a similar project since.

If Barnett is right, and choose-your-own-adventure really is back, we may soon start hearing about more of them.

Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Is Back; If You Decide to Buy This Trend, Turn to Page 18