A Choose Your Own Adventure that you couldn't win?
September 17, 2009 11:11 AM   Subscribe

Choose Your Own Adventure question.

I am trying to remember something about the plot (and maybe title) of a Choose Your Own Adventure that has haunted me since the mid-1980s.

I think the plot had to do with trying to escape a spacecraft or another dimension. Also--and this is the key part--by design, there may not have been a way to escape, because the one page where you escape had no pages linking to it.

So I remember accidentally turning to that victory page and that it said something like, "You don't know how you did it, but you have somehow found yourself escaping the Kingdom/Spaceship/Dimension of _____" Then I tried to reverse engineer the ending, but I couldn't find any choices in the book that went there, and decided it must be sort of a philosophical thing where you only win by going outside the box.

Does anyone remember a Choose Your Own Adventure book like this, with a page that you could never get to? Or maybe I was wrong?
posted by Kirklander to Writing & Language (40 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yep. I remember it. I thought it was great there was no way to get to the page. I don't remember the name though.

Here's a list of all the books: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_gamebooks

There are a couple "Escape from..."'s
posted by xammerboy at 11:16 AM on September 17, 2009


Are you absolutely sure there was no way to get to it? I remember some of the weirder books made you answer math questions or solve puzzles with the answer being the winning page. Just because there were no actual options to jump to that page doesn't mean it isn't possible to get there within the confines of the book.
posted by hayvac at 11:17 AM on September 17, 2009


From Wikipedia:

Inside UFO 54-40 is notable for being the only Choose Your Own Adventure book to possess a plotline that cannot be reached by making a choice. This plotlines consists of pages 101 to 104 and describes the protagonist visitng the utopian planet "Ultima".
posted by o0dano0o at 11:18 AM on September 17, 2009 [21 favorites]


I ABSOLUTELY remember this. There was this page where you basically reached paradise, some kind of "cloud kingdom" or something I seem to recall.

And there was NO WAY AT ALL to actually get to that page. Talk about a mindfuck.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:19 AM on September 17, 2009


Yeah, o0dano0o nailed it.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:20 AM on September 17, 2009


I know for certain there was at least one CYOA book that used this device, but I can't remember which one. I remember it exactly as you describe, but can't add any more information except that I think the device was explained in some kind of afterward or preface or something; possibly on the back of the book. The space/escape plot isn't ringing any bells for me, but it's still entirely possible that I read it and just don't remember it now. So... what you're looking for is definitely out there, but I don't know whether you're on the right track.
posted by Clay201 at 11:20 AM on September 17, 2009


Thanks for the great answers!!!
posted by Kirklander at 11:20 AM on September 17, 2009


I remember that too! Looks like oOdanoOo nailed it down.
posted by Eicats at 11:21 AM on September 17, 2009


Jesus, you people are fast.
posted by Clay201 at 11:21 AM on September 17, 2009


No, I remember this too. o0dano0o has it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:21 AM on September 17, 2009


Yeah, it was a 100% head trip because it both underscored the doom of being trapped on this UFO, while evoking awe at this magical utopia that you would never be able to reach.
posted by Kirklander at 11:24 AM on September 17, 2009


From an Amazon review: "What UFO 54-40 teaches us is the blatant futility of aspiring for a perfect or utopian society unless we as a people learn to collectively cheat and read ahead in the book."
posted by Kirklander at 11:25 AM on September 17, 2009 [19 favorites]


I miss the CYOA books. Some of the deaths were pretty hardcore; I remember one where some sort of gas that disintegrated everything it touched was released from a sinister research facility (or bad guy's lair, or something), and one of the endings was along the lines of "The last thing you see is the glass of the car window dissolving before your eyes." That's some heavy stuff to lay on a ten year-old.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:59 AM on September 17, 2009 [10 favorites]


Aw, c'mon. It's more significant than just being a mindfuck. In most of the storylines, you find out that the aliens are abducting people because of a legend that it was possible for humans to reach the utopian world, but "not by making any choice or any decision." It's optimistic! It's telling the reader that they're in control of the book, instead of the book controlling them! The poor aliens, they may seem powerful, but they're stuck doing what the author tells them to. But you're free!

(I think Ufo 54-40 and... I can't remember the title, but there was another one where one of the endings featured the author himself telling you that he doesn't know what you're going to do next and that you'll have to figure it out for yourself... anyway, I think those two were the first things to inspire my lifelong love of metafictional conceits. CYOA was such win...)
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:59 AM on September 17, 2009 [13 favorites]


Oh, that's amazing! And sounds like what I remember. So the aliens are trapped in the book, but you have free will.
posted by Kirklander at 12:02 PM on September 17, 2009


I miss the CYOA books. Some of the deaths were pretty hardcore; I remember one where some sort of gas that disintegrated everything it touched was released from a sinister research facility (or bad guy's lair, or something), and one of the endings was along the lines of "The last thing you see is the glass of the car window dissolving before your eyes." That's some heavy stuff to lay on a ten year-old.

Totally. I remember one where you were on top of the world... and then were electrocuted by a toaster when you foolishly retrieved your toast with a metal fork. Talk about a hell of an introduction to both the concept of the "fickle finger of fate" AND the ever-looming specter of inadequately grounded appliances and product liability litigation.

You're damn right I didn't make toast for a year after I read that.
posted by cheapskatebay at 1:12 PM on September 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


The three-book Cretan Chronicles series -- among the best of the gamebook genre -- had a slightly different variation on escaping standard CYOA-style choices: if the section had an italicised number, you could try a "non-standard action" by looking ten sections ahead. Sometimes it worked out for you, sometimes it didn't, and sometimes it was necessary to progress to the best possible ending.
posted by holgate at 1:20 PM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Funny, I just bought "Inside UFO 54-40" at a used bookstore. I'd gone in looking for "The Cave of Time" since I have such fond childhood memories reading it. The only CYOA in this particular store was "Inside UFO 54-40," so I bought it. Pretty trippy. I don't think I'd ever read that one as a kid, so it was fun discovering something new. Oh, and my friend's twelve year old daughter was really intrigued by the idea of CYOA and absolutely loved reading it.
posted by JenMarie at 2:17 PM on September 17, 2009


I can't remember the title, but there was another one where one of the endings featured the author himself telling you that he doesn't know what you're going to do next and that you'll have to figure it out for yourself... anyway, I think those two were the first things to inspire my lifelong love of metafictional conceits.

Consulting my CYOA collection, the one you're probably thinking about is Hyperspace, where Edward Packard himself becomes a character. I think it's my favorite one of all, except maybe for Escape, which is not only a ripping good yarn but also a sentimental favorite since I first read it in the car on the way to a beach vacation.

And I just noticed that my copy of Inside UFO 54-40 is missing! Ack! On preview, JenMarie must have it!
posted by vibrotronica at 2:23 PM on September 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hmm, did you accidentally sell it to a small used bookstore in Ashland, OR? :)

(Seriously, you have a whole collection of CYOA? I'm so jealous!)
posted by JenMarie at 2:41 PM on September 17, 2009


I had #s 1-37 of my original copies from back in the day, but there has been some attrition over the years. Now I have to fill in the gaps.
posted by vibrotronica at 3:17 PM on September 17, 2009


They actually list the number of endings on the cover, 30 in this case, so I wonder if they included this one?
posted by smackfu at 4:05 PM on September 17, 2009


Thank you for asking this! I had been thinking about this with the recent spate of CYOA book mentions and simulacra on the web lately, and I couldn't remember the title either.
posted by jocelmeow at 4:10 PM on September 17, 2009


Glad I am not alone ! I think I have now officially answered every question from my childhood.
posted by Kirklander at 4:38 PM on September 17, 2009


I never read that CYOA, but I definitely reverse engineered another book and found you couldn't reach an ending.

WIKIPEDIA WRONG FILM ON YOUTUBE
posted by DU at 7:23 PM on September 17, 2009


I also found that 'secret' page, not by cheating but it was obvious because it spread across two pages I think, so you found it just by turning pages, and I slowly realized as I made decisions there was no path to it. That gave it a sort of reverence (that I couldn't defeat it, technically). Wow great memory for me too.
On a side note, if anyone wants to sell me these books I know of a great child I would love to gift them towards. :)
posted by uni verse at 8:27 AM on September 18, 2009


It's going on Amazon for dirt cheap.
posted by Kirklander at 7:44 PM on September 18, 2009


Oh, thanks for asking this! I used to read the stories from the good endings backwards, with all of my ten fingers bookmarking previous pages. I could never get backwards once I found the utopia pages.
posted by chronic sublime at 9:30 PM on September 18, 2009


I never read that CYOA, but I definitely reverse engineered another book and found you couldn't reach an ending.

WIKIPEDIA WRONG FILM ON YOUTUBE


FWIW, the Wikipedia article lists the book as "the only Choose Your Own Adventure book" – that is, the only book in the branded series – with phantom pages.

I can think of another instance in general cyoa books. One of my favorite one-shots from my early years reading comics is The Ren and Stimpy Show Special #3, "Masters of Time and Space! A Choose Your Own Adventure Epic!" The book not only had pages that were impossible to reach by following the directions, it had a time-travel element to the story that allowed the reader to loop back through pages already read (think Bill and Ted).

I was pleased to see the writer, Dan Slott, speaking last week at the Brooklyn Book Festival, where he mentioned the book as one of his favorite stories to write.
posted by shemko at 11:35 PM on September 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Inside UF0 54-40 was my very first CYOA book. Finally finding the ending spazzed my pre-teen brain right out and hooked me on the whole series.
posted by theCroft at 3:30 AM on September 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


This book left a strong impression on me as well.
posted by cortex at 8:19 PM on September 19, 2009


Choose Your Own Adventure books blew my little gradeschool mind. I absolutely remember UFO 54-40. My buddy Phil was the first of us to come upon the unreachable ending, and throughout the rest of fifth grade we would periodically propose mathematical "formulas" that brought us to page 101. It always started with adding 54 to 40, followed by some very arbitrary reason to add another seven (like the number of characters in the title). Who could have predicted that, years later, neither of us would really be the ladies' man we set out to be?
posted by Edgewise at 6:53 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here is the pertinent text. Thanks!

"You did not make a choice, or follow any direction, but now, somehow, you are descending from space--approaching a great, glistening sphere. It is Ultima--the planet of paradise. As your ship slowly and gently descends, you look down on a meadow filled with flowers..."
posted by Kirklander at 7:37 PM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


"...No one can choose to visit Ultima. Nor can you get here by following directions."
posted by Kirklander at 7:38 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


having seen this posted on the front page i remembered to ask my mom what she did with my book collection (which i had long assumed she had either given to relatives or charity).

without question edward packard was a master of the mindfuck.

besides the CYOAs i also have here a linear paperback called "ESP McGee"
He conceived of the idea for the ESP McGee stories while trying to decide whether ESP exists in reality or only in myth. He admits that -- like Matt Terrell, the narrator of the series -- he is not certain of the answer to that question.
dude. and for the record HYPERSPACE is my favorite. before reading it warns:
HYPERSPACE is different even from other Choose Your Own Adventure books. Your journey will not take you just to the stars or other galaxies, but to other universes and other realities.
Not only will you face terrible dangers, even the laws of science may change before your eyes! What seems real may only be a story, and what seems to be a story may be real. In HYPERSPACE anything can happen. Anything.
Good wishes and good luck.
posted by Hammond Rye at 7:48 PM on September 25, 2009


Interesting. I don't recall ever reading this one. I do recall the same trick being used in A TSR D&D "Endless Quest" book (which, being published a year later, I am now disappointed to realize totally ripped off this earlier book). If memory serves (and it has been over 25 years) the book was Revenge of the Rainbow Dragons, which of course, thanks to Something Awful, I am now eternally condemned to think of as "Buttfucked by Gayzilla." Man I loved those CYOA books... I had this ranked bookmark scheme perfected for maximum adventure throughput (such a nerd).
posted by nanojath at 8:14 PM on September 25, 2009


I had that book. I remember being very frustrated that I couldn't win and spent time like everyone else trying to work backwards from the utopian ending. I understood the message from the author, but I didn't find it to be the enlightening koan exercise it was intended to be, and I think it caused me to stop reading those books. But in general, it was a totally kick ass series.

There is a bookstore across from Notre Dame in Paris called shakespeare and co, I think it specializes in english books. I recall seeing that they had all books in the CYOA series, but you had to buy them all at once and it was several hundred dollars or so.
posted by about_time at 12:48 PM on September 26, 2009


For what it's worth, I interviewed Ed Packard, creator of Choose Your Own Adventure books, for a documentary I'm doing on interactive fiction. The impression I got from him was a lot of his writing in his books was intended to reward making choices, and that he specifically did not follow some sort of overarching moral code (like punishing staying at home, or always making it bad that you fought someone, etc.).

Eventually I hope to put the entire interview of him on archive.org.
posted by jscott at 1:11 AM on September 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Hi Jason, can't wait for the doc, speaking as an obsessed Infocom fan. (oh the interactive 1980s.)
posted by Kirklander at 7:55 PM on October 2, 2009


Hammond: I recall Hyperspace being a total mind warp.
posted by Kirklander at 7:56 PM on October 2, 2009


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