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A long time ago I took a look at a Superman “Which Way” book, a book that you don’t read like a normal book. Instead of reading straight through at different points you’re asked to make a choice and turn to a page connected to that choice. Your decision affected the flow of the story. This is part of a form of book known as a “gamebook”, and while many other publishers have produced them the most famous is the Choose Your Own Adventure series, originally published by Bantam Books as a continuation of Vermont Crossroad Press’ “Adventures Of You” series. Author Edward Packard, who created the Adventures Of You and Choose Your Own Adventure series, was inspired by stories he told his daughters, according to an interview in the Beaver County Times.

I had a character named Pete and I usually had him encountering all these different adventures on an isolated island. But that night I was running out of things for Pete to do, so I just asked what they would do.” His two daughters came up with different paths for the story to take and Packard thought up an ending for each of the paths. “What really struck me was the natural enthusiasm they had for the idea. And I thought: ‘Could I write this down?'”

Nowadays Packard has a new series called U-Ventures while the Choose Your Own Adventure brand is now owned by Chooseco. However, it’s only part of a larger series of these gamebooks, which I talked about on my other site a few days ago. So I thought I would look at the book that introduced me to this form of book that is also a game. Packard’s Hyperspace is the twenty-first book of the original CYOA series and the first one I ever saw. After all this time I don’t remember where I got it or why it appealed to me enough to get it, or if I was even the one who bought it. All I know is I looked almost like the kid on the cover, which got me more into this story than the others I own. Yes, even the one with Superman or the ones with the Transformers.

Hyperspace puts the reader into…their own shoes in a way. Using second person narration, the reader is playing a version of themselves, which is the case for most Choose Your Own Adventure books and any non-licensed gamebook in my collection. Sometimes you may live in a fantasy world or live in the future, but in this book you live in the present day (1983), with a new neighbor, Professor Karl Zinka. He keeps to himself but one day you run into him during one of your walks and introduce yourself. He immediately trusts you and introduces you to his latest experiment or there wouldn’t be a story. You’re a good kid. (And yes, the hero is usually a kid around the age of the 7-14 year old target audience.) He tells you that he has been experimenting with hyperspace, a way to travel between dimensions. This is where your first choice begins. Take the book he gave you and go home to read it, or stay and learn more about the experiment. Just be careful because you may end up part of the experiment, flying into space, traveling to another dimension, meeting the author, or becoming fictional yourself. And that’s if you don’t die, so choose wisely.

This book is full of interesting choices and fits into science fantasy. Some paths do have you going to another dimension where you can become your own twin brother, meet other people, come across Nera Vivaldi, a character from earlier books, or just stay at home and do nothing. The book Zinka gives you even has a section that functions like a Choose Your Own Adventure┬« book. Yeah, every time these books are mentioned in the story they toss that registered trademark symbol on there, like they knew it has become the catch-all for this kind of gamebook, like how most people call cotton swabs Q-Tips even if it isn’t the actual brand they’re using. In that story you also have branching paths where the fictional you can also die or have longer adventures. Glad we’re done talking about that because it would be confusing as heck if I had to go further. One of the “real world” stories even cause a time loop that sends you back to you on the couch reading the book, while another turns you into a fictional character, and oddly that’s not the one where you meet the author. It’s quite the ride.

Also good are the illustrations by Anthony Kramer. As I said before the “you” of the story kind of looks like I did back then, though my hair color got darker as I got older. The design of the hyperspace laser, as seen on the cover, is simple but it works. It’s not a highly detailed art style even when you factor in that the internal images are in black and white, but the results serve the story well and give you a frame of reference for the characters you meet both human and alien. I didn’t go through all the paths so I can leave myself something new the next time I go to read this, but I did a few of them and the designs match the written descriptions.

If you have a chance to read this book, or any book in this series or format, I recommend it. It’s a unique reading experience and you like both reading and games this will work nicely for you. Just remember to open that bottle indoors. Trust me, you’ll live longer.