Monday, November 30, 2015

Choose Your Own Relationship Fail

Love Is Not Constantly Wondering If You Are Making the Biggest Mistake of Your LifeLove Is Not Constantly Wondering If You Are Making the Biggest Mistake of Your Life by Anonymous
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thrills and chills! ZOOMIDDY ZOOOOM!!! Space chases! BLAMMO!!! Laser blasts! All this excitement and more is promised on the back of this book:

"You are an ace starfighter pilot in the Galactic Space Force. Shot down over a mysterious planet, you have been taken captive by a race of giant, super intelligent ants."

But soon enough you discover Love Is Not Constantly Wondering if You Are Making the Biggest Mistake of Your Life " actually about your relationship with a young woman named Anne, and your struggles to cope with her alcoholism." Wow. That's not your usual Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) book, where via second person narration you most often play the hero of some great adventure or mystery.

The text has nothing to do with sci-fi. It's about the relationship. The illustrations and your choices are written as if you were reading the sci-fi aspect of the story, but it's only a metaphor for the struggles of the main character author. It stays like that until the end when fiction and reality intermingle in a surreal nightmare.

Those of you who've been following my reviews (and I thank you for that) know that I'm a fan of the CYOA books. Have been since I was a kid and I still love going back to revisit the old books now and again. But I'm just as excited when I find a new CYOA [Who Killed John F. Kennedy? (Lose Your Own Adventure #1)], even if it's a parody or not exactly in keeping with the old school style.

This one uses the CYOA style, and seems to have a level of reverence for it, while not adhering to it entirely. Let me explain. With this one there are no page numbers, just dates upon which incidents happened...

You are bored so you decide to give Anne a call. She answers. You ask her what she is doing. She replies, "My roommate."

"Hey, wake up!"
And that was the moment Anne dropped the snake on your face.

It is three in the morning when the phone rings, and you answer to the sound of Anne sobbing hysterically. You can hear the sounds of a car. She says they are coming. She was at a party, and they are coming, and she is sorry. The line goes dead.

Unlike other CYOAs, reading this straight through from beginning to end is perfectly a-okay. Actually, it's probably the smart move if you want to understand the story in a linear fashion. Besides, half the time you're not given an action choice, but rather told to turn to such-and-such a date. When there is a choice given, quite often it is done to underline a point or express a darkly-humored truism as relates to the cyclical nature of the abusive relationship. Yes, believe it or not, humor does play a hand in this, perhaps as laughter is used in therapy.

There is more give-and-take to the relationship than the examples I gave above, creating a very telling memoir that does not show the author in the best of lights at all times. The writing is accomplished, providing a smooth read on an engrossing subject that draws the reader in, making you pull for these fucked up kids. Will they survive the dangerous rollercoaster ride or will it all go off the rails?

Right up until this very minute, I've been unsure whether to give this 4 or 5 stars. While it's not perfect, it did evoke a lot of emotion in me. Sure, that emotion came in the form of sadness, pity and disgust, but it was all very visceral. And it kept me on the edge of my seat, because disaster was around every corner. Yes, I was glorying in horrible accidents and intentional horribleness. Is that so wrong?

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This Is No Three Hour Tour

The RaftThe Raft by Robert Trumbull
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Three naval airmen from a downed plane spend over a month in an open raft upon the South Pacific Seas with no food, water or cover from the sun and live to tell the tale. Wow. I need to stop bitching when I get a little sunburn or miss lunch.

This memoir was put together by Robert Trumbull in 1942 soon after Harold Dixon, Gene Aldrich, and Tony Pastula underwent their trying ordeal. It's told from Dixon's perspective. He was the pilot and senior to the other two. He gives his opinions relatively freely. His descriptions of their journey are novel-worthy, making for one heck of a nail-biting read.

Some of the details, like what they were doing and where it took place, had to be left sketchy because the war was still ongoing. But that doesn't detract from the essence of their story. I've read a few sea survival biographies and this ranks right up there with its storms, sharks, deprivation, hope and despair. Heck, this even includes an encounter with natives, like it was some kind of fanciful 18th century adventure tall tale. At times I felt like I was reading of Captain Bligh's post-mutiny survival voyage or a better version of Robinson Crusoe.

If reading The Raft doesn't sound like your thing, perhaps you might watch it? It was recently made into a movie, Against the Sun, starring Malfoy... description

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