CYOA: Journey Under the Sea and All You Need is Kill

I chose Journey Under the Sea because it was the only novel I saw at Amherst Books. Such worked out, because for the question that determined our blog groups, I chose that I would prefer to explore the deep sea as my adventure choice. I’m both frightened and fascinated by the deep sea–I knew this story would have technological failures, weird sea monsters, and other mishaps that common to deep sea stories. I couldn’t wait to see what I’d uncover. This novel tells the story of deep sea explorer who’s on a mission to search for the lost city of Atlantis. On the ways, there are many adventures–I’m attacked by great white sharks and giant squids, I get saved by dolphins and my dive crew, I get gills and become Atlantean. It was a lot of fun!

Reading this book was engaging. Something that I tried to do from the outside was bookmark all my pages and keep track of my choices so that I could go back and change them if I didn’t like the ending, but this proved too complicated to do. My first adventure was the most disappointing. I had to option of exploring a man-made grotto in the ocean. I discovered a hatch that I couldn’t open in the grotto, and decided the blow it open with an explosive charge. The hatch blew up and people went scurrying about. I was informed I chose the wrong option. It was shocking that was such a thing as wrong options in this book, though I admittedly decided to go with the most controversial option just to see what would happen. I was surprised to have my adventure end so quickly. My second adventure was much more rewarding and I got to confront some themes that made me a bit uncomfortable, which I liked. Instead of exploring the grotto, I chose to explore the source of some bubbles frothing up from an unknown source. I decided to drill into the hole and get pulled down by force, losing consciousness. I wake up in a visitors room with people all around me who offer to take me to Atlantis or escort me back to the surface. I choose to go to Atlantis and get taken to the Atlantean control room. The story got a bit dark here–they offered to let me live with them (I’d have to get a serum injected) or be held prisoner. I decided to take the serum and am then offered the choice of accompanying them to space, which I take. When I’m there, I notice no one has bodies, and everyone is simply a light source. I started to think about a play I recently saw that an evil inventor who wanted to upload people’s consciousness, erasing their bodies to eradicate racism. My response to such an act is that we shouldn’t have to eradicate difference to achieve equality–I was reminded of all of this when I saw the illustrations of bodiless life forms living on this planet. What would it mean to suddenly not have a body? I was soon to find out, as I had to choose either between keeping my body or giving it up. I cheated and chose my both options, which both resulted in me turning into a light form.

The structure of the CYOA is reflected thematically in All You Need is Kill. In the manga, the protagonist is relives the same day over and over. He can make any number of choices that can influence how that day go. Similarly, in branching narrative, you can choose any number of options to influence how the actual narrative will play out. Reading these two texts side by side made me question what it would be like if AYIK was told as a branching narrative. The branching narrative filled me with a sense of immediacy–I had a stake in the story and got to involved in how it unfolded. I think that AYIK could benefit from some of this immediacy–Keiji’s experiences could have been told as a CYOA.The branching narrative almost makes you the subject of the text and implicates you in all its actions, which makes for a more immersive reading experience. This is perhaps because the book is written for children, but I sped through my choices mostly just trying to figure out the ending so that I could choose another adventure. I played the Twine game the same way, though. For me, I think the knowledge that I can choose my own adventure makes me pay less attention to the narrative and more attention to the act of choosing. Maybe a more mature text will change that though. In terms of how reading Journey as a paper-based novel instead of screen-based game, it became harder to jump back to certain points in the book to change my adventure after I got to the ending. In the Twine games, I could absent-mindedly click through the appropriate links to get back to where to the point from which I made my last decision before the ending and go from there, this was a bit harder to do with a paper novel.

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2 thoughts on “CYOA: Journey Under the Sea and All You Need is Kill

  1. I agree that it would be interesting to see “All You need is Kill” in the form of a branching narrative. I imagine that the book would need to be split into a little mini series.

    Also, I can relate to your comment about the challenge of keeping track of choices in the Choose Your Own Adventure novel. I often needed to mark all the pages that led to a new branch in the story.

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  2. I like how you connect the CYOA to All You Need is Kill, through the thematic connection of choice, as this is a feature that both of these have. I read Journey Under the Sea and enjoyed it for the most part, as some adventures were short-lived. Also, while reading my CYOA adventures, I too had a variety of experiences, and my first was likely my worst. I was bitten by a poisonous snake as I decided to continue to explore the grotto.

    Lastly, I want to end with a question – How is immersion effected while reading a CYOA? Does taking the time to switch page to page reduce immersion?

    Liked by 1 person

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