The Sinister Studios of KESP-TV

The Sinister Studios of KESP-TV (1983) by Louise Munro Foley has two major branches in the story. One branch ends quickly so the bulk of the book offshoots from one storyline. This makes a fairly cohesive gamebook and makes your choices feel meaningful. You never end up surfing on an alien planet or being eaten by a giant. The narrative builds in a way that makes sense. The author also makes the mundane exciting. In this book it’s a work-study program and in her The Train of Terror it was a trip to see Aunt Kate. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough content. Another 20 pages would suffice. But as it is, you exhaust the pathways too soon. Rating: 490

The Train of Terror

The Train of Terror (1982) is a Twistaplot gamebook written by Louise Munro Foley. Before I get to the contents of this gamebook, I’m addressing a curious dedication in the opening pages:

This book is affectionately dedicated to Don Foley, who made a choice a few years back and has been riding a train of terror ever since.

At first I assume that Louise is jokingly referring to getting and being married. However, Don and Louise married in 1957 then divorced sometime around 1976. So she is clearly poking a stick at Don for his misery after choosing to divorce her. I already like Louise.

Even though “Terror” is in the title of this book and there is a creepy as heck guy with a knife on the cover, The Train of Terror is more in the spy genre. There are some horror elements but these only succeed in making the book feel uneven. When the author sticks to the mysteries surrounding double agents, this book is at its best.

There are some fun fake choices:

If you have a red dress, turn to PAGE 34.

If you wouldn’t be caught dead in a red dress, turn to PAGE 34 anyway.

And silly opportunities to opt out:

If you decide to go with your wits instead of his gun, turn to PAGE 82.

If you decide you’d prefer a nap to a shootout, close this book, shut your eyes, and wait until you hear the conductor announce “Twin Falls!”

The Train of Terror abounds in humor and folksy comments like “curiosity kills more than cats” but, it’s the psychotic image on the cover that sells tickets. All aboard! Rating: 503

Golden Sword of Dragonwalk

Golden Sword of Dragonwalk is a Twistaplot gamebook by the prolific R. L. Stine. It was published in 1983, nine years before Stine’s Goosebumps series began.

I speed through the first few choices, skim reading and this is the end of my pathway:

“In a few days, Grandma Carmen’s once quiet neighborhood is overrun by evil. Dragons roam the sidewalks, chewing up the hedges and swallowing pedestrians whole. Sorcerers change babies into toads…” (18)

Well yes, only children and rather silly adults enjoy such nonsense. Being rather silly myself, I restart. On page 5, I find a Morton’s Fork with one choice sending me directly to page 8 and the other having me read page 11 before sending me to the same page 8. I then have to choose which order I will fight the big dragon, middle dragon and little dragon. Six paths to choose from. Here are my choices and their results in the order I choose them.

  1. middle, big, little – I’m DEAD but it seems to give a clue to fight the big one first.
  2. big, middle, little – I’m DEAD but the wizard says never fight the big one first. Sigh.
  3. little, big, middle – I kill the little one. I kill the big one. Then…

“… the look in the dragon’s eyes is not one of anger, but of grief. With its two companions gone, the middle dragon has lost all its fight. It offers no resistance as you plunge the Golden Sword through its heart.” (29)

Considering this is a book for kids, Mr. Stine got away with murder.