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Item - Consider the Consequences





Series: Miscellaneous Works by Doris Webster and Mary Alden Hopkins
Authors: Webster, Doris
Hopkins, Mary Alden
Date: 1930
Length: 186 pages ("Helen" story - 35 sections, plus introduction; "Jed" story - 18 sections, plus introduction; "Saunders" story - 30 sections, plus introduction)
Number of Endings: "Helen" story - 17 endings; "Jed" story - 10 endings; "Saunders" story - 16 endings
User Summary: The reader makes choices to determine the fates of three protagonists in three separate narratives: Helen, Jed and Saunders. The narratives are connected, with overlapping characters.
Advertisement Blurb: A group of stories in which the reader, at the climax, is made to consider the consequences and choose between them. The fun is in seeing how the story works out. "The most amazing combination of parlor game and fiction that has yet been published."--Boston Transcript.
Guillermo's Thoughts:

The fact that what appears to be the first pick-your-path book in history was written by two women is a remarkable achievement. Consider the Consequences is written in brief, concise prose reminiscent of later classics of interactive fiction such as Choose Your Own Adventure or Fighting Fantasy (and in typical CYOA manner, it includes an introductory page which explains how the book is supposed to be read). It consists of three separate -though related- stories, and at the beginning of each there is even a diagram of the different pathways the story can take, similar to the ones Borges would include a decade later in his An Examination of the Work of Herbert Quain.

Even though people may find the idea of reading a book from the thirties off-putting, I found this to be a fascinating read. This being a book for adults, the choices included have really serious consequences, and the ability to play as either a female or one of two male characters allows the reader to gain greater insights into certain aspects of the social life of the era (such as social class, marriage, divorce, single motherhood, and women's increasing emancipation and participation in the labor force). The thirties were a time of significant changes in social norms, which are highlighted in a manner that manages to be both entertaining and educational. The book makes great reading material for people interested in subjects such as sociology or gender studies, especially because it makes the reader face the consequences of his or her decisions without ever becoming censorious or preachy. Contrary to what you might expect from a book from this era, the story deals with topics such as alcoholism, unmarried cohabitation, unusual family arrangements, political corruption, and even suicide without trying to obscure or sugarcoat their implications. It also details both player and nonplayer characters with a level of psychological depth I've very seldom seen in interactive fiction - the reader will find him or herself clashing with the social mores of the era, and how he or she responds to them will in turn shape his or her character's happiness in later life. Along some paths, the reader will find him or herself to be contributing to social change as his or her decisions successfully defy prevailing norms and taboos.

Notably for such an early work, the structure of the adventures is quite complex, with several story branches crossing with each other instead of all the paths remaining separate. Overall, I highly recommend this book for its entertainment value and developed gameplay, as well as for having demonstrated the capabilities of the interactive medium in a remarkably early era.

More reviews by Guillermo

Special Thanks:Thanks to Guillermo Paredes and the William Charvat Collection of American Literature at Ohio State University for the dustjacket images and to Yale University Library for loaning the copy whose front cover I scanned.

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