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Miscellaneous Works by Ashton MacSaylor and Jamie Thomson
(pseudonym used by Saylor, Ashton)
June 1, 2018 (hardback)
April 17, 2019 (paperback)
1909905313 / 9781909905313
190990533X / 9781909905337 (paperback)
301 sections |
The Good, the Bad and the Undead by Ashton MacSaylor and Jamie Thomson is a difficult book to qualify. It is an interactive title like the gamebooks of old (without a dice-based system; this is choices only) but it also seeks to be an engaging and well-written novel. Unfortunately, while it succeeds definitively in one area, it is left lacking in the other. A brief warning: some of what I have written below may be construed as a spoiler regarding the structure of the book even though it won't be spoiling any key plot points.
To begin with, this book is very well-written and reads closer to a traditional novel than most gamebooks/interactive fiction on the market. The characters are well developed in a short space of time, and there are several shades of grey with their flaws and motivations often taking a front seat in how they react to what is happening in the main story. The overall tale focuses on a small group of individuals who, for their own reasons, visit a town which has fallen out of contact with neighbouring districts. As the title and cover of the book implies, there is an unfortunate undead problem in the town, of the vampire variety (not zombies). It falls upon our heroes to deal with this conundrum, though they will be consistently sidetracked by their own personal issues and motivations.
This is one area of the book that some gamebook fans may take issue with. The story leaps between different characters repeatedly, with the reader making choices for each of them. There is no second person perspective here where 'you' are placed in the storyline, and some readers may find that this fails to immerse them into the atmosphere. Depending on your choices while reading, you may even miss entire scenes with some of the characters, coming across them later on in the story after something bad has already happened to them; the reader really doesn't have much control over which character the story switches to at any given time.
This leads me to my second problem, and I found this one a bit more soul-destroying than the first. SPOILER warning: there is no plot revelation here but I will briefly talk about the mechanics of the book, and for some this may ruin their experience.
So, in summary, a riveting story involving interesting characters with good background development that will make you either care for them or hate them, while the interactive aspect left me disappointed due to its lack of influence on anything for most of the book. If I were to rate this as a novel for sheer enjoyment factor alone I'd give it five stars, but if I was asked to rate it just as a gamebook/interactive fiction title, I'd be forced down to two stars. Altogether, I can give the book the benefit of the doubt and will rate it four stars (rather than middling out at three), simply because it was still an amazingly engaging story to read and that to me is what saves the book from mediocrity.
I can highly recommend this book for its story alone, but don't go into this expecting a heightened level of interactivity, or you may end up sorely disappointed.
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