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Can You Brexit? Without Breaking Britain
February 22, 2018
1909905917 / 9781909905917
412 pages, 865 sections
|You're the British Prime Minister and Brexit is under way. You have just two years to negotiate the unpicking of an alliance that's been built up over four decades. And that's not the only minefield you’re going to have to cross. Your cabinet is unruly, your party is splitting itself apart, and the country remains bitterly divided over the whole issue.
Can you hang on and bring Britain safely into harbour? Forge new trade deals around the globe? Juggle popular support at home with the goodwill of your former EU allies? Stop the economy from spiralling down the plug hole? And all the while keeping an eye on those Parliamentary colleagues whose knives are ever-ready to plunge into your back?
This is an interactive gamebook in which you call all the shots. What could possibly go wrong?
Let me be clear from the beginning: "Can You Brexit Without Breaking Britain" is one of the most complicated, thoroughly put together works of interactive fiction to which anyone has ever given utterance. The sheer extent to which the development process was researched, revised, reapplied and rewritten is, without a doubt, admirable and very evidently worthy of praise in a theoretical sense. So why is it that this admittedly bizarre gamebook - which has been largely overlooked by most readers - had towering prominence yet particularly muted reception? It's a complicated situation to break down, just as the book itself is hopelessly complicated in so many ways I never expected to see competing against one another in a single work.
There are a couple of reasons why I believe the book works very well in theory but not in practice, but rather than break these down in an orderly fashion, it appears most natural to list these in roughly the order readers are likely to be affected by these questions. First and foremost, a lot can be said about how the book justifies its own existence in the first place; when considered intellectually, it sounds promising as a theoretical brain-teasing exercise from which one could both better understand the trivialities and commonalities of the real-life Brexit situation it mirrors. Similarly, the book could offer insight into the larger-than-life themes it might portray. Alternatively, the book might be a well-disguised full-fledged parody of the political prominence and necessity of the subject matter at large. And yet... I found the book to be none of these things.
It became increasingly difficult to relate to the book, I found, because the whole idea of the book was sorely lacking because it failed, to a tragic degree, to emulate any of the urgency, emotional depth or international intricacy that the flavorful premise would require. The characters were shallow caricatures which neither resembled real-life figures (which is fine, I suppose, considering how controversial the book's release might've become had it resembled the sociopolitical geography more closely). The dialogue was stilted, spontaneously introduced and poorly conductive for the means of any narrative depth apart from the immediate demand for undeliberative scripted conversation choices from the reader. Really, it could almost be called witless; there are empty pop culture references galore, snarky side references that endlessly disrupted the tone, abrupt and uneven shifts from one rapidly-concluding scene to the next, and minimal effort to offer recognition for anything that formed this fictional world's situation prior to your arrival as the British Prime Minister. On that note, this is a great example of a scenario where the lack of neutrality in the self-insert protagonist reader control causes the delicate balance of neutrality to blunderously one-up the reader before anyone can figure out what the bottom line is; I could respect it if the authors decided to make the book impossibly difficult in a certain sense, but I can't forgive the book's over-distorted flurry of faulty perspective. It's fair to blame the structure in this case - readers are thrown into the story without any explanation of the rules, scenario or discrepancies. Do keep in mind that the scenario, while multi-faceted in all it keeps track of, fails to grasp even the most elementary purposes of interactive storytelling: to engage readers as cannot be normally accomplished within fiction. Few will find any reason to come back to within this detached-from-reality gong show of a book for any reason whatsoever; there's zero re-read value despite the book's notable length. And despite the book's over-contemporary appeals, the book has a painfully dated feel both to the presentation of dialogue and the undercurrents of unrefined detail.
My ultimate verdict is that this Brexit-breaking gamebook is all bark and no bite; the bulk of the book is bitterly infused with bland writing, bad development choices, butchered-beyond-death exhaustion of its bloke-headed shallowness and - above all - an absolute inability to become anything more than one of the many vacuous blots plaguing the market. Really, I consider this to be one of the most tragic showings from any gamebook writer, and one of the most disappointing experimental works in a long time. It's a shame that this book is impossible to recommend; maybe the Monster Raving Loony Party, which was surprisingly absent through the entire narrative, will come up with a better solution than this anti-revelatory Brexit blunder. ^^
(Mysteriously disappears into the shadows.)
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