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Item - Craven House Horrors

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(American cover)
(British edition)
(British edition)
Series: Plot-Your-Own Horror Stories — no. 1
Alternate Title: Horror House (British title)
Translated Into: Horror en la mansioĢn Craven (Spanish)
Author: Milton, Hilary
Illustrators: Eastbury, Dave (British cover)
Frame, Paul
Dates: 1982 (American edition)
1984 (British edition)
ISBNs: 0416458300 / 9780416458305 (British edition)
0671456318 / 9780671456313 (American edition)
Length: 116 pages
Number of Endings: 29
LC Cataloging in Publication Summary: Trapped by a storm in a mysterious and frightening house, the reader is given several alternative choices to manipulate the plot and plan an escape.
Demian's Thoughts:

This is a rather disappointing book. Although the "old dark house" scenario is usually a fun horror premise, it is poorly handled here. The book is filled with so many inconsistencies and random events that it's more confusing than frightening. The author would have been better off choosing one storyline and exploring all of its possibilities rather than trying to cram a little of everything into the book and ending up with this plotless mess. The book isn't very satisfying from a gameplay perspective either; as I mentioned, there's no story consistency, and there are also an awful lot of choices where the reader chooses not what his or her character does, but rather what will actually happen next. You don't choose whether or not to enter the secret door, you actually choose what's behind it; you don't choose how to react to the bird, you actually choose what the bird will do next. Some might find this sort of thing interesting, as it is an uncommon feature for a gamebook, but I don't really like it, as it distances the reader from the story and diminishes suspense. Shockingly enough, you'd actually be better off skipping this adventure and reading a Give Yourself Goosebumps book instead!

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Guillermo's Thoughts:

(review based on the Spanish translation)

Once more, I'm going to be the dissenting voice here. Unlike a regular novel, I don't think a gamebook needs a consistent plot to work well, simply because the enjoyment comes precisely from exploring the possibilities offered by its branching paths. I also think that Hilary Milton's ability for combining an outlandish variety of horror elements into a single book is one of his major assets. This book has a plot similar to that of The Mystery of Chimney Rock (except that Craven House Horrors actually is brutal, scary and gruesome), and differentiates itself from Give Yourself Goosebumps in that it doesn't lapse into involuntary humour most of the time.

Choices are of three types. The first type is "what do you want to do next?", which is the most common type of choice in gamebooks. The second one is "what will happen next?", in which the reader is allowed to participate as author of the story. The third one is the most unusual: "what do you THINK will happen next?". This unusual form of gameplay has elicited complaints, but I think it works very well, since the way the book is set up, it seems as if the author is engaging with the player in dialogue and responding to his thoughts (the responses having often-unexpected consequences). This creates a psychological bond between the reader and the story that also serves to create a feeling of helplessness, which is quite appropriate for a horror book. This is definitely closer to Tobe Hooper's Poltergeist than to Richard Donner's The Goonies, which can only be a good thing.

Paul Frame's artwork is merely okay. His work in later entries in this same series tends to be much better.

Overall this is a very involving book with high replay value due to the high number of paths to explore (like the rest of this series). I rank it amongst the few "horror" gamebooks which manage to be genuinely horrific, together with The Horror of High Ridge and The Haunters of Marsh Hall. If you enjoy it, brace yourself, because many later titles in the series are better.

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KJB's Thoughts:

I appreciate the take on 'choosing your own adventure' in this series--'plotting' the story yourself is interesting. Nightmare Store is superior to most of the others, including this one. Eek--not much genuine suspense or horror here, and lots of randomness and unfulfilling storylines. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to what makes a particular story three pages long or twenty pages long...in the end, it's a mess. A lot of these books have great potential in the first few pages of exposition that goes unfulfilled as things progress. The great artwork elevates things a bit.

More reviews by KJB

Special Thanks:Thanks to Ken G. for the British cover scans.
Users Who Own This Item: dave2002a, duckhugger, Ed (UK edition), Erikwinslow (US), exaquint (2.95), gruselkatze (US edition), Himynameistony, horrorbusiness, katzcollection (American edition), KJB, knginatl (US, UK), Lambchop, mcd (American edition), NEMO (American), ntar (American), waktool (UK 1st), Yalius
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