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Item - Terror in the Fourth Dimension

(hardback)

(paperback)
Series: Storytrails — no. 2
Contained In: The Storytrails Book of Science Fiction (Collection)
Translated Into: Farlig færd i fjerde dimension (Danish)
Rettegés a negyedik dimenzióban (Hungarian)
Uzhas v IV izmerenie [Ужас в IV измерение] (Bulgarian)
Author: Sharp, Allen
Illustrators: Storey, John (cover and interior)
Acs, Laszlo (interior)
Sparks, Stephen (photographer)
Date: 1982
ISBNs: 0516089064 / 9780516089065 (hardback)
0521285011 / 9780521285018 (paperback)
Length: 37 sections (each two pages long)
Number of Endings: 3
User Summary: Time travel has been discovered! Unfortunately, the matter of selecting the time and place to visit remains a bit random....
Demian's Thoughts: Although its subject matter is vastly different, this book is quite similar to the previous one. It is well written, it makes good use of the first-person, past-tense format, and it features a somewhat restrictive structure that is presented so effectively that it disguises its linearity. The most unusual thing about the book is the "Time Zone Selector Panel." Since there is no way of determining where the time machine will end up, whenever it comes time to jump through time, a graphic showing buttons with page numbers is presented. The reader must pick a random page from those presented and hope for the best. If this leads to an environment unsuitable for human exploration, a graphic of the time machine's interior (complete with viewing screen) is provided along with an opportunity to jump elsewhere. If a habitable environment is reached, the adventure continues in text format. This initially confused me a little (I was expecting text no matter what and tried to find something to read on the page following the graphic), but once I realized what was going on, I found it enjoyable. I also can't help but wondering if this book helped to inspire the later Time Machine series -- the similarities in structure and graphic design are striking.

More reviews by Demian

Guillermo's Thoughts: I wasn't too impressed by this book. Of the four different time periods you can visit, only one is explored is some detail, while the others are endings or extremely short journeys. The book's already low section count is also undermined by the fact that several sections at the beginning consist of randomly plodding through time in search of a specific time period (they are the random number pads Demian has mentioned). This only makes the actual adventure shorter and lacking in substance. Reaching a successful ending is way too easy as well.

On the positive side, it was good to see a time-travel gamebook adventure where the player can fight and kill opponents (unlike the Time Machine series). The endings are also quite intelligent (none of the "you turn a corner, meet a Tyrannosaur and die" CYOA stuff) and the portrayal of a specific historical character is quite good. Moreover, there is a brief trip to the future where the reader gets to see Earth destroyed by nuclear war (ah, how nostalgic does that Cold War fear seem now). These features don't develop into a satisfying whole, unfortunately.

Overall, I can't really recommend this book too much, and for once I think the CYOA team might have done some things better with their Cave of Time books, in that there is much more meaningful time-hopping. This had the potential to be much better.

(Note: the edition I read was included in the omnibus titled The Storytrails Book of Science Fiction).

More reviews by Guillermo

Errata:In section 36 of the British edition (and possibly also the North American edition), the protagonist sees a sign that says "Drug Store and Ice Cream Parlour" and thus decides that the time machine has ended up in America... but if that's the case, it really should be spelled "Parlor."
Special Thanks:Thanks to Phil Gurvich for the hardback front cover scan and to Ken G. for the hardback back cover scan.
Users Who Own This Item: Ardennes (HC), firefoxpdm, Gurvo (Hardcover), katzcollection (British edition), kleme (hardcover ), knginatl (HC), marnaudo, Robert123, Yalius
Users Who Want This Item: NEMO (North American &british), odo_ital

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