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Sword of the Samurai

Series: Time Machine #3
Platform: Microsoft Reader
Contained In: Time Machine Box Set (Collection)
Translated Into: La espada del samurai (Spanish)
Espada do samurai (Portuguese)
Musashi no ken sara [ムサシの剣 サラ] (Japanese)
Le Sabre du samouraï (French)
Samuraiens sverd (Norwegian)
Samuraiens sværd (Danish)
Samurajev mac (Serbo-Croatian)
Samurajev meč (Slovenian)
Das Schwert des Samurai (German)
La spada del samurai (Italian)
A szamuráj kardja (Hungarian)
Authors: Reaves, Michael
Perry, Steve
Illustrators: Stout, William (cover)
Leialoha, Steve (interior)
Release Date: July, 1984
ISBNs: 0553240528 / 9780553240528
055325619X / 9780553256192
Length:127 pages (plus data bank and data file)
Number of Endings:1
User Summary: You must travel back 350 years to Japan to recover the sword of Miyamoto Musashi, a famous samurai.
Demian's Thoughts: This is a good book. It is most notable for being the first in the series to require the reader to choose what to take along on the journey through time.

More reviews by Demian

KenJenningsJeopardy74's Thoughts: The Time Machine gamebook series sure had an impressive start. Coming shortly after Secret of the Knights, with only Search for Dinosaurs between them, Sword of the Samurai again challenges us with a search through time for something that can only be found by sifting through the past to recover that which would otherwise be forever lost. Enter the realm of the Shogun, samurai, and ninja assassins in feudal Japan, on the trail of the sword of the greatest samurai who ever lived, Miyamoto Musashi. Tracking down Musashi will require you to travel as far back as the sixteenth century A.D., to an era in Japan when the samurai was supreme and could act in virtually any manner with impunity. If a samurai wanted to test his blade on the nearest kid, to make sure it was sharp enough for his purposes, he could go ahead and do it. Deference to the samurai code was so strong, a privileged member of that warrior class could kill almost anyone without reprisal, and you will have to keep this in mind if you want to avoid any potentially lethal scrapes as you galavant through time. More important to most samurais than the unilateral power of their position, though, was personal and family honor, not backing down from even the most absurd challenges; and the man you seek, Musashi, was great enough to live a long life despite the demands of the samurai code. But most important of all to a good samurai was his sword, considered the same as his soul, the one implement a samurai would rather die than be caught without, never willingly laying it down until his final breath is exhausted. These are trying times to be sent into for a young time traveler trying to make some history of his or her own, but it's where you must go to locate Musashi's sword and bring it back to the present as an important relic of a bygone age.

Heroes can come from anywhere, so you'll have to be ready to find Musashi at any point along your journey as you travel to the time he lived and begin your search for him. Finding Musashi before he gained his sword won't be much help, but paying careful attention to the comments and conversations of those around you could be immensely helpful in honing your focal point to a specific group of years--or even months or days--when Musashi most likely would have his sword and not be too busy to meet and eventually come to trust you. You know from the Data Bank provided at the beginning of Sword of the Samurai that Musashi saved the day in numerous Japanese wars, and sidling up to him while he's in the heat of combat isn't likely to engender relaxed conversation. You might have better luck when his name is not yet so renowned in Japan, his ambitions still unfulfilled, like when he's scheduled to perform a one-on-one fight for sport in front of the ruling Shogun. But the road to becoming a samurai is fraught with intense competition, and you might find the deck stacked against Musashi on multiple fronts, though you know from the witness of history that he lives to become a legendary warrior. Is it a good idea to bring information about underhanded dealings to Musashi if you find them out long enough before the fight, or would the quiet young man prefer no help from you? You have to find some way to get close enough to Musashi to inquire about his sword, and while the route to get there is tricky and marked with frequent setbacks if you make an errant move, it is possible to complete your quest without too much delay. Think hard, think smart, and remember the meaning of the samurai code of honor in dealing not only with Musashi, but any other samurai you meet. It's the way to stay alive, and the only hope you have of accomplishing the goal of your time travel mission.

"Water takes the shape of its surroundings, whether a river bank, an ocean bed, or a bottle...Stab at water with a sword, and it flows away, unhurt. This is the path you must learn".

--Sword of the Samurai, P. 55

Miyamoto Musashi as a teenager and an old man are remarkably different in appearance and intensity, but little has changed of the great warrior's spirit. He is a samurai from birth to death, of noble character and resource long before having the title officially bestowed upon him, a man of integrity every moment you might meet him while skipping through the trails of time. Musashi is as strong, principled and dignified in the extreme heat of war, when his life might be lost at any moment, as he is in the solitude of a mountain cave awaiting the rest that comes in death for a warrior who has strived his entire life to make the years he had worth the basic sustenance he borrowed from the earth. Musashi is far from being a perfect individual, frequently hot-tempered and capable of unsettling outbursts of violence and cruelty, even against preadolescents if he thinks a situation calls for it. But he stays impeccably true to the samurai code, doing his best to honor what he believes is right, his own reputation and that of the family line, and the sword he came to trust with his life over decades of dependable use. Yet a samurai is much more than a particular piece of molded steel or wood. As Musashi puts it, "To a student of the Way, the size or shape or material of the sword is unimportant. What matters is the spirit. Metal will rust, wood will rot, but the spirit cannot die." Success or failure should never be attributed to one's tools, for an indomitable spirit can render differences of weight and make moot. Excellence has a way of showing through no matter the tools by which it is proved, and an attitude of overcoming any and all disadvantages goes a long way in making up a deficit of materials. Musashi's startling brilliance as a samurai was never in the raw materials of his sword; the weapon was his "soul" only as long as his spirit indwelt his body, a spirit great beyond any of his samurai peers and all those who came before or after. His words of wisdom about his sword are the real gift Musashi imparts, and it's up to you to faithfully carry them with you after finishing this book. They can help take you farther than you ever anticipated.

The Data Bank is again a great help in this book, and I recommend all who read Sword of the Samurai take the time to read the Data Bank before starting the main narrative. Unless one is a professor of feudal Japanese culture, it isn't likely the Data Bank will only be a review of known material. And don't be afraid to consult the Data File at the end of the book if you ever get stuck. Completing your mission isn't terribly difficult, but even intelligent people could get sidetracked enough for it to feel stymying, and the hints provided in the Data File are by no means overt solutions. One can still have a challenging adventure even with the Data File in use as a frequent resource. As for the three items you are given to choose between at the start of the story--a comb, a box of matches or some jellybeans--I can't say it makes too much difference which one you take, but the choice is a notable strategic addition for this third entry in the Time Machine series. Michael Reaves and Steve Perry did a commendable job with this book, combining fast action, thought-provoking decisions and surprising depth of wisdom into one of the better gamebooks I've read. If it's an exciting, re-readable interactive story you want, look no further than the Time Machine series, and Sword of the Samurai is as good a place to start as any. I think you'll agree it's worth the read.

More reviews by KenJenningsJeopardy74

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