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Treasure of Shark Island

(original)
(original)
(reissue)
Series: Tracker Books #4
Authors: Allen, John
James, Kenneth
Illustrator: Knights, Roger
Release Date: 1972
ISBN: 0552560049 / 9780552560047
Length:80 pages (40 sections)
Number of Endings:4
User Summary: You are kidnapped by a group of pirates who are looking for a treasure chest hidden in a remote island. Can you recover the treasure and bring the pirates to justice?
Guillermo's Thoughts: To the best of my knowledge, the Tracker Books were the first gamebooks to be published as a series, predating both the Tunnels and Trolls solo adventures and the Choose Your Own Adventure line. These British books were first released by Transworld Publishers, which today forms part of the Penguin Random House group. I have been wanting to review the series for a long time, but the endeavour is made difficult by the fact that copies of the books are difficult to find and quite expensive. This year I was finally able to get my hands on a copy of the fourth book in the series, Treasure of Shark Island, allowing me to get a glimpse into the very early history of interactive fiction.

The physical design of the book is quite peculiar; while the book is the size of a regular paperback, it is presented in landscape rather than portrait format, unlike the vast majority of gamebooks. The interior illustrations are all in black and white.

From reading the book, it is clear that it was very influential in the later development of interactive literature. Even though I have never read a mention of the series by any of the Fighting Fantasy authors, there are tell-tale signs that Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone must have been familiar with it. The back cover text, for example, uses the word "you" in capital letters several times, an advertising tactic that would be later used in the FF books. There are other features that would be copied by other gamebook authors: the story is told in the first person, as in the later Storytrails series, and the writing style is very similar.

Each section of text is quite short and accompanied by an illustration. The use of arrows in the illustrations to indicate the choices the reader might take are a nice touch. While the adventure is fairly short and simple by FF standards, the game design is excellent. Rather than being an amalgam of random events glued together by choices (as in a lot of CYOA books), the story consists of a series of encounters set up in advance by the author, in a manner more reminiscent of an FF book. There are several different ways to deal with the dangers present in the adventure, and the outcomes of choices always make sense logically. Consequently, success in the adventure requires a significant amount of reasoning and strategy.

Overall, Treasure of Shark Island is much more than just a historical curiosity; it is an excellent gamebook in its own right which laid the groundwork for many later interactive fiction series.

More reviews by Guillermo

Special Thanks:Thanks to Ken G. for the original cover scans and to Daft Skeleton for the reissue cover scan. Thanks to Guillermo Paredes for the plot summary.
Users Who Own This Item: Ed (Reissue), knginatl (original, reissue), marnaudo, skeleton
Users Who Want This Item: Egghead Nurse, horrorbusiness, kleme, NEMO, Nomad, Pseudo_Intellectual
Users with Extra Copies: skeleton - reissue

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