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Im Zug des Schreckens (German)
Skräckens tåg (Swedish)
O trem do terror (Portuguese)
El tren del terror (Catalan)
Foley, Louise Munro
Febland, David (interior)
1982 (First printing)
0590324993 / 9780590324991
(First printing, Third printing)
107 pages |
|Number of Endings:||
31 (+2 soft endings) |
|User Summary:||Your train trip to a relative's house turns out to be rather stressful due to the presence of spies from conflicting nations.|
This book doesn't have the unconventional options or humor of the previous entry in the series, so it's not nearly as much fun. It's not too bad, though.
The Train of Terror by Louise Munro Foley is an early Twist-a-Plot gamebook released by Scholastic back in 1982. This is an interactive book where you take the part of the main character and choose which path you wish to take is set on a train as you are heading to Twin Falls, Idaho to visit with your Aunt Kate. Naturally, being an adventure story, things quickly become mysterious aboard the train and from there several stories may develop depending on who you decide to trust among the passengers.
There are a few specific people in the train car you end up boarding who play starring roles in the story. A pretty lady with a pet carrier box, an old woman, a surly bald man with a scar across his face and the conductor. Along with them there is a cowboy in the next car who might also take part in the story if things take a turn in that direction. The entire book takes place in two train cars (and possibly a short visit to the baggage car), so you won't be doing much exploring. The thing about the characters, and what made these books somewhat fun back in the day, is depending on your early decisions any one of them might become the villain while others reveal themselves as heroes, or possibly it might be the other way around; you never actually know which characters will be playing what role and for what motivation (whether it be theft, espionage, smuggling or scientific experimentation). At times it's a bit like watching an anthology TV series where the characters constantly change, but the actors don't.
As a result, you will never know exactly what will happen when you make decisions aboard this train. Unlike other books in the interactive genre which just have one plot and mostly single motivations which remain the same with each playthrough, this one will constantly keep you guessing. It's clearly written with children in mind, but can still be a fun and quick read for anybody.
Some of the choices the book offers to you can be a little bit silly, such as asking whether you ate lunch today, which breaks the fourth wall instead of focusing on plot specific questions, but this seems to be a common trait with Twist-a-Plots. There are still some worthwhile humourous moments to be had here, and you can tell the author had fun writing the various stories.
A pretty decent Twist-a-Plot book (there are better ones) that gave me a nice spike of nostalgia upon reading it again (I used to have this book when I was a kid) as well as a few good laughs.
I've read Louise Munro Foley's contributions to the Choose Your Own Adventure series, but I wouldn't recognize The Train of Terror as her brainchild if her name weren't on the cover. It starts with you traveling to Twin Falls, Idaho to spend summer with your aunt Kate. A train ride of unspecified length lies ahead, but it's going to be anything but boring. Before boarding the train, you spot a beautiful blonde lady in a red dress, holding a pet carrier case. She's being monitored at a distance by a well-dressed bald man with an ugly scar across his face. Something is afoot, but you'd prefer not to get involved. Unfortunately, by the time you board the train, two of the only three available seats are next to "Beautiful Lady" or "Scarface". The third option is beside an elderly lady in a purple hat, but she looks ornery, and you don't want to mess with her. So, who will your seat mate be? Beautiful Lady or Scarface?
Whatever sequence of choices you follow, you're soon caught in a web of espionage between multiple criminals and government operatives. Beautiful Lady is not pleased if you sit with her, but she won't threaten your life unless she gets the impression you're a cohort of Scarface. What is she hiding in her pet carrier? It turns out to be any number of dangerous animals, mind control machines, or other outrageous contraband, depending what story path you take. She may be controlling Scarface with a device hidden inside the case, and she'll try to control you too unless you destroy the machine. Freed from Beautiful Lady's control, Scarface has the skills to apprehend her and shield you from reprisal, but don't be overconfident: Beautiful Lady can kill you in the blink of an eye. Help Scarface and his nearby associates arrest her, and you'll receive a government commendation for your bravery.
Character identities often change entirely from one narrative branch to the next; a villain in one storyline may be a government agent in another. You might meet a cowboy softly strumming his guitar and singing, but is "Cowboy" a disguised U.S. Marshal, or an accomplice to Beautiful Lady? He can be both, actually. Is the train conductor in on the illegal action, poised to assist Beautiful Lady if needed? Killer snakes, talking birds, and ventriloquist assassins may all be on the loose, so don't traipse around the train carelessly. "Elderly Lady" might be an undercover agent—and a man—or she might truly be an old woman. Either way, she plays a role in the spy drama if you get close enough to her. Rarely will any succession of choices result in your death, but you'll feel better about your part in the goings-on if the bad guys wind up behind bars because you acted intelligently. A counter-espionage career could be in your future.
The Train of Terror is one of the least effective gamebooks I've read. The spy action is wildly over the top, and internal consistency is virtually nonexistent. I'm at a loss to explain how the same author who wrote the dignified, eerie Ghost Train for the Choose Your Own Adventure series was responsible for this hodgepodge of clichés and gimmicky humor. Usually I derive some amusement from a gamebook even if it's subpar, but The Train of Terror is so lacking in structure that it becomes tedious, and I felt relief when I arrived at the last ending. The cover art is excellent, done by an all-time favorite of mine, Victor Stabin (cover artist for several Laurel-Leaf editions of Robert Cormier's masterful YA fiction), but that may be the lone bright spot of this book. I'm a fan of Louise Munro Foley, but I recommend sticking to her Choose Your Own Adventure titles.
I was always a fan of the espionage-based entries in the Twistaplot and Choose Your Own Adventure series, and this one was one of my favorites when I was younger. The train setting, super-exotic to me as a child, may have a lot to do with it. I really love Louise Munro Foley's quirky style in Twistaplot--mixing suspense, danger, humor, and sarcasm. It's fun! I always wanted this book to be longer, because I was so in love with her writing, but maybe the magic is partially in its brevity. And the slightly distorted, twisted illustrations of David Febland.
I really enjoyed this book, despite its lack of continuity. As often happens in many game books, who and what people are changes depending on the choices you make. There is an air of mystery that is exciting, but I think the premise could have been done a bit better. I guess I was hoping for something along the lines of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express.
A side note: the railway featured in the book is actually named the "Train of Terror." I don't know about you, but I think that would've been a clue that something might be up.
|Special Thanks:||Thanks to Ryan Lynch for the images.|
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Known EditionsFirst printing
Twistaplot # 2 Structure Diagram
Thanks to Ryan Lynch for sharing this.