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Choose Your Own Adventure (1979-1998)
Plot-It-Yourself Adventures in Space — no. 1
Exploration Infinity (British edition)
Message from Space (reissue)
Choose Your Own Adventure Box Set 2 (6-10) (Collection)
Jij in de ruimte (Dutch)
Planet ketiga dari Altair (Indonesian)
El tercer planeta de Altair (Spanish)
Il terzo pianeta da Altair (Italian)
(Original hardcover edition; British edition - interior)
Granger, Paul (pseudonym used by Hedin, Don) (Bantam edition, first printing; Bantam edition, fourth printing; Bantam version, retitled edition; Bantam edition, second printing)
Hunt, Geoff (British edition - cover)
April, 1979 (Original hardcover edition)
November, 1980 (Bantam edition, first printing)
March, 1981 (Bantam edition, second printing)
1982 (British edition)
August, 1989 (Bantam version, retitled edition)
0397318278 / 9780397318278
(Original hardcover edition)
0397318847 / 9780397318841 (Original hardcover edition - library binding)
0416244505 / 9780416244502 (British edition)
0553139789 / 9780553139785 (Bantam edition, second printing)
0553209809 / 9780553209808 (Bantam edition, fourth printing)
0553231855 / 9780553231854 (Bantam version, retitled edition)
117 pages (Bantam edition, first printing, Bantam edition, second printing, Bantam edition, fourth printing, Bantam version, retitled edition)
96 pages (British edition)
|Number of Endings:||
|LC Cataloging in Publication Summary:||The reader, en route to the third planet from Altair to seek the source and meaning of extraterrestrial messages, is given choices to make determining the course of the spaceship and the survival of the crew.|
|User Summary:||When alien signals are detected coming from a planet orbiting the distant star Altair, you are asked to travel into space to find their senders. On your journey you are accompanied by Captain Bud Stanton, Professor Henry Pickens, and Dr. Nera Vivaldi.|
This is an above average science fiction gamebook with an interesting story and excellent internal consistency. Before becoming part of the Choose Your Own Adventure series, it was released by Lippincott as a stand-alone hardback. The book was also retitled and released in England as the first and only volume in the Plot-It-Yourself Adventures in Space series.
Choose Your Own Adventure was still in its infancy when The Third Planet from Altair debuted in 1979, but the franchise was already showing potential to stretch the boundaries of storytelling. Edward Packard dedicates this book "To all those who would like to travel faster than light", an appropriate sentiment for a story clearly meant to inspire future generations to make such "impossible" dreams reality. For millennia, humans have wondered if we are alone in the universe, and the question is finally answered when an observatory atop Hawaii's Mauna Kea detects a repeating, indecipherable code from outer space. It is traced to the third planet orbiting the star Altair, sixteen light-years from Earth. The starship Aloha is dispatched to travel to the Third Planet using state-of-the-art time-contraction science, and you are one of four crew members chosen for the expedition. The others are Captain Bud Stanton, an old hand at space travel; Professor Henry Pickens, a cosmological consultant; and Dr. Nera Vivaldi, a familiar name to Choose Your Own Adventure devotees. Your mission is to learn who is sending the coded message and why. Are you up for the challenge of being the first humans to meet an alien life form?
As you approach Altair, antimatter storms become extreme; could this be a clue to the coded message's content? Once you're in orbit around the Third Planet, you could investigate its moon first, whose surface is entirely underwater. But the planet is why you came here, and as you hover in preparation to land, you sense something is wrong. Spectacular, futuristic city structures are everywhere, but the place seems deserted. Was the message coming from another planet, or did the inhabitants recently evacuate? You could take a quick reconnaissance trip to the surface with Pickens, Vivaldi, or your underwater robot assistant, Bluenose. You and Bluenose find scary new life forms under the deep, stormy seas, as well as evidence that the people of this planet haven't abandoned it after all. If you go with Pickens instead, you'll also see signs that intelligent beings still occupy the Third Planet, but there are dangers in the air you're breathing and the frequent antimatter storms. Is exploring further worth risking your life? Choose Vivaldi as your search partner, and you may discover the identity of the Third Planet's people—the Alanians—and a few hints to their ultimate fate. In wild space not every choice can have a happy result, but you are dedicated to exploring the final frontier, even if it means encountering horrors worse than death.
You may choose to divert course away from Altair when the first antimatter storm hits, until the deadly weather dissipates. But even then, nothing comes easy. Time warp disruptions and black holes can crop up suddenly; the Aloha could become lost in the labyrinth of space-time with no way of knowing if you've been catapulted billions of years into the future or back to the creation of the cosmos. Will you wander the stars as long as you live, the four of you doomed to never see another living creature? The vastness of unoccupied space is frightening and lonely when you know you can't escape. If you avoid all these pitfalls, Vivaldi may alert you to a signal from Caprion, a region where the Big Bang is thought to have originated. Your mission is to Altair, but should you pass up an opportunity to solve the universe's grandest mystery? Going to Caprion means you never arrive at the Third Planet, but you may find a destiny more awesome than any space agency assignment. Understanding the hows and whys behind the universe, as well as humanity's existence, is within reach.
Edward Packard contributed several extraordinary books to the early Choose Your Own Adventure canon, but The Third Planet from Altair isn't among the best. It isn't as innovative as the author's Inside UFO 54-40 and Underground Kingdom, nor as well-plotted as Who Killed Harlowe Thrombey? and The Forbidden Castle, or as atmospheric and suspenseful as The Curse of the Haunted Mansion and Who Are You?. Numerous storylines in The Third Planet from Altair peter out with little to no satisfaction, and even if you ride a thread that reveals most of the plot, the meaning behind the Alanians' coded message isn't as exciting as one might hope. The book ranks nowhere near the top of Edward Packard's best Choose Your Own Adventure offerings, but The Third Planet from Altair played a notable role in early gamebook history, and every fan of the genre should read it at least once.
Overall, this is an above average entry in the series. Edward Packard does a very good job, but he doesn't outdo himself. Although the book is definitely worth reading, the quality of the illustrations still leaves something to be desired.
Like most CYOAs, this book covers a broad range of subject matter, ranging from electromagnetic storms in space to alien cities. It makes sense and avoids feeling random, and there is a defined goal to work towards. Because about a third of this book is just endings, the shorter length of each plot string makes the story move a little too quickly.
|Waluigi Freak 99's Thoughts:||
There were several interesting and somewhat original science fiction plot paths here. Most of the adventures felt long enough to avoid being rushed, but too short to be exceptionally entertaining. This story is above average, however, there are a few other Choose Your Own Adventure books in this genre that are more memorable than it.
|Special Thanks:||Thanks to Ken G. for the British cover scans.|
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exaquint - 1st, 4th
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Known EditionsOriginal hardcover edition
Bantam edition, first printing
Bantam edition, second printing
Bantam edition, fourth printing
Bantam version, retitled edition
Choose Your Own Adventure # 7 Diagram
This map was provided by Ace High.