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Item - Fire on Ice

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Series: Choose Your Own Adventure (1979-1998) — no. 181
Author: Packard, Edward
Illustrators: Kukalis, Romas (cover)
Cherry, Eric (interior)
Date: January, 1998
ISBN: 0553567497 / 9780553567496
Length: 103 pages
barryattles's Thoughts:

Ratings: 0.5

By now it becomes clear that Edward Packard should leave sports entries alone. First soccer, then basketball, and now a hockey CYOA gets completely destroyed. The amount of school bullies and unrelated accidents gets tuned down a bit this time, yet Fire on Ice is definitely on the boring side, and one would always wonder if Packard had ever picked up a freaking hockey puck.

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KenJenningsJeopardy74's Thoughts:

Sports stories make up an important minority of the original Choose Your Own Adventure series. Baseball, basketball, soccer, martial arts, the Olympics, auto racing, skiing, and skateboarding are among the sports that had a book in the series, but ice hockey didn't get in on the act until 1998, when Choose Your Own Adventure was almost at the end of its run. After moving to the town of Ruston, Massachusetts, you look forward to trying out for your school's hockey program. The Ruston Wildcats are perennial contenders for the state youth championship; the players are big, tough, and well-conditioned, and if you qualify for the roster you may have a path to college hockey and even the National Hockey League (NHL). Your chances of making the roster the first year aren't great, but a more manageable goal is the B team. If you and your new friend Scott Khramer excel with the Bees this season, you'll secure a spot for yourself with the Wildcats next year. But Brillo, an older friend of Scott's, recommends a different route. He plays for the Raiders, a local semipro squad coached by former NHL standout Spike Wagner. The Raiders play brutal hockey, constantly on the attack, but if you made the team you'd be even better off than with the Wildcats. It's a gamble, but what will you do? Go out for the school team, or the semipros?

Hockey looks and sounds different at the Raiders' rink in North Ruston. The skaters put seismic hits on each other, pursuing the puck in practice as though their lives depend on it. These guys are older, stronger, and faster than you, but if you can hold your own and play well, Spike Wagner wants you on his roster. The extreme practice environment gets you into peak physical condition, and as your game rises to levels you've never attained, options open up for the future. The other guys respect your tenacious, talented play, but the good vibes come to a halt one day at the Valley Mall when you witness Sean Castorp, a star for the Raiders, seem to steal an elderly couple's wallet from a restaurant table. Sean can be nasty, but you don't want to accuse him of theft if you're not sure. His bad side is not a place you want to be; Sean will home in on you as a target for physical intimidation, on the hockey rink and away. When he takes things too far, you end up in a life-threatening situation in the extreme cold of the outdoors. Might you both end up benefiting from the encounter, though? Your hockey future is important to you, but surviving to see it could get tricky.

If you take a pass on auditioning for the Raiders and settle for the Ruston Bees, you'll easily qualify for the roster. Your teammates believe Coach Frasier lacks the passion to develop players, but what can be done about it? You could speak to Coach Frasier privately about your concerns. He's amenable to constructive criticism, and just might show up at the next practice with a new attitude. If you are among the few Bees who make the leap to the Wildcats next November, you get a chance to play junior hockey at an elite level, culminating in the state championship against the vaunted Barrington Bears. The tactical decisions during the game come rapidly, but appropriately aggressive moves will pay off in a state title your first year with the Wildcats. If you chose not to speak privately to Coach Frasier, but instead sign a petition to have him removed as coach, you're in for some rough moments as Ms. Danforth, Ruston's principal, makes the petition public. Coach Frasier has complaints of his own about his players, but if you stick it out and don't quit, the Bees and Coach Frasier may jell into a real team. Everyone has to shoulder some responsibility if the Bees are going to improve.

Rather than talk to Coach Frasier or sign the petition, you could address your concerns about the Bees to Coach Pinella of the Wildcats. He wouldn't think of angling to get Coach Frasier fired, but your assertiveness leads him to reconsider adding you to the A team. Coach Pinella agrees to attend an upcoming Bees game for evaluation purposes, which invigorates the players as well as Coach Frasier, who shows better enthusiasm at practice. You wouldn't mind remaining a Bee if he stayed like this, but you'd rather be a Wildcat. Play smart, physical hockey in the big game, and Coach Pinella will make room for you on the A team next year.

Your other choice, besides speaking to Coach Pinella about Coach Frasier's shortcomings, is to meet with Andre McKee, Ruston's science teacher who used to play college hockey. He hasn't shown interest in the school's athletics, but your energy and desire could change his mind. Andre won't try to replace Coach Frasier, but he's willing to organize a team outside of school if enough kids commit. His training regimen is harsh; several players quit, and your own zeal for the sport wavers. If you persist through the pain, you might find your new team—the "Blades"—is capable of competing on even terms with the Wildcats. Is Andre willing to arrange for a game between the two squads? Ruston doesn't know the Blades even exist, and Andre could be in trouble if the school finds out, but if you make it onto the ice versus the Wildcats, you'll be glad you did. The Blades are gutsy, determined players; you're one of the best among them, and even a loss to the Wildcats could set you up to join Coach Pinella's squad in the near future. It's nice to have your grit and hard work be rewarded.

"If you make the effort, and you want to win, you can be very successful. Because that's ninety percent of the game. Just those two things: effort and wanting to win."

—Andre McKee, Fire on Ice, P. 78

Fire on Ice is a slow-moving story, and the hockey action could use an infusion of vitality and clarity, but this isn't a bad gamebook. Establishing a promising future in the sport doesn't require perfect decisions; choose the road that appeals to you, and you'll find a way to make it work. Opportunities abound to grow as a person and an athlete if you keep a positive attitude; you'll find your chance at greatness waits just around the next bend, wherever you are. Fire on Ice isn't vintage Edward Packard, but I liked it, and the variety of story paths lend themselves well to future rereads. I also found the "Mighty Ducks" reference on page eighty-nine amusing. If you're partial to sports-themed Choose Your Own Adventure books, give this one a try.

More reviews by KenJenningsJeopardy74

Stockton's Thoughts:

The story in Fire on Ice is that you've moved into a new town and want to join the local school hockey team. You also have the choice of joining a "renegade" team run by a former NHL player.

I found Fire on Ice to be a bit boring. It was painfully obvious that Mr. Packard was getting tired of writing CYOA books. The setting was claustrophobic and not much happens other than hockey playing. Were it not for the name on the cover, I'd have a hard time believing that the same author who wrote the trippy Hyperspace wrote this book as well.

As well, the book was relatively short, coming in at only 103 pages/sections. I don't know whether that's because of the slightly different format or because the book really is shorter. There's also far fewer choices to play through than in earlier books. The illustrations by Eric Cherry seem too soft and muted to fit the spirit of hockey - Ralph Reese would have been a better choice.

In this book, one of the last in the series, there are no death endings; you either make it as a player or you don't. This is fine and well, but it doesn't work because most of the endings trail off annoyingly. They always leave a story yet to be told and lack a sense of finality.

The hockey material also seems poorly handled and written in an unexciting way. As a result, the whole thing just doesn't work well - there's just something intangible missing from it. I guess it's the old CYOA spirit of the 80s that's gone.

Fire on Ice is humourless and reads as if it were produced by a machine rather than a human. Give me a random, outrageous, objectiveless and silly CYOA any day. That's what seems to work best in this format.

More reviews by Stockton

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