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Choose Your Own Adventure (1979-1998)
Atrapados en el futuro (Spanish)
Richardson, Roy (interior)
0553567438 / 9780553567434
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One hundred seventy-four books and approximately twenty years into the Choose Your Own Adventure experiment, it would be hard to blame Edward Packard for showing creative fatigue. Several of his books before The Power Dome are about time travel, and the start of this one is awfully familiar to readers of The Cave of Time or Invaders from Within. But Edward Packard goes on to prove his imagination is nimble as ever, designing an exciting science fiction adventure whose suspense derives from how difficult it is to navigate to a decent ending, and the severe retribution headed your way for the smallest of missteps. You and your friend Nina Martineau are part of an outdoors exploration group that has chosen today to hike the forests of Oregon. When your compass malfunctions, the two of you try to locate the rest of your group, but instead stumble upon a shimmering dome in the middle of nowhere. The dome feels like water to your touch, and when you and Nina step inside, the scenery changes dramatically. The air is full of freakish birds, and a spaceship hurtles across the sky. You are apprehended by dolphin-like creatures called Alterians that rule Earth in the far distant future. On Teria, Earth's new name, humans are slaves and Alterians possess unquestioned authority over every aspect of society. You and Nina are trapped.
Returning to your own time is the goal, but how will you go about it? Learning how the human race went downhill until it could easily be conquered by aliens is hard to stomach, but could net vital information for an escape attempt. The Alterians are sensitive to any hint of insubordination, and won't hesitate to order banishment or execution if they think you present a problem. Their eyes and ears are everywhere, and you can't fully trust anyone but Nina. If you find her (and that takes some skillful decision-making), take a deep breath and start thinking how to use your one chance to divert your captors' attention and get back to the dome. Should you feign submissiveness until you detect a flaw in Alterian security, or make a break for it as soon as possible before they split you and Nina up again? Getting caught once will be the end for you; the Alterians do not tolerate dissidents.
You and Nina have a few potential allies, but be cautious how you approach them. Robots are programmed to report suspicious activity, and humans fear stirring their overlords to anger. They've been enslaved so long that almost no memory remains of human dominance, only a few vague legends about a time when people could direct the course of their own lives. Freedom is a foreign concept to the meek humans of Teria, only five or six hundred of which still live. Will you stoke the dormant fires of liberty that flicker somewhere in their souls, or bypass these browbeaten slaves and figure out on your own how to get back to your time? Many hazards impede your path, but if you're smart and lucky, you'll make it. It won't be easy, but you can go home again.
I measure all Edward Packard science fiction against his Space Hawks gamebooks. They aren't packed with choices, but the writing and narrative are excellent examples of what gamebooks can be, a runaway vehicle that gains momentum as the pages turn. The Power Dome has small pockets of that inspired storytelling, notably when you conspire with the wise old woman, Oomo, on how to beat the Alterian system that has you stymied at every turn. Oomo knows the legends of humanity's glorious past, and wishes better for her people than to be slaves of a smug alien race. Oomo's recounting of the Alterian takeover, which provides the most backstory you get in this book, is full of quiet defiance, exactly the emotional lift you need to fuel you to dupe the Alterians and return to the dome before it's too late. You may be unable to stop this gloomy future from arising untold years after you're gone, but you'll risk death rather than live out your days a prisoner to tyrants. There are only two positive endings nestled among eleven dour ones, but they're worth the trouble to reach, balancing joy at making it home with sadness at the future of mankind. The Power Dome isn't perfect--I've read many better books from Edward Packard, including Who Are You?, The Forbidden Castle, and the Space Hawks sextet--but it's pretty good for Choose Your Own Adventure. I love that Edward Packard spark that makes his books different from anyone else's in the series, and it will bring me back to read The Power Dome again. All said, this is a quality story.
This book is typical of later books. It has fewer endings than earlier books, and is a pretty typical plot: time travel. This time you are traveling trough a mysterious dome you discover in the woods in Oregon. I guess Packard felt the Cave of Time was played out. You end up in a strange future where the world is overtaken by dolphin-like overlords, and humans number in the hundreds.
All-in-all one of Packard's weaker entries. You can tell he was probably tiring of writing CYOA books by this time.
The Power Dome is about a middling entry for this series. It's not very good, but it's not very bad, either. The plot seems at least vaguely similar to the story in H. G. Wells' novel The Time Machine.
One thing I did like was the ending where you tell your geology professor about the titular dome and he goes exploring for it himself and disappears, never coming back. This was at least mildly intelligent by the series' standards. It's not often your own actions can have negative impacts on others in a CYOA book.
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