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Last Run

Series: Choose Your Own Adventure (1979-1998) #153
Translated Into: La última carrera (Spanish)
Author: Montgomery, R. A.
Illustrators: Pollen, Samson (cover)
Bolle, Frank (interior)
Release Date: 1994
Stockton's Thoughts: This book is R. A. Montgomery's comeback from his previous entry - Project UFO, a book so spectacularly bad it is almost like the Showgirls or Battlefield Earth of the CYOA series. Last Run is a definite improvement to say the least. R. A. has definately made up for his past screw-up here.

Last Run combines two of my favourite things - skiing and espionage fiction. While this book does suffer from the typical gamebook problem of your character's uncle or aunt either being a mad scientist, adventurer, or somehow involved in shady activities, at least this time he was dead to begin with. You are an international ski racer, and you must find out who murdered him.

This is probably one of the few CYOA books where you can read a fictional autopsy report along with the rest of the regular prose - a welcome touch of authenticity to be sure. Indeed, you actually get to savour a whole dossier of other documents as well. Two of these are printed in the book but not used in the actual story, orphaned as it were - a cardinal sin in gamebook writing.

I never thought that R. A. Montgomery could come up with a plot this, well, coherent. Normally what he writes is just a little bit too far off the wrong side of the deep end. So this was a pleasant change. As you go through the story, your character acknowleges he might be too young and actually makes amateur's mistakes when solving the mystery - a level of realism not found in many other CYOA books.

Sadly, though, this book was let down by the changes made at the latter end of the series: a lack of choices and endings. There are only seven in the book and not one of them is good. Seven! Moreover, despite his clear efforts to stifle it, Montgomery's oddball style still comes through every now and again. No one but R. A. could come up a group of conspirators like this: a down-on-his-dimes country-western music star, a Chinese drug lord and a young French debutante. You also won't find teenagers who read the Herald Tribune anywhere else, either.

The best part of all was that, in the end, everything actually made sense, even if it was just another cliche conspiracy story. The solution to the mystery is pretty obvious; the book is more about getting through alive than figuring out whodunit. Last Run actually had good internal consistency, mainly due to its simple game design. Of course it's not perfect by any means but it's definitely better than usual.

Some flaws that hurt Last Run are that there's no explanation for why a motley group of people such as the ones in this book could come together from vastly different walks of life to start an international conspiracy, that the most important paths leave most of the crucial details out, and that two or three characters really have no purpose at all. One isn't ever given a name or has his presence explained; he is simply referred to obliquely as "White Hair." But this is typical R. A. Montgomery - nothing new by any means.

This is certainly not the best book in the Last Run series - far from it, in fact - but it is one heck of a lot better than many of Mr. Montgomery's previous works. I did have fun reading it at any rate, and that's probably what counts the most.

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