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Item - South Pole Sabotage


Series: Choose Your Own Adventure (1979-1998) — no. 89
Contained In: Choose Your Own Adventure Box Set (88-92) (Collection)
Author: Johnson, Seddon
Illustrators: Kukalis, Romas (cover)
Bolle, Frank (interior)
Date: 1989
ISBN: 0553277707 / 9780553277708
Length: 113 pages
Number of Endings: 20
KenJenningsJeopardy74's Thoughts:

Bantam's original Choose Your Own Adventure series has a lot of variety in its one hundred eighty-five books. They take you to every continent on Earth, putting you in scenarios dealing with espionage, major historical events, and contemporary life in America. Some dabble in fantasy, others in conspiracy speculation, and still others are set in science fiction worlds of the future. South Pole Sabotage by Seddon Johnson sends you to Antarctica aboard the Pole Star, a research boat owned by your uncle Ben. A large hole in the ozone layer has recently opened in that area of the world, and it's up to Ben and the other researchers—including Dr. Pogolsky, a renowned Polish scientist—to determine the hole's origin and formulate a solution. The Antarctic is the coldest region on Earth, so you bundle up as you reach land and prepare for a long trip by snowmobile to the Rhumb Mountains, where Uncle Ben will set up a base of operations. You are the youngest member of the team, but will have your share of crucial decisions to make.

Should you join the scientists en route to the Rhumb Mountains, or stay on the Pole Star as acting second mate? Adventure beckons inland, but conditions are treacherous. You have another chance to stay behind at the halfway point, Camp One, but if you press on, you soon learn that Uncle Ben's research mission is going to be harder than anticipated. Rogue Soviets working for the Chemsplat corporation will aggressively prevent anyone from exposing their work in the Antarctic mountains. You may witness them detonating an avalanche to wipe out your uncle's team, and you'll have to flee alone on your snowmobile to avoid being shot. The Soviet Union has a research station, MIR, only a few hours away, but can you trust its inhabitants to help? MIR's Professor Lazarev and his young son Sasha don't see eye to eye with Captain Igor, a top decision-maker at MIR whose behavior raises your suspicions. In this tangle of national and corporate loyalties, good people may seem bad, and vice versa; keep an open mind regarding your allies and enemies. Chemsplat is brewing up something big at their remote station, involving a weapon on a scale the world has never seen, and it may be up to you to disable it before the weapon is deployed against Earth's population.

You can choose from the start to stay distant from the drama, remaining on the Pole Star as your uncle and his colleagues travel to the Rhumb Mountains, but adventure will still seek you. Antarctic waters are treacherous and you have little experience on them; when a storm comes up and the first mate is injured, you must navigate the Pole Star to avoid chunks of ice in the sea. Researchers from New Zealand aren't far off, and will send aid if requested, but maybe you can keep the Pole Star safe without calling them. The MIR station is another option, but do you trust the Soviets? Even here, a few days' travel from the Chemsplat lab, you may be pulled into a ring of international espionage. The Soviet KGB and American CIA are interested in the mystery of the ozone hole, and may be closely observing you. Chemsplat's Doktor Gribble has a brilliant mind that borders on madness, and if you meet him you'll find yourself locked in a struggle with a foe at least as deadly as the KGB and the Antarctic weather. Earth's fate may rest in your ability to disable Doktor Gribble's weapon before he unleashes it on humanity.

South Pole Sabotage is a confusing book. Keeping track of the individuals, nations, agencies, and locations involved is difficult, and I'm not sure I succeeded in doing so. It's easy to get backed into corners from which there are no paths to survival, even early in the narrative. The central story isn't bad, but given the exotic backdrop for your adventure, I hoped for more evocative writing, and was disappointed by its dryness. At least the story's complexity means you can reread South Pole Sabotage many times without memorizing the route to the best ending. I've read much better books in the Choose Your Own Adventure series, but Frank Bolle's intricate illustrations are worth a second look. They add a lot to Seddon Johnson's writing.

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