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Item - Exiled to Earth

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(Original edition)
(Reissue edition, first printing)
(Reissue edition, first printing)
(Reissue edition, first printing)
(Reissue edition, first printing)

Combined Summary

Series: Choose Your Own Adventure (1979-1998) — no. 87
Choose Your Own Adventure (2005-) — no. 36
Alternate Title: Punishment: Earth (reissue)
Adapted Into: Exiled to Earth (Graded Reader) (Gamebook)
Author: Montgomery, R. A.
Illustrators: Millet, Jason (Reissue edition, first printing - interior)
Utomo, Gabhor (Reissue edition, first printing - cover)
Lisi, Victoria (Original edition - cover)
Bolle, Frank (Original edition - interior)
Dates: 1988 (Original edition)
2010 (Reissue edition, first printing)
ISBN: 1933390360 / 9781933390369 (Reissue edition, first printing)
Length: 113 pages (Reissue edition, first printing)
Number of Endings: 15
User Summary: You are a young resident of planet Orca, an advanced and peaceful world where youth is rare; you soon learn the consequences of excessive curiosity.
Demian's Thoughts:

This review is based on the ChooseCo reissue of the book; I don't currently have the original version of the book in my collection, so I can't compare what has changed, though I suspect that the differences are minor.

I can't say that this book particularly impressed me; it doesn't seem to have a lot of substance to it. It lost my interest almost immediately, when the best threat the author could come up with in a mysterious alien jungle was a group of warthogs. Warthogs?! I mean, they are potentially dangerous animals, but as random, sudden threats go, I would have preferred something a little more exotic. Throughout, the book comes up short on interesting details; while the reader can end up in a lot of different places, many of the encounters feel similar to one another, and there is very little world-building and even less character development.

Speaking of character, the book distinguishes itself a little bit through the constant presence of the protagonist's friend, Og. While other books in the series have had companion characters, few of them have stuck to the reader quite like Og does here, who is a constant presence throughout the book. However, that doesn't mean that Og has much in the way of personality -- he's mostly there to blandly agree, provide exposition, and on a few rare occasions have an opinion or talent of his own.

From a gameplay perspective, the book is fairly unsatisfying. Like many books from this period in the series, it features a lot of unnecessary page turning without decisions. It also features a design that loops back on itself in a few places, railroading the reader through the first act of the story and introducing occasional minor continuity errors. Some of the choices that allow access to different locations are random and arbitrary, while other choices that feel like they should be significant end up leading to exactly the same place. Many endings trail off without a satisfying conclusion, with even the "best" endings concluding on an ambiguous note of bland optimism without really accomplishing much in the way of story.

Speaking of bland optimism, this definitely feels like an R. A. Montgomery book, in that special way where you feel like you're being preached at, but you can't quite distinguish the message that you're supposed to be absorbing. There's obviously something being said here about curiosity, but how that links to the other broad message about peace, harmony and cooperation was unclear to me. Is it a political statement that a trip to Washington, D. C. leads to unavoidable death in a hail of bullets while a trip to China leads to peace if you just have enough faith? Probably, but it could also just be the infamous Montgomery randomizer at work.

The bottom line: there are a few interesting and unusual things going on in this book, but not enough to overcome its blandness and unambitious design. It's definitely not essential reading.

More reviews by Demian

Enigmatic Synergy's Thoughts:

This is a decent CYOA book that makes for an interesting read. While the writing is certainly not the greatest, it is far from the worst. I absolutely love the concept of the book--traveling to a "strange" planet called Earth. I think these concepts are always pretty thought-provoking because the reader is able to look at humans as the "outsider," if you will, in which being an "alien" is the norm. Most of the outcomes are pretty similar, leaving little room for disparity. Some of the sections felt a little rushed and I think having some longer threads would have benefited the book. Overall, this is an average book that has the ability to provoke more-than-average thinking in terms of who we are as a society and how we may think of beings that are perceived as "outsiders" or "foreigners."

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Guillermo's Thoughts:

(Review based on the ChooseCo edition.)

This book reminds me a lot of an early R. A. Montgomery gamebook, The Abominable Snowman. Like in that book, the plot here is "ignorant Western humans encounter enlightened civilization of strange creatures for the first time," except that this time the reader plays one of the strange creatures instead of the humans, and the creatures are aliens instead of yeti. An encounter between aliens and humans from the point of view of the aliens has great potential, since the resulting culture shock offers many chances for interesting choices. Sadly, Montgomery shows he has no idea how to make this work, instead padding the book with undeveloped encounters and frustratingly abrupt endings. Also similar to The Abominable Snowman, there is little to no gameplay as the choices rarely do have any logical consequences. Still, The Abominable Snowman managed to be more interesting and entertaining than this dull, repetitive mess. Avoid this book.

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KenJenningsJeopardy74's Thoughts:

What's it like to live in a supposedly more evolved civilization than Earth's, one that has so developed beyond the biological impulse for curiosity that the same is declared illegal? This is the premise of R. A. Montgomery's Exiled to Earth. You and your friend Og are secretly exploring a wilderness region called the Way Far Back, but you both are on edge. Not only could there be natural hazards here, but if the Supreme Senate of your home planet, Orca, learns what you're doing, you will be punished. Sure enough, you are found out and then questioned about your trespass, but you aren't sure how to respond to the Supreme Senate's inquiries. Should you claim you were in the Way Far Back alone, or admit Og was with you and risk drawing him into the crosshairs?

Og may not let you take the rap for him; soon you could both be banished to faraway planet Earth—home of a race called humans—as a "cure" for your curiosity. Orcan technology is advanced, but you aren't guaranteed a smooth voyage to Earth, and you may have to save your own lives before setting foot on the planet. If you're too skittish about taking risks with your spaceship, you might wind up back on Orca without ever enduring exile to Earth, but if you came to this book wanting adventure, you should be more daring in how you approach your spaceship malfunctions. There's a wide range of peoples and places to visit on Earth, and this phase of your young life is the ideal time to do so.

You can choose to land your spaceship in Mexico at Chichén Itzá, an ancient icon of religious life where the locals are eager for first contact with an alien race. Be careful: your ship has defense technology beyond anything seen on Earth, and if you deploy it too casually, you'll damage your chance at peace with the humans. You could instead touch down in Washington D.C. in the United States, whose protectors greet your arrival with military exuberance, or China, whose reception is much quieter. Different decisions you make en route to Earth could place you in Russian territory, or with the Asian people of the Himalayas, or to meet the residents of Taos, New Mexico, folks less likely to use military force than in D.C. Never forget why you were sent here: to satiate your youthful curiosity and extend an olive branch to the people of this planet. You might end up Orca's first successful ambassadors to Earth, and set into motion an era of friendship between the two societies.

I checked out Exiled to Earth from my elementary school library many times, but remembered little of it. Now I see why: it's one of the worst books in the original Choose Your Own Adventure series. The premise, reminiscent of Edward Packard's Earth Inspectors franchise (1988-90), is potentially strong, but R. A. Montgomery does nothing good with it. The majority of story options lead to a vaguely genial initial encounter with Earth natives, at which point the narrative ends without anything substantial happening; all the adventure is on the other side of The End. You never learn much of anything about Earth past or present. Worse than this, however, is the attitude the book seems to take toward mankind, as though our values of freedom and individual rights are signs that we're less evolved. On the contrary, I say the Orcans, despite their superior technology, are at the lower stage of societal development. They have outlawed curiosity about life and the universe, assuming they have reached a level of absolute enlightenment and can't learn more; hence, any attempts to improve the society are counterproductive and should be shut down. This story concept would be fine if their hubris were dealt with, but Mr. Montgomery seems to view Earth and the universe through the same prism of arrogance. I see little reason to come back to Exiled to Earth, but it might be good for some slow-paced fun now and then.

More reviews by KenJenningsJeopardy74

toadhjo's Thoughts:

While it has an interesting concept, this is a very weak book overall. For starters, you have to go through at least 12 pages of text before you come across any real choices. But that's not the biggest problem. The book lacks any real sense of purpose, and most of the outcomes are very similar. The author (R. A. Montgomery) spends too much time setting up the circumstances for your exile to Earth; this leaves little room for your adventures on Earth. The idea has potential, but it is executed poorly, and the book focuses on the wrong part of the journey.

More reviews by toadhjo

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Known Editions

Original edition
Reissue edition, first printing

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