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Item - La sangre de mi hermano

Series: Barcelona máxima discreción — no. 4
Alternate Title: The Blood of My Brother (literal English translation of title)
Translated Into: La sang del meu germà (Catalan)
Author: Ribera, Jaume
Illustrators: Quintana, Lalo (cover)
Rodríguez, Raúl (cover)
Date: 1988
ISBN: 8477221928 / 9788477221920
Length: 240 pages
Number of Endings: 3
User Summary: Chalán is a heavily indebted loan shark employee who accepts what appears to be a simple job - following and keeping watch over a rich man's niece without her knowing. Little does he suspect that the task will lead him into a web of crime and intrigue involving the girl's true origin, a blackmailer and (maybe?) even the IRA. Of course, the true protagonist of this series, private detective Alex Barcelona (Barna for short) can't be too far away.
Guillermo's Thoughts: This is, without question, one of the best gamebooks ever written. There are lots of good things to say about it, so let's start with the plot aspects. The novel manages to develop suspense and tension while also providing an intriguing and involving mystery which literally kept me glued to the book until I had finished it. The book also has high replay value - even though the basic plot is always the same no matter which route the reader takes, the characters and events to interact with and experience are different along each route. This means that you're likely to keep reading again and again only to see the fairly complex plot develop from a variety of angles and perspectives. Even though the book only has three explicit endings, there are many more ways in which the story can be resolved, so even though many of them converge into the same final section, that doesn't mean you get quite the same story each time.

The writing is of top-notch quality, much better than the average gamebook, to the point that often the reader only remembers this is an interactive novel when it is time to make a choice. Unfortunately, the text is so full of non-standard expressions and idioms that it seems to be meant exclusively for people with an advanced reading level of Spanish (and as far as I know, there are no foreign-language translations of the series). Its social criticism and adult situations mean this is a book which (unlike the Storytrails series) is definitely not meant for the younger crowd.

The only complaint that could be raised against the book is that there is no way to 'fail,' since all the endings lead to the solution of the mystery. But even this is not much of a problem, since the real challenge of the book comes from exploring the full range of options it offers; in some paths you can be a distant observer and witness, and in others you can become directly involved with the events and characters. Unlike many other gamebooks, the non-player characters are not simply there to help or hinder your character's cause - they have their own motivations and agendas, and it's possible to have them relate with him in other ways (like romance, for example).

Besides working admirably as a gamebook, La sangre de mi hermano also surprised me for managing to include exciting and unpredictable plot twists, its critical view on post-dictatorship Spain, and its ability to convey a message at the end. The world painted by Ribera is not one of "black and white" good-evil; he rather portrays people as selfish and leaves the reader wondering about who is really the good (or bad) guy of the story.

Overall, a quite satisfying read and an outstanding work of interactive fiction. It's only unfortunate that this book is so hard to find nowadays.

More reviews by Guillermo

Special Thanks:Thanks to Guillermo Paredes for the plot summary and other information.
Users Who Own This Item: Guillermo, katzcollection, rocaluma
Users Who Want This Item: jeremydouglass
Users with Extra Copies: rocaluma

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