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Item - Ice Cave

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Series: Choose Your Own Adventure for Younger Readers — no. 27
Translated Into: Abenteuer in der Eishöhle (German)
La cova de gel (Catalan)
La cueva de hielo (Spanish)
Author: Saunders, Susan
Illustrators: Hedin, Don (cover)
Enik, Ted (interior)
Date: 1985
ISBN: 0553153315 / 9780553153316
Length: 53 pages
Number of Endings: 8
User Summary: An avalanche traps you in a cave where living Ice Age creatures are frozen in the walls.
Demian's Thoughts:

This adventure has more text than usual for this series, and it also has pretty good internal consistency. These might have helped rank it above average for the series, but its dry writing and underdeveloped plot prevent it from shining. Most paths follow the same formula regardless of choices: you are trapped, you encounter cavemen and mammoths, and you escape. The short format allows little space for detail, and most of this detail is spent on describing your survival skills rather than revealing anything interesting about the cave's inhabitants or origins. Readers interested in the survival aspect of the story may have some fun with the choices, but those more interested in fantasy or prehistoric beasts are likely to be bored and disappointed.

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KenJenningsJeopardy74's Thoughts:

Susan Saunders is a skillful writer, and does a good job in this book, but I think the idea is simply too big to fit inside a junior novel the size of Ice Cave. There isn't enough room to even attempt an explanation of how so many animals and humans could have been perfectly preserved, all in the same cave, on the side of this mountain you and your parents chose for your skiing trip. And how could the creatures frozen inside the cave thaw out instantly after thousands of years encased in ice, and essentially be no worse for the wear? If Ice Cave were the length of the Choose Your Own Adventure books for older kids, there might be space to address these pressing questions, but such necessities in the creation of a believable story may not have been possible in a book this length. Susan Saunders does well with what she's given, however, creating a story of intrigue and light suspense in which a single choice often determines the difference between winning freedom from the cave for you and your companions, or being trapped in a tomb of ice, possibly forever.

Your ski excursion goes awry when halfway down the slope during a run, you see an avalanche of snow barreling toward you from behind. Your parents are safely positioned outside the range of the natural disaster, but the only recourse for you is to take shelter in a small cave you hadn't noticed until now. The icy enclosure saves your life from the avalanche, but you soon find that starting a fire to lighten the absolute darkness may not have been a good idea. The melting ice of the cave walls yields three ancient creatures, suddenly thawed from their ice encasement of many thousands of years. A boy and his pet mastodon emerge first, but less fortunate for you is the reanimation of an ornery, hungry caveman who immediately sets his sights on boy and mastodon. What's more, the caveman seems to be after you, too, and you have no way of knowing how dangerous he may be.

Finding your way out of the cave to be rescued, and helping save the boy and his mastodon from becoming the caveman's meal, are both high priorities, but you're completely out of your element in this strange subterranean realm forgotten by time. Neither of the humans you thawed speaks English, and the caveman is interested in little besides capturing his prey and sating his simian appetite. But you do have an advantage over him because of the few pieces of modern technology you happen to have with you, including a flashlight that cuts the darkness and provides a way to see where you and your enemy both tread. Finding your way out of the ice cave won't be easy; the entrance is covered with so much snow from the avalanche that it would take a team of diggers hours to free you, and there's no way to know how many other apertures of adequate size there may be. Your looking out for the boy and mastodon's safety may be rewarded with a pair of helpful new friends, though, willing to try to help you even if their intelligence is far below yours and the language barrier is impenetrable. It isn't impossible to make it out in one piece with the boy and his pet alive, too--not impossible by a longshot--and the best endings you can reach will see the three of you winning out against the odds, dispatching the caveman predator and readying to meet a modern world this caveboy can't even imagine.

As in many of the Bantam Skylark Choose Your Own Adventure books for younger readers, I can't help thinking the most interesting part of the story happens after you come to The End. Introducing your find of these ancient creatures to the world, preserved in working order for thousands of years until an amateur like you happened to come along and accidentally free them? It would be the biggest discovery in a thousand generations, and you were the catalyst for it. Fame and fortune surely must follow for you, but the narrative always concludes before your find is made public to more than a handful of concerned rescuers. It leaves one wondering what amazing events we're missing out on that are set to begin right after the story reaches its finish.

While issues of length affect Ice Cave more than most books in this series, despite there noticeably being more text per page than average for a Bantam Skylark Choose Your Own Adventure, the story is fun and a little wacky, and its re-readability value is good. Ice Cave isn't Susan Saunders's best novel, but I like it, and I'm sure other young readers will, too.

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