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Item - Trouble in Space

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Series: Choose Your Own Adventure for Younger Readers — no. 20
Translated Into: Alerte dans l'espace (French)
Problemas en el espacio (Spanish)
Problemes a l'espai (Catalan)
Rettung für das Raumschiff (German)
Author: Woodcock, John
Illustrator: Jones, Randy
Date: April, 1984
ISBNs: 0553152718 / 9780553152715
0553155016 / 9780553155013
Length: 50 pages
Number of Endings: 8
User Summary: You are the son of a pair of space rescue workers. While your parents are away an emergency call comes in and you decide to follow it with the help of your alien friend Xmax.
Demian's Thoughts:

Taking into account the brevity of the book and its target audience, this is a fairly good sci-fi adventure. The subject matter is a bit more interesting than usual (though still very familiar) and many of the choices are nicely balanced with pros and cons.

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KenJenningsJeopardy74's Thoughts:

The original Choose Your Own Adventure series had many books set in outer space: The Third Planet from Altair, Space Patrol, Space Vampire, Planet of the Dragons, The Perfect Planet, Mutiny in Space, and Through the Black Hole are only a few that let readers explore the Milky Way galaxy and beyond. The Bantam Skylark Choose Your Own Adventure series, however, only really has Trouble in Space, and it's exceptional in more ways than one. Your parents are officers for the Galaxy Rescue Squad, which operates from a space station orbiting Earth. When they're out on missions, you stay behind at the station with Xmax, a furry alien from a race called the Zoonicks. The two of you are friends, and you rely on his sage advice. One evening you receive a distress signal from a malfunctioning ship at the solar system's edge. It needs to be corralled before the crew drift into deep space and are lost. Your parents are busy on a mission, but maybe you and Xmax could go. You'd love to prove you belong in the Galaxy Rescue Squad.

There's no telling how long your parents will be gone, but you must return home before they discover you left or you'll face serious consequences. You can take an expedited route to the distressed ship, but it hasn't been mapped. The strategy seems to work, until you run into an asteroid belt. Turbulence rocks your space pod as you and Xmax dart between asteroids, but there's no way to avoid them all even if you override the automatic pilot and steer the pod yourself. You could attempt to fix your wrecked pod with the equipment you brought to help the other ship, but even with Xmax consulting, are you capable? Evacuating the pod and detonating it as an emergency signal is your other option, but an expensive one. Your parents won't be pleased.

If you let the automatic pilot lead you through the asteroid belt instead of taking control yourself, the bumpy ride accidentally activates the pod's hibernation gas, putting you and Xmax to sleep for half a century as you zoom well past the Milky Way. You'll have been gone a hundred years by the time you return to Earth; should you and Xmax attempt the long, lonely journey, or accept your fate and explore parts of the universe never seen by a human? Either endeavor continues beyond whatever ending you reach. Almost everything will have changed on Earth by the time the middle-aged you would arrive, but it's up to you to make the most of your unexpected new life.

Rather than navigate the asteroid belt at all, you can avoid it by passing close to Jupiter. Extreme weather surrounds the planet, and Xmax warns against this option. While near the gas giant, your space pod receives an emergency hail from the moon Callisto, but is it legitimate, or a trick by space pirates? Callisto has a superheated core but its surface is covered with thick, treacherous ice. You may be unable to take off again if you land on it, but setting down on the wing of the ship that hailed you is also dangerous. You'd be completely vulnerable to space pirates, though you might not be the first Galaxy Rescue Squad to be fooled.

You can stay away from asteroids and Jupiter entirely by choosing the slower but fully charted route from the get-go. A few days of travel puts you near Pluto, where the malfunctioning ship is supposed to be. It turns out to be crewed by Zoonicks like Xmax, and the rescue won't be easy. The ship is being pulled in by a black hole, and with the engines out of order, it can't escape. Immediate repair is crucial, but should you deliver the repair kit directly, or fire a series of rockets to send it remotely so you don't risk falling into the black hole? Rockets are the safe choice, but a lot can go wrong between your ship and theirs. Are the Zoonicks capable of restoring their engines if not every piece of hardware makes it to them? Delivering the equipment directly to the ship places you and Xmax in mortal jeopardy, but perhaps you'll get away with one bold gamble. A successful mission counts for something even if it required a generous portion of luck.

Trouble in Space is one of the better Bantam Skylark Choose Your Own Adventures. The story reminds me of Edward Packard's Space Hawks sextet, as well as Through the Black Hole from the main Choose Your Own Adventure series, but the narrative still feels fresh. It also offers poignant moments: adrift in a foreign galaxy after the hibernation gas put you to sleep for fifty years, you're not sure what to do with your new life, but I guess we all go through phases of existential conflict. At least you enter your future with Xmax by your side, a loyal, levelheaded friend to help you through whatever lies ahead. Trouble in Space has more substance than all but a few others in the series, though I'm disappointed by Randy Jones's illustrations. His artwork for Blizzard at Black Swan Inn is wonderful, but isn't very appealing here. I wish John Woodcock had written additional gamebooks, but I appreciate the one he did, and I'll enjoy many happy rereads of Trouble in Space.

More reviews by KenJenningsJeopardy74

Special Thanks:Thanks to Ken G. for the yellow cover scans.
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