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|User Summary:||You are a surfer competing at Pipeline, a famous (and dangerous) surfing spot.|
The sport of surfing is an exciting setting for an interactive story — full of unpredictability of the elements and life-threatening hazards. Quinn Haber's Experience Pipeline takes a first-person look into this sport while keeping that unpredictability as the driving narrative force.
Experience Pipeline places the reader as an unnamed competitor in the deadly Pipe Masters surfing contest on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. The main opponents are fictitious characters: a six-time world champ, Neil Yater; and a Native-Hawaiian contestant named Jacala Boy Bones. The contest is ruthless. As surfers jockey for the same waves, close-calls and near-collisions are usually interpreted by judges and fellow competitors as sabotage; low scores and beach brawls await reckless contestants in either case.
The always-evident adversary is Pipeline itself. These waves can change from doable to dangerous right under the feet of a surfer. Elemental undertows drown even the best swimmers, and underwater creatures here apparently have not heard the "rarely attack humans" assurance whispered in voiceovers on shark-umentaries (with camera shots of a crew dumping buckets of chum overboard along with a big, white cage).
Haber's novel is a "Multiple" adventure, not a "Choose" or "Find" your own adventure. Direction of the story changes with a coin-toss. Every text entry finishes with one page number for heads and one for tails until the thread ends in victory, defeat, or death.
Sometimes, this level of unpredictability fails to make sense. The randomness of the waves and actions of other competitors are reflected reasonably by heads-or-tails, but why does chance dictate the reader's own choices? In one scene, the reader's character begins strangling a sea-turtle after it gets in the way of a wave set. The decision to throttle the creature or let it go is determined by flip-of-a-coin.
(What if I don't want to strangle a sea-turtle?)
Maybe surfing, unlike other sports, lends itself more to the immediate than the deliberate; maybe every action and split-second decision diminishes to a sort of Zen-on-the-waves like "I did it" or "I didn't do it" and nothing more. Still, this reader would have liked a shot at picking a few of those waves or at least the fights himself. Haber paints an unforgiving yet beautiful North Shore with engaging descriptions of what "being in the tube" feels like; a reader could sink into the experience much more enjoyably if given even a modest allowance of choice. Indeed, Experience Pipeline would be spectacular if that "you" in the text entries felt as real as the rest of Haber's writing.
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