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The Dream Palace

Series: The Dream Palace
Author: Stephens, Brynne
Illustrator: Hickman, Stephen
Release Date: March, 1986
ISBN: 0671655574 / 9780671655570
Length:259 pages (237 pages of regular text plus 126 instruction paragraphs)
Number of Endings:32
User Summary: A pair of friends decide to leave their dull lives behind and go on a Quest to find their True Loves.
Demian's Thoughts: This is a decidedly unusual book, and unfortunately an only partially successful one. While it has many merits, it has distracting flaws at every level. From a gamebook perspective, it is nearly a total failure. The idea of a book that can be read in linear order or played as a gamebook is an interesting one, but one which doesn't really work. When you make a choice, there are only three things that can possibly happen: you can skip ahead, you can double back, or you can die. None of these outcomes are satisfying. If you skip ahead, you feel that you're missing part of the story (and indeed you are -- very important segments can be easily bypassed in this book); if you die or double back, you eventually end up back at the same place anyway, so it feels rather pointless. After a while, I stopped paying much attention to the interactive elements of the book simply because there was no reason to use them. The contest aspect of the book may appeal to fans of "solve-it-yourself" mystery books (the answers to the questions are far from obvious, and left unanswered in the book), but that's really the only way one might find this to be a satisfying literary recreation.

The book fares considerably better if you read it simply as a light-hearted fantasy novel. It contains some genuinely creative ideas, and the appealing characters and occasional humor keep things pleasant. I felt that some of the characters and relationships developed far too quickly to be plausible, but I can't complain too much -- character development of any sort is rather rare in the world of interactive books. Alas, the main downfalls of the book come from its efforts to be interactive. The text is written in the present tense, and this sometimes makes it more awkward than it should be. A bigger problem is the aforementioned unanswered questions. Since the book was part of a contest, it ends with intentional ambiguity. As I said, readers who enjoy puzzling out the meanings of books will have fun working on this, but everyone else will leave this adventure feeling a little frustrated. The tale has a nice ending, but it leaves you wanting to know more. Sadly, I'm fairly certain that no sequel was ever written, nor do I know of any way to acquire the official contest answers now that it is so long over. I rarely complain when an author chooses to write a gamebook, but I think it's actually regrettable that this story wasn't given a more straightforward treatment.

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Errata:Instruction #35 should point to page 81, not page 78.
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