Gamebook-Related Items

This page is no longer being updated. The information here is now scattered through my database; for a series list, click here.

This section of my site is devoted to items that aren't gamebooks but are in some way related to or inspired by the genre. For now I only have information on a couple such products, but I suspect that this section will grow over time just like the rest of the site. This page is divided into several sections:

Computerized Interactive Fiction
Interactive Audio
Non-Gamebooks by Gamebook Authors
Related Links

If you wish to contact me with questions, corrections or related information, e-mail me at .

Computerized Interactive Fiction

In the past, I have found time to participate in the annual computer-based Interactive Fiction Competition. Here are a few reviews I wrote as a result:

Seventh Annual Interactive Fiction Competition
Eighth Annual Interactive Fiction Competition

Interactive Audio

 Terror T.R.A.X. Interactive Audio CDs
1. Track of the Vampire
2. Track of the Werewolf
3. Track of the Mummy
4. Track of the Creature

This series of audio CDs was released by TSR in 1994, presumably as an attempt to create something gamebook-like but more marketable. The series was based on a concept by Flint Dille, co-creator of the Sagard the Barbarian gamebooks. The basic premise is that 911 operators forward calls of a supernatural nature to an agency known as T.R.A.X. (Trace, Research, Analyze and Exterminate). Each disc allows the listener to control a team of T.R.A.X. officers by skipping around the tracks of the CD. The gameplay is no more complex than the average Choose Your Own Adventure.

The only disc from this series that I've seen is Track of the Werewolf, which I picked up on clearance at a local Kay-Bee Toy Store. The disc has fifty-two tracks full of weak acting and uninspired plotting. The biggest saving grace of the disc is that it contains what appears to be a reference to the Monty Python film The Life of Brian during a ransom call by a werewolf. Apart from that the disc is pretty much humorless and unentertaining. The "Mature Listeners" warning on the front of the box seems pretty much unjustified since the werewolves are about as scary as Scooby Doo, the language is tamer than network TV, and the violence has very little impact in an audio format.

At the end of disc two, the listener is instructed to insert disc three for further adventures. It would appear that four discs were released in total, but I'm not really sure; information on these games is hard to come by. In any case, the T.R.A.X. concept lives on... A computer game based on the concept was released in 1996 by Grolier Interactive and a Renny Harlin-directed TV movie (possibly a series pilot) is listed for a 2000 release in the Internet Movie Database.

Non-Gamebooks by Gamebook Authors

 The Quorum by Kim Newman
published in the UK by Simon & Schuster and in the U.S. by Carol & Graf (ISBN 0-7867-0283-4)

This interesting novel is from the author of the wonderful Life's Lottery. Like Life's Lottery, it's really hard to pin the story down to a particular genre; while the book can generally be found in the horror section, it's not the same sort of gore-and-monsters stuff that most horror novels tend to be. There's certainly some horrific content here, but there's just as much drama and satire. The plot is often described as a "deal with the devil" story, but there's a lot more to it than that. Vague plot summaries don't really do the book justice.

The book is of interest to gamebook readers for several reasons. First of all, the book is a decidedly non-linear narrative despite being a straightforward novel. The book jumps from time period to time period rapidly (sometimes several times within a chapter), but the story would probably still hold together if it were rearranged into chronological order (though it would have a whole different feel). Perhaps more significantly, the tie-ins to Life's Lottery are quite explicit; several significant places, along with a few minor characters, are shared by the two books. Many of the mysterious happenings in Life's Lottery are clarified by a read-through of this book, and there are definite signs that Life's Lottery was at least beginning to form in the author's mind during the writing of this book.

This novel probably isn't for everyone, but if you enjoyed Life's Lottery, it's almost a must-read. I'd also recommend it to anyone who's tired of formulaic horror and to fans of British pop culture (the Doctor Who references made my day). Good stuff, and I definitely plan to acquire additional Kim Newman novels in the near future.

 Bad Dreams by Kim Newman
published in the UK by Simon & Schuster and in the U.S. by Carol & Graf (ISBN 0-7867-0227-3)

This book was actually written before The Quorum, but since I read it later, I'm posting its review second. Like that other book, this is a hard work to describe. It's about a girl fighting a monster, but it's also an alternate history about McCarthyism, a sadomasochistic fantasy and lots more. Kim Newman layers his books like onions, and they're very satisfying to read if you can stomach their grotesque moments (and this book has some very grotesque moments) and wrap your head around all the references to pop culture and literature and history.

This isn't Newman's best work, but it is still a very strong book. If it has a major weakness, it would be in characterization. There are some strong characters on display here, but the protagonist, who should be one of the most important parts of the book, is actually rather bland. I never quite felt that I knew her well enough to cheer her on, which is a shame because if I had identified with her more, the book's conclusion would have worked on an emotional level as well as a cerebral one. This book made my brain very happy, but my heart didn't race as often as it should have. Still, this is an early work, and its flaws can be forgiven on that ground, especially in the face of its numerous successes.

From a gamebook reader's perspective, there are some definite pleasures to be found here. It's a linear narrative, but as in The Quorum, the signs that Newman was already thinking in a non-linear manner are obvious. In one segment of the book, there are two chapter nines and two chapter tens, each showing different possible branches of a segment of the story. In addition to this obvious gamebookism, the book uses some other bits of narrative weirdness and flows in a strange manner that should satisfy readers who like something a little different. As with all of Kim Newman's writing, this is most definitely not for everyone, but if you're one of the people capable of enjoying it, you should enjoy it very much indeed.

Related Products Links

Andrew G. Black's Kai Wisdom FAQ contains information on Lone Wolf-related products.

FightingFantasy.Com discusses all sorts of Fighting Fantasy spinoff merchandise ranging from novels to miniatures.

Paul Parsons' Commodore 64 Gamebooks page provides information on some computer game adaptations of interactive books.

Demian's Gamebook Web Page (c) 1998-2004 Demian Katz