Review: A Wild Ride

A Wild Ride
A Wild Ride by Louis Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was sent to me by my good friend David “Big Mac” Shepheard who is a fellow Spelljammer enthusiast. He was eager that I should read it before our Rock of Bral themed issue came out on our new project Wildspace: The Spelljammer Fanzine, since it takes place at that location.

I’m always happy about anything Spelljammer because I love the setting, and as far as “Choose Your Own Adventure” type books go (this is part of a series called “Endless Quest,”) it’s pretty fun. I used to quite enjoy that type of thing as a child, when your choice directly affects the outcome of the story. I like the characters and I like the villains. The illustrations are awesome! And I’m grateful for the gift.

It obviously wasn’t designed for grown ups, however, and this is telling in that there are a lot of stereotypes and the overall tone is preachy (real heroes are always brave; real heroes always do the right thing, etc.) For that reason, sometimes it felt as though the plot “railroaded” you. For instance, the author assumes you’re going to choose to help the people who come in and ask you about a broach they found. But you’re supposed to be a treasure hunter. Why don’t they give you the option to say, “Blow it out your shorts!” or even just, “What’s in it for me?” And you can pretty much be assured that if the action would be the “right” thing to do, either for bravery, benevolence, honesty, etc., then that’s what’s going to get you through the adventure alive and accomplish your goals. The writing is also downright *bad* in its boy-scout, do-right campiness in places, I have to admit.

All in all, it was worth reading once because I did enjoy it, and I will hold onto it for my collection because I keep all my Spelljammer books (because I just might need the reference) but I will not likely pick it up again for many years, and were it not for the fact that it is a Spelljammer book I would probably trade it in at my bookstore. However, I’m willing to make some allowances because it also managed to be funny and entertaining, and entertainment is ultimately why we read books. Worth having a look at; at least once.

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2 thoughts on “Review: A Wild Ride

  1. I love your take on the book. You looked at this with different eyes to me, but I agree with a lot of your points.

    I own the four DragonStrike novels, as well as the two DragonStrike Endless Quest books. A Wild Ride is a direct sequel to DragonStrike. The characters that “Louis Anderson” (that isn’t his real name, by the way) writes about were created by four other authors (who were also not writing under their own names).

    I have read the four DragonStrike novels, which are aimed at the Young Adult market, and they share the sort of tone that this book has. I have not read the Endless Quest books for DragonStrike yet, but one thing I noticed was that the Endless Quest format seems to be about having characters who do interesting stuff, but who fall out with each other and turn to the viewpoint character for an important decision.

    In this book we are Jaxom Starr and I see very little of his personality in this book, because we are supposed to read it and imagine ourselves as him. Our views of the four Heros of Wildspace are the sort of views that you would expect a teenage boy to have of the four characters. You get a different take on those characters in the four DragonStrike novels. Each one of those tells the story from the point of view of one of those four characters and we see different aspects of them.

    So I think that part of the weakness of the story, is down to Louis Anderson being tied into a strict format and being forced to make the Heroes of Wildspace fail to reach decisions at key parts of the story, in order to make it the reader’s turn to play Jaxom Starr again.

    I had already seen someone criticising errors in how the SJ universe was depicted in this story. I made allowances for that, when I read A Wild Ride, and I also made allowances for the sort of “feel” that you spoke about.

    I did read the book more than once. I actually made a schoolboy error and got killed. The second time I read the book, I finished the story sucessfully. But after that, I went through and tried to see what happens at various different decision points.

    There are a couple of things that are a bit of a railroad. I went out of my way to avoid going with The Heroes of Wildspace, but it does not work. You do get pushed into it. However, other elements of the story do have different paths. I found it fun to explore those different paths. The main problem with the Endless Quest format is those different paths all eat up space (making the overall story shorter) so many of them throw you back onto the main-branch fairly quickly…or kill you. But there is a fairly large branch with a female adversary that I missed on the first time around. Reading that part, made her seem like a much more interesting character, than when I read it another way and saw less of her. The first time I read this book she seemed a fairly two-dimensional sidekick of Malakeesh, but the second time I read the book, I wanted to learn more about her.

    Another weakness in the format is that, when branches come back together, the author has no way to tell what previous branches you have followed. So some pretty important decisions have no noticeable effect later on. In spite of all that…and in spite of the fact that TSR never published the four young adult novels that Louis Adult wrote to lead up to A Wild Ride (so you can’t really tell why everyone on The Rock of Bral loves The Heroes of Wildspace) I really enjoyed reading this.

    Were I to try to turn A Wild Ride into a D&D adventure, I would address the sort of issues you touched on and the sort of things I mentioned and make sure that the NPCs reacted to the previous actions of the PCs, as well as to the actions they have made in the current branch.

    And I would defiantly tackle your “What’s in it for me?” issue. Jaxom Starr should have been offered some serious money to act as a guide (along with a share of any treasure that was recovered). And I think it would have been more in keeping with what I know of the DragonStrike characters, if Arakeela had been the one to tell the others in her group that they needed to cut Jaxom Starr a deal. After all, she is “the exotic thief who steals…for good”.

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