The natural progression for readers back in the day was to stumble through “Dick and Jane” and maybe “Cat in the Hat” before going into “Where the Wild Things Are” and other early reading books. The next rung on the reading ladder was often the chose-your-own-adventure genre of books that had readers flipping through pages while they let their own story unfold with each turn. Books in that genre were great because they could be read and reread dozens of times, providing different endings each time depending on what direction the reader wanted the story to take. Then video games took over and the genre was largely forgotten. But the multi-ending books are making a comeback in the digital age.
Former editor of the now-defunct Tacoma Reporter Matt Youngmark, for example, wrote two such full-length, choose-your-own-ending novels that make for solid reads in this season of kitschy gore, zombies and superheroes in tights. "Zombocalypse Now" came out in 2009, while Youngmark’s recent work, "Thrusts of Justice," rolled out earlier this year from Chooseomatic Books. He is currently working on the third in the series, "Time Travel Dinosaur." In "Zombocalypse Now," readers take on the form of a fluffy bunny that faces the End of Days as zombies take over the world. Readers can take two basic routes to safety by either disguising themselves as one of the undead masses in an effort to sneak through the rows of brain-munching corpses, or declare “game on” and start hacking and slashing. The campy comedy-horror story follows different paths from there to create a web of bunny-zombie goodness that can be read and read for days since the single book had 112 possible endings, most of which the bunny becomes food but survival is an option a few times.
The latest work, "Thrusts of Justice," tells a completely different tale but has the same multi-ending format. This tome allows the reader to take on the character of an unemployed reporter with dreams of grandeur only to be faced with a series of decisions after an explosion booms outside a favorite bar. Yada, yada yada. Should you play it straight, become a superhero or seek world domination as a villain? There are 90 possible endings, 81 of which result in humiliating death, but all of them are fun reads. Reading the Kindle version of these books proved the rising popularity of e-book formats since readers are faced with decisions after just a few flips of their fingers. Tap a hotlink and the story continues without the need to find page numbers and stumble across alternative endings. The e-books were just so freaking fun to read and explore with Youngmark’s comic-book style illustrations and legendary writing wit. Try before you buy: You can read 70 pages of “Zombocalypse Now” free online at www.chooseomatic.com. The e-books are available for $3.99 directly from the site or through other online booksellers. Paperback versions are available through Amazon.com as well.