Journey Under the Sea was the second title in the iconic Choose Your Own Adventure series of gamebooks published by Bantam Books beginning in 1979. It was written by R. A. Montgomery – who was the founder of Vermont Crossroads Press – the company wise enough to see the potential in Edward Packard’s Adventures of You series of books. It all began with Packard’s idea of letting readers have a choice in how the adventure played out starting with his first manuscript entitled The Adventures of You on Sugar Cane Island. R. A. Montgomery didn’t just think the idea was a good one as he ended up joining Packard in writing books for the Adventures of You series – starting with Journey Under the Sea which appears to have been originally published in 1977. Bantam Books when they purchased the rights to the series would go on to republish the four original books from Vermont Crossroads Press – The Cave of Time, Journey Under the Sea, By Balloon to the Sahara, as well as Space and Beyond.
Raymond Almiran Montgomery, Jr. graduated Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts before attending graduate school at Yale and then New York University. He would write over 50 books in the Choose Your Own Adventure series – I am sad to say though that Montgomery passed away back in 2014. However he did along with his partner, Shannon Gilligan end up forming a new company called Chooseco LLC. in 2003 after Bantam Books had ceased publication of the Choose Your Own Adventure line of books. Which appears to have focused on republishing many of the books that Montgomery had penned for the Bantam series of interactive fiction.
Journey Under the Sea was illustrated by Paul Granger who as I previously mentioned in the first entry in the Choose Your Own Adventure articles was a pseudonym for artist Don Hedin – perhaps best known for his work with Reader’s Digest, where he would eventually become Art Director.
Fun fact, if you count Journey Under the Sea‘s original publication, Hedin was the second artist to work on the book – with Barbara Carter providing artwork for the Vermont Crossroads Press edition of the book. However Catherine Huerta has been credited for the cover artwork on the Bantam Book – with Sittisan Sundarave providing the cover artwork and Kriangsak Thongmoon supplying interior illustrations for the 2005 reissue – which I assume is from Chooseco LLC.
Personally I am more fond of Hedin’s artwork but that probably has quite a bit to do with the fact that I grew up looking at his artwork.
Journey Under the Sea was yet again a book I first encountered in my grade school library – after The Cave of Time kept disappearing, the school librarian’s quickly put the Choose Your Own Adventure series on lockdown, you could read them to your heart’s content but you couldn’t check them out. As always the hook on the back of the cover totally makes you want to dive straight into the book itself:
“You are an underwater explorer. In the deepest ocean, you have accidentally been shut out of your special underwater vessel! Luckily you have friends above you in a boat. But can they save you in time? As they begin pulling you up you get dizzy and your arms and legs start to feel weak, you are exhausted! Then you see a dolphin heading towards you. You know that these marvelous mammals sometimes help people in trouble.
If you want help from the dolphin, turn to page 34.
If you decide to swim on alone, turn to page 37.”
In Journey Under the Sea as in some of the offerings from Choose Your Own Adventure books you do not take on the role of a child or teenager – but an adult. Piloting a minisub known as the Seeker – with the crew of the research vessel the Maray keeping in radio contact with you as you sink beneath the waves. Your actions right off the bat result in either damage to the Seeker forcing you to contend with a giant squid and the bends – or investigating a grotto which houses a submarine reported lost in the Bermuda Triangle… 2000 miles away!
Quickly the reader can find themselves gaining the unwanted attention of sharks or investigating the mysteries of the City of Atlantis. Of course exploring the depths of the ocean floor provides ample opportunities to find not fame and fortune but horrible fates – like when the 13-foot long sea snake darts out from behind a wrecked vessel to bite you and inject it’s deadly poison into your veins!
Although I found it quite interesting that with the 42 possible endings in Journey Under the Sea the Author provided a few opportunities to return to the adventure – when elements force you to retreat to the safety of the Maray. Although having said that I need to point out that R. A. Montgomery provided some interesting endings if the reader decides to call it quits after a particular harrowing adventure.
“With great sorrow, you decide that it is wisest to leave the expedition now. You can’t risk returning to the great depths below. So, you reluctantly return to the United States. You are invited to tell of your adventures on several major television shows. While on one such show, a special new flash announces to the World the discovery of Atlantis. You regret your decision, but you didn’t really have choice. Did you?”
Ouch, although reading this adventure as an adult – I don’t know, I think the appearance of Atlanteans offering you the choice of becoming a permanent inhabitant of their special zoo or undergoing an operation to have gills inserted… is rather a daunting choice!
The popularity of not just Journey Under the Sea but those original Choose Your Own Adventure Series cannot be overstated. By August of 1982 this book had been reprinted by Bantam Books a total of ten times. Granted this was helped by their availability through the Scholastic Press book club or Troll or my favorite, The Weekly Reader. I have vivid memories of pouring over those order forms – which no doubt helped to sell out entire prints of the books – I know that originally that was how I obtained my own copies.
Of course as has been written on the Retroist more than a few times by my fellow writers – Choose Your Adventure books helped spawn a myriad series of interactive fiction choices – from TSR’s Endless Quest or TwistAPlot to Find Your Fate Adventure books featuring Indiana Jones!
I look forward to hearing your memories of any of these classic series in the comments section.