For the fourth title released by Bantam Book in their Choose Your Own Adventure series – it was 1980’s Space and Beyond by R. A. Montgomery. If you’ve been following this series of articles you are probably already aware that Montgomery besides being one of the Authors for the interactive fiction line of books – he also was one of the co-founders of what would become Choose Your Own Adventure – along with Edward Packard. Montgomery actually started off as Packard’s publisher when the book series was called The Adventures of You at Vermont Crossroads Press. The first book entitled The Adventures of You on Sugarcane Island sold 8000 copies – which for such a small publisher was pretty incredible to say the least. Thankfully for all of us fans of these iconic gamebooks, Montgomery realized that they could do even better if they quite frankly had a larger publisher – which is exactly what happened when the duo were able to sell the concept to Bantam Books in January of 1979. Space and Beyond was originally published in January of 1980 and immediately sold out and required a second printing that very month – with 12 reprints for it occurring between 1980 and August of 1982.
The artist for Space and Beyond was series regular, Paul Granger – who was actually Don Hedin, who besides selling his artwork to Reader’s Digest would become it’s Art Director. Hedin even would be sent on assignment across the World – producing paintings for the U.S. Air Force that are now in the Air Force collection in Washington, D.C. For the first 12 printings of the book, it was Granger’s artwork that graced the cover of the book – although it was David B. Mattingly that provided the cover for the 90’s reissue of Space and Beyond.
There were other versions to be sure – the Australian cover artwork was done by Marc McBride. Interestingly enough the original publication mentions you can reach 44 possible endings while reading through the book – however, the Australian version clearly states that there are 41 possible endings. As to which 3 endings were excised I’m not sure – I couldn’t find anything online about it either.
As usual, the hook presented on the back cover of the book had you itching to tear into and find out what your fate would be:
“You were born on a spaceship traveling between galaxies. An experienced intergalactic adventurer, you are now on a mission to a distant planet. Suddenly on your screen you see an alien spacecraft – like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Will the aliens be hostile or friendly? There isn’t much time. Should you fight and hope to drive them off, or just go quietly with them? Here they come!
If you decide to go willingly, turn to p. 20.
If you decide to fight, turn to p. 22.”
And let me tell you something, friends, compared to the endings you can reach in the other three Choose Your Own Adventure books we’ve taken a look at so far – Space and Beyond kind of plays it fast and loose. I was finding myself suddenly at the ending of the story very quickly – over and over again. I became a time traveler and experienced not only the future but the past – uncovering a book that reveals the past lives you’ve had for the last 6 million years. On one readthrough I found myself thrust back in time where I found myself in the body of a Velociraptor trying to escape an angry and quite hungry T-Rex. Another fate ended with me become a negotiator for a peace between two warring factions of aliens.
I also found myself a visitor to Earth of long ago – where an unlucky encounter with both a student and politician ended up with myself becoming a prisoner, a test subject and oddity for the rest of my days. Then there was a readthrough where I became and intergalactic and quite successful pirate…at least for a little while.
Space and Beyond was the first Choose Your Own Adventure book that I’ve revisited that didn’t hold up – there were still some incredibly great moments and Granger’s art is always a treat. It’s just that overall it didn’t seem like it gelled properly. Having said that though – I cannot say I wasn’t entertained overall – it was indeed fun to revisit this book after so many years.
Now for the first dozen or so Choose Your Own Adventure books – I have pretty solid memories of when I first encountered them at my grade school. Besides Who Killed Harlowe Thrombey? I can’t say I have a more memorable experience burned into my brain than with Space and Beyond. In the past articles I’ve pointed out that after The Cave of Time the popularity of the books forced the librarians to put the series on the DO NOT LEND list – because the kids were reporting them as lost. So you could read Space and Beyond to you hearts content but only within the library – which I did frequently. However with this particular Choose Your Own Adventure book something happened… something bad – I found myself being accused of stealing the book.
As a kid besides having to go the Doctor can you think of anything more terrifying than the intercom crackling with a request you go immediately to the Principal’s office? When I walked in I was escorted to Mr. Hannah and even more surprising was the fact the head librarian was there too. I’ll try to make a long story short – the head librarian saw me reading Space and Beyond that morning before classes started – after placing the book on the return cart and leaving for class the book went missing. After searching my backpack and swearing my innocence – I was still given a note by Mr. Hannah to give to my Father – one that basically said that not only did my Father have to pay for the book but I had to write a formal apology. However, it turns out that the assistant librarian saw something that the head librarian had not – after I left another student had come in – and was gone almost as quickly. It was this student who had obviously taken the book and quite frankly after the head librarian was told – this young girl was sent to the Principal’s office too and broke down and admitted she stole the book. So not only did Mr. Hannah come to my classroom and tell me all this in person out in the hallway – he apologized – as did the head librarian the next morning… and better yet she made me a caramel apple, which I got to eat in the library for breakfast.
As always I look forward to reading about your own memories with the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books – leave them in the comment section!