I was a bit daunted when our Entertainment Editor asked me to review Jeff Burk's newest book, Super Giant Monster Time. The name itself makes me want to read it, but I wasn't sure how to handle reviewing a choose-your-own-adventure book, especially one written by such an absurd and irreverent author as Burk. He's the guy whose previous epic, Shatnerquake, featured at least fifteen different versions of William Shatner doing battle with each other. When I spoke with him last year, he was very excited for Super Giant Monster Time.
Now I can see why.
The book begins with alien spaceships approaching our planet. The book allows you to choose a character -- a punk girl, an office worker or a scientist -- and then choose their path through the story. Then the insanity truly begins.
I chose the office worker to start. My character was at his desk when a space lobster attacked. After a few choices, I got stuck in a loop. The office worker worked on TPS reports, got up for coffee, then went back for reports, then went back for coffee. Go to page 97. Go to page 20. Go to page 161. Go to page 116. Go to page 161. Go to page 20. The loop was so smoothly written that I didn't notice that I was repeating the same steps for five minutes.
Damn you, Jeff Burk. You got me.
I tried the punk next, getting caught in a bar fight and then crushed to death by a gargantuan baby. I tried another punk path and got trapped in a sex shop with the city's bizarre residents. The choices given to the reader seem to always be between bizarre extremes, but always funny ones. Sometimes the humour is more low-brow, other times it's more wacky and absurdist.
I chose another path for the office worker, got transformed into an emo scene kid by an alien ray gun and was crushed to death by a giant carrot. My experiment as the scientist involved a giant robot samurai.
The strength of Super Giant Monster Time is Burk's adventure-centered attitude. Each story path is unique and bizarre, but carries with it a wonderful sense of fun. Individual character choices are uniquely tailored to that character, but each choice leads to a wonderfully absurd ending.
The office worker himself had one strand of choices that lead to six different endings, each a masterpiece of perverse humour skewering a different part of society. Office workers do reports. Punks fight people in bars. Scientists do wacky things. These choices are more of an aside to the "main" story, but each funnels back and allows the reading experience to flow.
Once you get beyond the gimmick of the book, Super Giant Monster Time is still an expertly-written, taut thriller. It just happens to have giant monsters wreaking havoc and really insane characters and plot twists. For those in the mood for a fun, off-beat reading experience, it might just be Super Giant Monster Time.