October 1, 2012 by raconteurmagazine
By Nate Bradley
‘Choose your own adventure’ is a concept that is well known to most readers. Perhaps you harbour fond memories from childhood. Perhaps you half-guiltily still cling to a couple of these books well into your adult life. Maybe you’re wishing you were reading one right now. If the latter applies to you, then you could do much worse than to pick up a copy of Margaret Killjoy’s ‘What Lies Beneath The Clock Tower’.
Differing from the majority of it’s choose-your-own brethren, ‘Clock Tower’ strays from a typical fantasy setting, replacing medieval kingdoms with Victorian France. The setting is certainly the initial appeal here and anyone with an interest in Steam Punk will inevitably hear of it.
The adventure starts with you assuming the role of a rascal named Gregory. Gregory is the caretaker of a clock tower and, whilst writing letters one night, is disturbed by a mysterious sound. What follows is a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek underground adventure where the player will encounter Goblins, Gnomes, and strange subterranean bat-like creatures. With this being an adventure which in which you choose your own story, you can find yourself in a multitude of scenarios. I played/read through the adventure several times. I joined a revolution. I tried to assassinate a blind bat-KGB. I became the exhibit in a zoo. I did so much and still didn’t make my way through every available path.
My first worry when I started to read the book was that it would be a little too childish for me to really get involved in. If this would worry you, fear not. There are many adult themes here. In one of my read-through’s I was quickly killed after I decided to go and drink a bizarre drug with a skinny nude giant. I certainly don’t remember any such situation from the ‘choose your own’ books I read as a younger chap.
My main complaint with the book was that it seemed to try a little too hard to hurry you down a specific path. Most notably at the beginning, if you don’t go down the path which the author deems to be the ‘right one’ you will find yourself dead within a few pages. Whilst it does indeed open up as the story progresses, meaning your choices become increasingly meaningful, I did find it initially challenging. It was difficult for me to muster up the will to try again after I had taken two out of three possible decisions and died each time.
If you have ever enjoyed flicking back and forth through a book where the narrative is not fixed, or if you simply enjoy a Victoriana/Steam Punk setting, ‘What Lies Beneath The Clock Tower’ is a book that you should certainly try. If you can navigate the frustrating beginning, which is more ‘choose this adventure’ than ‘choose your own’, there is an engaging, entertaining and funny set of stories for you to lose yourself in.