CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 27. . . .March 24, 2017
Shock Wave. (Countdown to Danger).
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2017.
139 pp., trade pbk. & html, $7.99 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4431-5776-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4431-5777-3 (html).
Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.
Review by Karen Rankin.
“Everything I’m about to tell you is classified,” [agent Stacey] says. “If you share it with anyone, you’ll end up in detention.”
You don’t think she means detention like at school. You duck under the branches of a massive oak tree and keep walking. “So why are you telling me?”
“Because you need to understand how important this is. I’ve been undercover for two years, and if the next thirty minutes don’t go perfectly, it will all have been wasted.”
Ferns scrape at your legs. A gecko scampers across the path in front of you. You falter to avoid stepping on it.
“Keep moving,” Stacey says.
You push on through the darkening forest. “Undercover where?” you ask.
“At an oil-drilling platform four hundred metres off the coast. We learned about the conspiracy years ago, but we couldn’t prove anything, and I didn’t know exactly where the bomb would be until today.”
You can’t have heard her right. “Did you say bomb?”
“Seven kilograms of T4 plastic explosive,” she says. “Enough to make a crater as big as a football field when it explodes – and I now know that it’s in the cave systems right next to your campsite.”
You’re starting to think that this must be a prank. “Why would anyone want to blow up a surf camp?”
“Something dangerous is in the water.” Stacey sounds deadly serious. “I don’t know what, but it means that the company can’t do any more offshore drilling. There’s plenty of coal under this forest, so they’re going to start mining here instead.”
“But this is a national park.”
“Not if it gets blown up. Then it’s just dead land and the government will be keen to sell it off.”
“Won’t it be obvious who planted the bomb?” you ask.
“They’ve falsified evidence to make it look like a rival company did it.” Stacey checks her watch. “The bomb is scheduled to go off at sunset. I can disarm it, but– ”
She suddenly tackles you to the ground. You drop your surfboard and cry out. She clamps a hand over your mouth.
“Shhhhh,” she whispers, scanning the forest.
If you chose to take Stacey to the campsite, go to page 99.
If you’ve been leading her to the lookout, go to page 110.
As per the above excerpt, Shock Wave, part of the “Countdown To Danger” series, hinges on the premise that a huge bomb is about to detonate very shortly near a kids’ surf camp. Whether or not it actually does, and whether or not ‘you’ survive, depends entirely on the choices one makes given each opportunity. Some choices result in a quick end (i.e., ‘your’ death) to the story. Others choices keep the story going longer, and, of course, some result in ‘your’ survival at the conclusion of the story. In any case, readers are always encouraged to go back, either to where they made their poor choice in order to try again, or – if they survived – to find all 13 ways that would have ensured finishing the adventure alive. Should they follow these instructions, readers will have – amongst other things – brief death-defying rides on a surfboard and a helicopter’s rope-ladder, a chance to steer a hovercraft, and an opportunity to learn a bit about sharks and crocodiles while trying to out-manoeuver them, as well as the physics of explosions and hot-air balloons.
The reader’s first choice is to pick whether ‘you’ are male or female. Once that’s established, this interactive fiction continues with exactly the same choices for either “Seth” or “Leah.” The story is entirely plot-driven; however, the author’s use of second person narration sucked this reader into the near non-stop action. Shock Wave would especially appeal to reluctant readers.
Karen Rankin is a Toronto, ON, teacher and writer of children’s stories.
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