Bear with me; I will be filling my nerd quotient for the week with this post.
I devoured the Lone Wolf books as a kid. They were sort of a “choose your own adventure plus.” It was the same format, where you turned to different sections of the book based on whatever decision you made, but they had more rpg elements like an inventory that you could carry from book to book, special abilities, and combats done with a random number table.
It turns out the author, Joe Dever, has allowed free online distribution of the whole series at Project Aon. There is no more flipping between pages due to the wonders of hyperlinking. They even have a handy StatsKeeper program that saves your progress and automates a lot of stuff that used to involve closing your eyes and jabbing a pencil eraser at the random number table (a method not without its charm).
Sometimes when you rediscover things you loved as a kid, they turn out to be quite awful from the perspective of an adult. But Lone Wolf books are still a fun read. Sure, they have the all the tropes and cliches of the pulp fantasy novel. But the battles are paced remarkably well, and there are plenty of cool monsters. I’m a bit surprised at how violent and bloody they are at times, but that just adds to the fun.
The online version is now more like an interactive fiction game, a la Infocom. I am a bit of a fogey in this regard, but I still think that none of today’s games, with all of their fancy graphics, have ever been able to capture the atmosphere of interactive fiction. The best of these games were genuine literature, and they engaged the imagination like only good literature can. All the old games, and even a lot of new ones, can be found at the interactive fiction archive. It’s a great time-waster, and you don’t feel quite as guilty as when you vanish a day into the stimulus-response abyss of most video games. Because you are reading!