I picked up the first six Ultimate Ending books for about $20 because I was already familiar with David Kristoph from his Tales of a Dying Star
sci-fi series. I grew up when the Choose Your Own Adventure
paperbacks were popular, and I remember using little scraps of paper to denote each branching storyline so I could read every possible outcome. Doing so with a Kindle ebook is even easier!
I was already aware that the books didn’t need to be read in a particular order other than the invitation at the end of each book. Books 1, 2 & 5 were to me the most like those CYOA books of old.
Of the first six books, 4 & 6 were my least favorite, with Enigma at the Greensboro Zoo receiving my lowest star rating of the series with four stars, and Book Three was middle of the road.
The Arabian Desert of Treasures of the Forgotten City
felt like a mash-up between the movie Indiana Jones
and the game Temple Run
, with a little Laura Croft
thrown in for good measure.
Book One has more content than a few of the later books and a slightly lower price point. I was able to read every single permutation of the story in about two hours. Definitely a five-star read, and worth the purchase price for the nostalgia.
Jake was quite the character, and although Book Two kept up the fun from book one, Jake did cause the narrative to suffer. Not enough to tank the star rating, but enough to kick The House on Hollow Hill
out of the five-star territory.
Book Two is about on par with the content and expected story length. I was able to read every single permutation of the story in about seventy-five minutes. A 4.5-star read, and I suspect that readers still in high school, as the protagonist is, will enjoy it a lot.
It should come as no surprise that since I’m a fan of Kristoph’s Tales of a Dying Star
series that Book Three was the first one I read. There was a lot of fun “dying” so many times, and clicking back to try different things. Just like the CYOA books I grew up with, early decisions played a crucial role in getting to the ultimate ending, so choose wisely!
My only complaint, and what I think prevents The Ship at the Edge of Time from being a five-star read is a lack of story bulk. I was able to read every single permutation of the story in about ninety minutes. For the $3.99 price point, I would’ve expected a little more story. It’s still a 4.5-star read and reminds me of yesteryear.
Book Four seemed more like Curious George
, with the main characters sort of bumbling through the narrative, but I wanted Enigma at the Greensboro Zoo
to be more like Jurassic Park
. Although this one is one of the shorter adventures, it appeared to take more time to get through. If I recall correctly, it took me two hours to read all the permutations of this book.
Still, the fourth book in the Ultimate Ending series is worth picking up, particularly at the lower price point, because it is an excellent return to the CYOA books of yesteryear.
I mentioned when I reviewed books 1 & 2 that those plus book five were the most like the CYOA series of my youth. Of the first six books I’ve read, book five is head and shoulders above the rest. Part Haunted Mansion
and part Goosebumps
, with a dash of Beetlejuice
thrown in for good measure, The Secret of the Aurora Hotel
is what a modern version of the CYOA should be.
The price point of $3.99 initially seemed too high for the length of the content, but because the story is so fantastic, I couldn’t even raise the indignation. Since the series doesn’t need to be read in any particular order, I’d recommend reading this one before books one and two. I read book five so fast; I think I was able to read every permutation in a little over an hour. Each page demanded I keep swiping to the next page.
I need to find my ten-year-old daughter’s Kindle in her messy room so that she can read this story. She’s a fan of Goosebumps and Five Nights at Freddy’s, and I know that she, like me, will enjoy The Secret of the Aurora Hotel. Easily five stars, and the crown jewel of the series.
Book six, The Strange Physics of the Heidelberg Laboratory
, was the final book that I purchased in the Ultimate Adventure series and the last one I read. It may have been because I read all six books during a weekend, but by the time I got to book six, I was starting to feel burnt out. While these books can easily be read in rapid succession, I’d recommend breaking up reading them. Ultimate Adventure
is an excellent way to cleanse the palette between reading other long forms because you can dedicate as much time to each adventure as you want.
Do you need a long time to decompress after reading that New York Times best seller? Try to read every single permutation. It’ll take you from ninety minutes to two hours. Need a quick death before jumping into another fat tome? Don’t worry; you’ll “die” while reading Ultimate Adventure. Have a few moments before your lunch break is over? You can read a single story arc in about fifteen minutes or less.
I hope the authors, David Kristoph, and Danny McAleese expand the Ultimate Ending series, and I already saw that a seventh book is on the way. Spend the $20 and get the first six books, especially if you have reading children aged 10 – 16. Adults will appreciate the nostalgia value, and the kids will be introduced to a non-linear method of storytelling.
Here are my final thoughts on the series as a whole: I’ve spent $20 on a single paperback, and although I really enjoyed that paperback, I know I’m not getting as much content out of it compared to the Ultimate Adventure series. $20 is well spent on these throwbacks to the CYOA era in its prime. You could do a whole lot worse than this series, and I think you and/or your children will get many enjoyable reads and adventures out of this series.
Book 01: Treasures of the Forgotten City
Book 02: The House on Hollow Hill
Book 03: The Ship at the Edge of Time
Book 04: Enigma at the Greensboro Zoo
Book 05: The Secret of the Aurora Hotel
Book 06: The Strange Physics of the Heidelberg Laboratory
David Kristoph lives with his wonderful wife and two not-quite German Shepherds. He’s a fantastic reader, great videogamer, good chess player, average cyclist, and mediocre runner. He writes mostly Science Fiction and Fantasy. Check out his work if you want to help pay for his beer.
Danny McAleese started writing fantasy fiction during the golden age of Dungeons & Dragons, way back in the heady, adventure-filled days of the 1980’s. His short stories, The Exit, and Momentum, made him the Grand Prize winner of Blizzard Entertainment’s 2011 Global Fiction Writing contest. He currently lives in NY, along with his wife, four children, three dogs, and a whole lot of chaos.