The first of the Scott Adams Adventures, this computer game, a text adventure, was written by Scott Adams in 1978, and then published by his company, Adventure International, in 1979.

The object of the game is to acquire 13 treasures and return them to a specific location. The way you control the actions of the game is through a command line. The game can accept two-word noun-verb type commands, such as "GO CAVE" or "GET MUD". The terseness and limited vocabulary of the game could get frustrating, but Adams made a tradeoff. Better parsers required more space, and that would have severly limited the size of the game, given the primitive computers of the time.

The package blurb reads as follows:

You wander through an enchanted world trying to recover the 13 lost treasures. You'll encounter wild animals, magical beings, and many other perils and puzzles. Can you rescue the Blue Ox from the quicksand? Or find your way out of the maze of pits? Happy Adventuring...

This game was one of the first commercial computer games. Now you can play this game for free. There are Java versions on the web, or you can download the game binary and the ScottFree interpreter from the Interactive Fiction Archive. Scott Adams retains the copyright, but allows distribution. He does ask for donations.


Hints

Here are the hints that can help you if you get stuck. I find it interesting that Adams wrote the questions very tersely, much like the text of the game itself, even though it was unnecessary here.

Read the questions until you get to where you are stuck. The numbers underneath refer to the dictionary listed at the end. Match each number with its associated word and you'll find an Adventure clue or solution!

  1. Stuck in the forest?
    • 4 71 40 11 142 56 22 122
  2. More help for above problem.
    • 137 148
  3. Solution to above problem.
    • 80 5
  4. Can not find where to store your treasures?
    • 137 40 57 148 56 40 8
  5. More help for above problem.
    • 138 40 145
  6. Solution to above problem.
    • 106 46 40 57 148 150 102 40 54
  7. Can not catch the fish?
    • 43 44 75 133 96 103 49 40 38
  8. More help for above problem.
    • 22 73 71 86 31
  9. Solution to above problem.
    • 138 40 6 49 77 126 40 73
  10. Can not wake the dragon?
    • 85 63 123 61 56 40 141 72 58 34 109 49 40 62 118 75 13
  11. More help for above problem.
    • 151 71 56 40 90
  12. Solution to above problem.
    • 67
  13. Is it too dark to see?
    • 102 35 81
  14. More help for above problem.
    • 138 40 116 126 82 126 94 20 54
  15. Solution to above problem.
    • 135 40 78 108 116 126 82
  16. Stuck in the pit?
    • 75 139 3
  17. More help with above problem.
    • 87 40 3 95 108 40 42 142
  18. Solution to above problem.
    • 87 114 115 121 66 91
  19. Can not get the ox out of the bog?
    • 75 139 3
  20. More help for above problem.
    • 26 71 98 9 126 100 52 45 138 100 129
  21. Solution to above problem.
    • 87 53 121 66 145 126 9 126 89 105 59
  22. Brick wall a problem?
    • 10 145 32 26
  23. More help for above problem.
    • 147 26 125
  24. Solution to above problem.
    • 65 83 108 8 132 126 147 125 40 19 108 26
  25. Need to cross a chasm?
    • 26 71 50 70 55 16 80 30 26
  26. More help for above problem.
    • 113 75 58 1 26
  27. Solution to above problem.
    • 144
  28. Bear a problem?
    • 112 71 60
  29. More help for above problem.
    • 75 104 24 22 124 28 56 40 90
  30. Solution to above problem.
    • 111 90 61 91
  31. Bear still using up a treasure?
    • 25 13 75 143 47 32 88
  32. More help for above problem.
    • 152 84 117 126 101
  33. Solution to above problem.
    • 2 32 40 92
  34. Bees a problem?
    • 85 16 110 16 56 36 48
  35. More help for above problem.
    • 75 139 99 20 40 8
  36. Solution to above problem.
    • 93 15
  37. Mud dries up a lot?
    • 130 26 79
  38. More help for above problem.
    • 93 77
  39. Solution to above problem.
    • 93 6 49 77
  40. Lava a problem?
    • 90 71 41 30 29 134
  41. More help for above problem.
    • 127 20 40 19
  42. Solution to above problem.
    • 27 7 108 68 127
  43. Dragon still snoring?
    • 138 90 30 22 151
  44. More help for above problem.
    • 147 125 40 140 12 21 71 23 28
  45. Solution to above problem.
    • 67
  46. Bees dying on you?
    • 138 39 97
  47. More help for above problem.
    • 6 40 67 126 138 3
  48. Solution to above problem.
    • 138 40 91 126 107 149 22 81 40 6
  49. Missing some diamond treasures?
    • 40 78
  50. More help for above problem.
    • 17 74 16 12 50 51 33 119
  51. Solution to above problem.
    • 131 78 115
  52. Missing a crown?
    • 76 64 22 37 136
  53. More help for above problem.
    • 26 71 69 40 92
  54. Solution to above problem.
    • 80 18 14 146 128 92 120 61

Dictionary

 1 MAKE              40 THE              79 MOIST            118 THINGS
 2 YELL              41 GOOD             80 GO               119 NOW
 3 MAGIC             42 RIGHT            81 HOLE             120 WAS
 4 WHAT              43 WAIT             82 STEEL            121 WHILE
 5 EAST              44 UNTIL            83 BLADDER          122 FOREST
 6 BOTTLE            45 SO               84 YOUR             123 LATER
 7 LAVA              46 DOWN             85 TRY              124 BETTER
 8 SWAMP             47 MAD              86 VERY             125 UP
 9 OX                48 HIVE             87 SAY              126 AND
 10 THROW            49 OF               88 SOMEONE          127 BRICKS
 11 MAIN             50 NOT              89 SEARCH           128 LEDGE
 12 BUT              51 TOO              90 MIRROR           129 TOOL
 13 DO               52 GROVE            91 RUG              130 KEEP
 14 ROOM             53 BUNYON           92 BEAR             131 RUB
 15 MUD              54 STUMP            93 CARRY            132 GAS
 16 -                55 FAR              94 SOMETHING        133 HAVE
 17 REMEMBER         56 IN               95 WORD             134 CLUES
 18 THRONE           57 CYPRESS          96 GOTTEN           135 LIGHT
 19 WALL             58 CAN              97 TRANSPORTATION   136 BELONG
 20 FROM             59 GROUND           98 PAUL'S           137 CLIMB
 21 THERE            60 HUNGRY           99 PROTECTION       138 USE
 22 A                61 ON               100 HIS             139 NEED
 23 ANOTHER          62 LAST             101 ...             140 DRAGON
 24 FIND             63 AGAIN            102 ENTER           141 ADVENTURE
 25 HOW              64 DOES             103 OUT             142 OBJECT
 26 IT               65 FILL             104 WILL            143 GET
 27 DAM              66 HOLDING          105 ABOVE           144 JUMP
 28 WAY              67 BEES             106 CHOP            145 AX
 29 MANY             68 FIRE             107 OR              146 BY
 30 FOR              69 NEAR             108 WITH            147 BLOW
 31 HANDY            70 THAT             109 ONE             148 TREE
 32 AT               71 IS               110 HELP            149 PUNCH
 33 GREEDY           72 THIS             111 DROP            150 THEN
 34 BE               73 NET              112 HE              151 CLUE
 35 BOTTOMLESS       74 ALADIN           113 REALLY          152 LOSE
 36 BEE              75 YOU              114 AWAY           
 37 CROWN            76 WHERE            115 TWICE          
 38 PITS             77 WATER            116 FLINT          
 39 FASTER           78 LAMP             117 TEMPER         


Walkthrough

Only use this if you're absolutely stuck, or for entertainment value after you've finished the game. This walkthough is anonymous, and was downloaded from the Interactive Fiction Archive.

Here you stand in a forest, about to start your adventure. Move along East, and tiptoe past the sleeping dragon. Go East again to the lake. Get the axe >leave the fish for now, since you have no way of getting them yet>, then head North into the quicksand bog. Pick up the blue ox >WOW! A treasure already!>, then say the magic word on the axe. Gee, where did everything go? Well, look at it this way: at least you can "Swim" back to the lake.

Now go South to the bottomless hole. Carefully "Go Hole," and pick up the flint and steel. Go up >easy, it's a long way down!>. Then it's West into the swamp, and West again to the hidden grove. Surprise! There's the axe and the ox, along with another treasure. Get everthing, and go back East. Climb the tree, get the keys, and climb down again. Now, "Chop Tree." Drop the axe >you won't need it again>, get the mud, then, "Go Stump." Once inside the stump, drop the mud, ox and fruit. Go down to the root chamber, pick up the rubies, then go up and drop them off. Easy, isn't it?

Okay, time for more treasures. Get the lamp and rub it twice. Each time you rub the lamp, a genie appears and leaves a treasure. Just make sure you don't rub it more than two times, or the genie will come out and *TAKE AWAY* a treasure! >Can't win the game that way!> Now, go down into the root chamber, and "Go Hole." Open the door and drop the keys. Light the lamp >it's dark up ahead>, and "Go Hall." Then continue down to the cavern. From the cavern, trek South and pick up the bladder. Now it's time for a return trip, so move along North, then up until you're out of the stump and back in the swamp again >by the way, any time the chiggers chomp on you, just get the mud, then drop it again. Also, "Unlight Lamp" when you get back to the root chamber...energy conservation helps!>. "Get Gas," then "Go Stump."

Now head back down to the cavern >remember to light the lamp before going into the hallway!>, then go South and up. Drop the bladder and "Ignite Gas." *BOOOOM!* You just blew a hole in the bricked-up window. "Go Hole," then jump >don't worry, you can make it to the other side safely>. Ummmm, hello, bear! Well, he doesn't look too mean, but it's better not to take any chances, so "Yell." As the startled bear falls down towards the bottom of the chasm, pick up the magic mirror >carefully, it's *VERY* fragile!>, then "Go Throne." Grab the crown and go West to the ledge. Jump over again, then West. Pick up the fire bricks on your way out >heavy stuff, but you'll be needing them soon>, and go down and North. After that, make your way up again to the treasure room in the stump.

Drop off *ONLY* the crown. *DO NOT* drop the mirror! Okay, now get the bottle of water, and go down again. This time, drop the flint just before you go into the hallway. Go down to the cavern, and from there, down again into the maze of pits. From the "Opposite of Light" sign, go down, West, and down. Pick up the rug, then go down again and you're at the bottom of the chasm. "Build Dam," then drop the remaining bricks >you had a few left over>. "Look Lava," and there's a firestone. It's still pretty hot, so "Pour Water." Now get the stone and the golden net. Hmmmm, but how to get out of here? Well, that sign might help. "Say Away" twice and, voila! you're in the meadow again >ahhh! fresh air!>. Unlight the lamp, then go South >to the swamp> and over to the stump.

Drop the firestone, the rug, and the mirror. Make sure that you drop the rug *BEFORE* you drop the mirror! >Otherwise, seven years of bad luck and you won't be able to finish the game!> Now, get out of the stump, go East to the hole, and North to the lake. "Get Water," then "Get Fish" >can't get them without the net, you see>. Return to the stump, and drop off the fish and the net, in that order. Pick up the mud, and head back down to the cavern. Remember to get the flint and light the lamp before entering the hallway!

Once in the cavern, go North. At this point, you should save the game. Up ahead are the African bees, which you will need to get rid of the dragon. Unfortunately, this part of the game seems to be random, and sometimes the bees will suffocate and die before you can bring them out. I have never found a surefire method for keeping the bees alive, so save the game here and hope you won't have to restore it too many times! >If anyone does find a way to keep the bees alive, please let me know!> Okay, now that the game is saved, go North again. Get the honey, pour out the water, and get the bees. >If the bees sting you, and you find yourself in limbo, either restore your saved game or "Go Up" to return to life in the outdoors.>

Once you have the bees, head back South to the cavern, then all the way back up to the swamp. If the mud hasn't fallen off yet, drop it here before going on >the dragon *HATES* the smell of mud, and will most certainly kill you if you go near her with it -- yes, *HER*!>. All right, now head North and "Drop Bees." The dragon will become annoyed and fly away, leaving behind some precious and rare eggs. Pick up the eggs, then return to the stump. Drop the eggs and the honey, then say "Score."

*** YIPPPPEEEE! ***

You did it!! >Whew! You deserve to take some time out now and relax! But wait...could that be a pirate flag I see on the horizon...?>

Sources:
http://www.ifarchive.org/
http://www.msadams.com
http://www.if-legends.org/~aimemorial/aland.html

  • The movie.
  • The amusement park.
  • Disney, exotica, and racism.

  • 1. We'll start with the movie.

    "We pay little Malaysian kids 10 cents a day to make these toys. We can't just give them away."
    --Joel, defending the fact that the games are rigged.

    At some point, while you're still young, you'll probably have a summer where you fall in an approximation of love, wonder where your life is heading, and do some problematic things. This fact has inspired whole genres of films. They tend to be formulaic and uneven. In the early 2000s, they often feature Michael Cera or Jesse Eisenberg.

    Adventureland fared poorly at the box office, despite a fair critical reception. Writer-director Greg Mottola's previous film had been a hit, and the studio marketed this one like Superbadder: the Sequel. It's not. Not even close. This is, I suspect, the film he wanted to make, but he needed a salable teen hit first. Superbad, with its crude gags and teen comedy retreads, sold. Adventureland plays as a more personal, introspective bildungsroman, with slightly darker undertones than most youth-market comedies choose to acknowledge. It has laughs and bad behavior, but plausible characters drive the action, and they don't always get what they want.

    Summer has come. It's 1987. Instead of the usual spoiled teenagers, played by twenty-somethings and engaging in behavior typical of the immediate post-teen years, we have actual early twenty-somethings, engaging in behavior typical of the late teens.

    James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) plays, of course, a lovable and sensitive nerd who has just completed his degree in literature and plans to travel Europe before doing a Masters at Columbia University. Unfortunately, the plan rather depends upon his parents' money, and they have a lot less of it than they once did. Since his degree hasn't prepared him for financial success, the rather naïve Brennan gets a job running games at a nearby amusement park. His affable personality and a sizable stash of weed allow him to make friends with the obligatory group of colourful characters, including his deranged childhood friend Frigo (Matt Bush), full-time underachiever Joel (Martin Starr), too-slick techie Mike (Ryan Reynolds), party girl Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva— a cross between the younger Madonna and Eliza Dushku), and strong-willed but high-maintenance games girl Em (Kristen Stewart). Presiding over the misfits are assistant managers Paulette (Kristen Wiig) and Bobby (Bill Hader).

    James Brennan falls for Em. Em likes him, but she's having a secret affair with married Mike. Lisa P., meanwhile, recognizes Brennan as the best of a dubious lot. The film develops in fairly predictable ways that have some grounding in passable reality and established personalities. Let's face it. Unsettled people often work stupid jobs. Scam artists infest second-rate amusement parks. Attractive people often get hit on and some can't resist turning sleazy. People who wouldn't have spent much time together in high school frequently interact once high school ends. Aimless people often make stupid decisions which have long-term consequences they didn't expect. Our characters have all found themselves in dead end jobs for reasons, and most of them could give you those reasons, if you insisted on asking. Mike the Techie recognizes he works the one place he can look cool. Lisa P. loves the fact of male attention; she doesn't have much else in her life just now. Em recognizes she's doing something that will hurt her and those she loves; she does it anyway. And we should all see that, likable though he may be, Brennan's substance abuse and character weaknesses will cost him. Adventureland charges admission; the characters will bear the debt for some time.

    We're not just getting laughs here, though the movie provides a few along the way. Most of these reside in small character moments and lazily witty banter. Joel's defense (quoted at the start of this review) for rigging the games comes to mind. Much of the humour only works in context. When the film strays into Superbad territory, it turns for the worse. I'm still not certain what to make of Frigo, an annoying comic character whose presence in this film only moderately pays off.

    Other performances help carry the movie when the script weakens. Eisenberg and Stewart have the laconic chemistry we'd expect from this sort of relationship. I believed in them; I just didn't expect fireworks. Neither does she. Brennan has his hopes, but he clearly lags behind his chronological age. Bill Hader turns in a near-perfect as the manager who has grown to accept and enjoy his cut-rate lot in life. You only have stuffed-banana prizes to give away at the season's end? Add eyes and eye-patches and make pirate bananas!

    A note-perfect late-eighties soundtrack propels the lack of action, with period gems from Crowded House, David Bowie, New York Dolls, and others. Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus" plays repeatedly over the park's loudspeaker because no stroll around an old-school midway in the latter half of the twentieth century would be complete without the repetitive, loud blare of the specific era's most idiotic and overplayed songs.

    The film has more than a little wish-fulfillment. Brennan is a Mary Sue replaying his creator's misspent late youth/early adulthood, hitting more of the right notes this time. The outlook for some of the characters remains uncertain, yet the film also nods to happier times to come. I found Adventureland passably entertaining, but I think its premise, in this relatively untapped setting, could have produced a better movie.

    Mottola worked at New York's Adventureland when he was younger. He didn't film there; the venerable park had changed too much since his day, and I doubt the owners were pleased with his depiction of the seedy inner workings. No, they staged much of Adventureland on location at another American amusement institution, Kennywood. But the original Adventureland still does business.


    2. The Amusement Park

    Back in the 80s, Rolling Stone ran a piece on the anniversary of the Roller Coaster. I don’t have the issue, so I cannot quote directly. The author linked the decline of the roller coaster to the decline of the traditional American sleazy amusement park, with street thugs and losers for employees and rides with names like the "Whirl 'n' Puke." In its place, we've erected theme parks with Presbyterian attendants, names like "Crustacean World," and "wimpy rides" that explain the science behind crystal formation.1

    Forget Disney, for now. Adventureland is the more traditional sort of park, though it dates to the theme park era.

    Actually, there have been several parks bearing the name. One ran in Illinois from 1961 to 1977. One opened in '73 and continues to run in Iowa, not far from Des Moines. This century witnessed the opening of an Adventureland in (where else?) Dubai. However, the Adventureland that inspired the 2009 film saw its first customers in 1962, in East Farmingdale, New York.

    It began modestly. Entrepreneurs Alvin Cohen and Herb Budin purchased several acres and started with a few rides, an arcade, a restaurant, and miniature golf. Over the years, various owners expanded the park with the typical range of rides and games. They even landed the antique automobile ride from the New York World's Fair of ’64-65. Inevitably, themed areas opened, such as Pirate's Cove. Roller Coasters went up and, in the 1990s, a lot of water park rides. It has shown more staying power and adaptability than many other such parks, and one imagines it will survive for some time. Adventureland remakes itself into the typical park of the day. In addition to the eponymous film, it has also appeared in Sweet Liberty (1986) and Music and Lyrics (2007).

    Another Adventureland lures tourists to exotic lands in the prototype of the contemporary theme park, Disneyland.


    3. Disney, exotica, and racism

    I've been to a Disney park once, when I was twelve. The American bicentennial was in full swing. Dad and Mom packed us into the car and we drove across the Ontario-Michigan border and to the American west, taking in the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, San Francisco, Yellowstone Park, and Mount Rushmore. Along the way we saw a zillion small towns (we ate in one that had a population of 100), Las Vegas (a Strip drive-through only), our California relatives, and Disneyland.

    By ’76 the park had expanded quite a bit, but it hadn't been remade. I saw pretty much the park Walt designed, a collection of American fantasies which we all shared. Main Street U.S.A. wasn't just nostalgia; it was nostalgia we could still touch. It represented the world my mother's parents reminisced about, shown in an impossibly fair light (my father's parents, Italian immigrants, had a different history). Fantasyland was the faerie tales we read, once upon a time before children's books cared to be multicultural. Tomorrowland was the Future we fully expected would some day arrive, the slick, smooth place where people in tights would reach for the stars in rockets with fins. Frontierland brought to life the American west we all recollected from Gunsmoke episodes and John Wayne movies, with some tips of the coonskin cap to Davy Crockett and tipples to Mark Twain.

    Adventureland was the Jungle: Mowgli's India, the Dark Continent of Africa, and uncharted desert isles. Here there be the tikis and tropical birds of 1950s exotica. We were experiencing those foreign lands as the movies had shown them, a blend of mysterious places with jungles and wild animals and brown people. When the park was built it hadn't occurred to the mainstream how racist this casual blending of disparate cultures and geographies could seem. It was only just occurring to us then.

    It didn't occur to me at all, when I was twelve. I grew up watching American media; the blend made sense. A row of hut-like building sold third world-style crafts. The Tiki Birds sang-- one of them had a funny Mexican accent. We toured the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse; my sister loved that film when she was a kid. It was a pure vision of something we would ultimately find tainted, the tropics, romanticized through Imperalist eyes and then rendered cutesy by Disney.

    The Walt Disney Corporation has remade this land. First they incorporated elements from a variety of successful Disney films, whether they suited the Jungle theme or not: Aladdin, for example. The Swiss Family Robinson's treehouse became Tarzan's, at least for a time. More recently, Disney acquired the rights to reference Indiana Jones, and made the land more of a 1930s colonial fantasy, justifying Disney's original conception with a splash of irony.

    Other Disney Adventurelands have had their own flavours. The Walt Disney World Adventureland at first emphasized the Polynesian, but now runs from Caribbean to Aladdin's Arabia. Tokyo Disneyland includes the usual tropical attractions, but it also exotifies America, with elements of New Orleans and Hawaii. Euro-Disneyland takes its cue from European Colonialism, with a Moroccan/Indian feel. Hong Kong Disneyland apparently sticks mainly to The Jungle.2 Western fantasies now belong to the world. The roots and vines of the original spread far.

    I bought a wallet there, a leather thing with minor faux tribal markings. It did service until, I think, the end of eighth grade. I couldn't tell you what happened to it.

    We put some things aside, or we try. Adventureland looms in our future, when we're children and, for the rest of our life, it haunts our past.



    Notes

    1. If you have the article in question, let me know, and I'll replace my half-recollections with actual quotations and credit the author, whose charming description nailed the dominant types of amusement parks.

    2. My description of the newer Disney parks relies heavily on their own official sites, Wiki, and my friend Singularity Girl, who has an unreasonable love of all things Disney.

Adventureland is a 2009 dramedy directed by Greg Mottola. Though it was advertised as if it were a spiritual sequel to Mottola's previous hit film Superbad, the movie is actually very different in tone. Unlike Superbad's Hollywood-style portrayal of teenage love, Adventureland goes for a more realistic approach, with characters who feel like they're genuinely fumbling and a more bittersweet conclusion. Poorly received at the box office, the movie is actually much better than most people give it credit for; I think the shoddy reception is due mostly to the aforementioned marketing, which gave the wrong impression and set up false expectations for the entirely wrong audience. If you're coming in expecting a goofy flick to watch when you're drunk, you'll be sorely disappointed, as the jokes in Adventureland are few and far between -- but the film has an earnest honesty to it that makes it very powerful when you're in the right mood.

Jesse Eisenberg stars as James Brennan, a shy, introspective nerd who plans on going to grad school after the summer. But after the unexpected job loss of his father, Brennan finds himself taking up a summer job at the local amusement park, Adventureland. Here he meets the mandatory assortment of kooky characters: the snarky slacker Joel (Martin Starr), the hot chick Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva), local macho man Mike (Ryan Reynolds), and the love interest, Em. Kristen Stewart plays the lead female role of Em in her typical lip-biting style, but it does work in this instance, proving that she really doesn't deserve the hate she gets from being in Twilight. She can act when her character actually has a personality.

Where Superbad tried to be a straight comedy with only small dramatic elements to keep it afloat, Adventureland tries to do the opposite. In this, the film is fairly successful.

The characters are, for the most part, well-written and well-developed throughout the narrative; even the archetypal hot chick has a little more depth than you would expect, dating the main character for a brief time and letting some details spill about her background and outlook. The movie has something in common with Lost and Delirious, in that the characters act so consistently stupid and make such obvious mistakes that you want to slap them -- but their actions fit their age and situation, and you can't help but relate to them. If you were ever a teenager, you'll recognize the people in Adventureland. Even the two-dimensional, undeveloped guy who punches everyone in the nuts is a realistic character, really: I know several people I met in high school who still act like that and never seem to have any depth no matter how long I've known them.

Drama is where the movie really shines. Where it starts to falter a bit is the comedy. The structure of the film pools a fair mix of drama and comedy into the first act and partially into the second, but it's always in the form of a dramedy rather than a comedy -- meaning that the scenes are mainly dramatic and have light humour to punctuate them, rather than being primarily funny. The problem is that the movie doesn't really do this consistently, and ends up becoming a straight drama by the halfway point. This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but when the movie starts out like that it starts to wear on your nerves a bit and makes you think, "What happened to the jokes?"

I'm not saying Brennan should wear a clown suit, but the tension is just a tad too much in later scenes of the movie, to a point where it almost starts to seem melodramatic. These are teenagers, yeah, they blow everything out of proportion and act like every little betrayal is a bullet to the head -- but they're teenagers, they're supposed to be sarcastic and blow off a bit of steam while doing so. For a movie with so many stoners in it, there's a distinct lack of funny stoned people and an overabundance of philosophical prats. It's not too bad, but it kills a bit of the movie's rewatchability -- once you know what happens, you can't muster up that edge-of-your-seat I-want-to-know-what-happens-next feeling, and it becomes a lot less entertaining.

Adventureland is a good film. Hell, it's a great film that deserves way more recognition than it gets. Is it perfect? Not really; it does go a bit far with the drama at times. But it's so much closer to being perfect than most movies like it, you have to see it at least once. It's no Dazed and Confused, but how many movies are?

Is also a novel by a certain Steve Harris (No, not that one!) which I have recently re-read and, given that my IRON NODER campaign is slightly running out of steam, I figured I'd actually review a good book on here rather than the derp-fests that I'm used to writing about, and also to prove that I do read good stuff as well. "Adventureland" is its UK title; in the US it was called "The Eyes of the Beast" and it came out in 1991.

Executive Summary

The Haunted Funfair comes to Basingstoke.

A bit more detail, if you wouldn't mind?

Well now, our protagonist, Dave Carter, is a STANDARD NERD in 1990 in Basingstoke and is 18 years old. He has a slightly older and somewhat more worldly wise girl friend, Sally, who works on a perfume counter, and is in that limbo period in between finishing school and going off to University when the old home town starts to become more of a cage than a playground. And as someone who grew up in a horrible provincial town, this is familiar to me. Intensely.

Anyhow, it begins on his birthday. After a few close calls such as a large black claw coming out of the bog while he's rummaging around in there to try to find a fresh lubber and having to hack it to death with a swiss army knife, and the same claw almost drowning his friend Phil, as well as obtaining some rather weird matching puzzle-jewelry for said birthday (two silver crosses with eye-like gems set in them), he gets the impression that something isn't quite right around here. Then the funfair, AdventureLand, comes to town, and him and his nakama go off to check it out, upon where they go on the Ghost Train, which seems bigger on the inside, has extremely realistic and super-gorno-covered exhibits, and ends up with two of his friends missing, nowhere to be seen.

Of course, nobody believes him when he starts going on about how they've been kidnapped, because they've nowhere to be kidnapped to.

Then it all gets worse and, without giving too much away, he ends up crossing over into a parallel dimension, firstly the totally uninhabited and rather creepy neutral version of Basingstoke and then the evil version, where, despite being a glasses-wearing STANDARD NERD he manages to save his friends and also some other folks along the way.

What makes it so compelling, in my view, is that it is so incredibly believable. The author is apparently a native and resident of Basingstoke, which is a town I have only been to once in 2001 at age 15 for a chess match and recall as being a big wodge of concrete with not much there. He goes into great detail about the various local characters and things. Not only is there Dave and his mates - to be fair, I don't think Dave is an author avatar, I think the authorial character, if there is one, is probably his mate Phil, for reasons that are not really relevant right now - but also there's the various other inhabitants. For instance, there's "Bad Eddie," who everyone thinks is just a weird old and slightly creepy old drunk who collects baby dolls and hoards them in his flat but who actually is a person of metaphysical importance. And then there's Roddy Johnson, the local hard case and all round psychopath. The author also goes into exquisite detail and almost exact reference to things in Basingstoke, drawing on vast local knowledge. Apparently shortly after the book first came out a local woman said she expected the big plate-glass window outside the MacDonald's in the town centre to be gone because, in the book, it got smashed at one point. And one early chapter (the first in which Roddy Johnson appears) there is an almost blow by blow account of a pub fight, allegedly, which appeared in the local press at one point.

Also, the inspiration for it is dead on. It's almost a dead horse trope now that funfairs are all a bit creepy and that carnies are weird and possibly a little bit dodgy, if not outright nasty pieces of work. I still am bitter over an incident in October 2005 where I got my wallet pinched by a carnie. I was trying to pull some gal I liked who'd invited me to the fair in Putney with her and my wallet fell out my pocket on the waltzers. One of them must have gathered it up but when I asked where it was they all denied any knowledge and started getting rather borsant at my questioning them about it and threats to call the Police. Anyhow, two weeks later I get a call from Slough Police station where someone's found my driving licence, all my bank cards, and my DCI membership card in a subway over there, just dumped. I do some digging and find out that Slough was the same fair's next destination. The lying cunts had nicked the thirty quid I'd got out the bank for the fair, and the wallet, and just dumped everything else. So if you're reading this, Mr Wallet-Nicking Carnie Scumbag, I hope you get herpes. And indeed, the Big Bad of Adventureland, a grotesquely fat carnie called Fred Purdue, is able to get away with it because of the general dodginess of the carnies in general. The terrifying thing about him is the dissonance between his habits and what it entails - the rather jocular sounding "Knife Time," for instance. And the fact that he peels off and eats peoples' skin because this keeps him alive.

In a way, the idea of using a funfair as a cover for a conduit between Earth and some hellish parallel universe actually makes more sense than a more permanent structure. By keeping on the move, your friendly local monster-hunter wouldn't suspect anything. And also, the intensely private and insular world of the showman would help keep it discreet also.

There's also a keen and somewhat snarky sense of humour throughout the book. Dave comes over as basically, a This Loser Is You, but without too much hostility behind it. He's at a loose end in his life (as people are between school and college) and looking for a purpose. He's also very much a STANDARD NERD and, excellently (and this is unfortunately where reality ends and fantasy begins), is able to persuade his girlfriend in the ways of standard nerdiness. He's a bit of a computery type, gets Sally, his gal, into it despite her initial resistance. In a way, the novel is probably aimed at the Dave Carters of the world, as it never explains exactly what Dave has done before or since the novel. Probably this is so that the reader can identify with Dave - note also the very generic name - more effectively. Who probably had some run-ins with the local bullies like Roddy Johnson, his grotesque sister Randy Sandy (who is first encountered pulling a train at a party Dave is invited to - what's the betting that the real Randy Sandy still exists and lives in a decaying council flat in the depths of Basingstoke with a small legion of children?) and can't work out what to do with their life all that much. Yet he is able to rise to the challenge (No, not like that! Although that happens as well) and win through.

If I had a criticism of the novel, it'd be the ending. It's all very abrupt and I want to know what exactly happens to tie everything up. However this is just minor. It's definitely worth reading, if you can find it, and I'm quite surprised that Steve Harris never really got the recognition he deserved for it. It really could do with a film or TV adaptation, yeah, maybe with one of The Inbetweeners as Dave and bringing it up to date by having Dave and Sally bond over endless hours in Skyrim as opposed to Elite, but still, the central conceit, that carnies are creepy and Basingstoke is boring, would well translate even 20 years on.

(IN1228/30)

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.