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Bibliophile | Choose your own adventure with 'The Spiral'

The Spiral
by Iain Ryan
Echo Publishing

Twenty eight year old Emma Bridges is an academic at Queensland University writing a PhD analysing Choose Your Own Adventure novels. Set in 2004, her friend and fellow researcher in the neighbouring office Kanika has had her life taken over by her investigation of missing Queensland women, including 14 from the university in the last decade.

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Erma has lost family and friends as her research has taken over her life – both the waking hours and while she is asleep. While asleep, she watches Sero the Barbarian from the Fighting Fantasy series (invented by Iain Ryan but attributed to psychotherapist / author Archibald Molder). Of unknown gender, Sero embodies all her chaos, anger and regret, or as Carl Jung would say – secret unrest gnaws at the root of her being.

When her research assistant Jenny Wasserman withholds an interview with Fighting Fantasy author Archibald Molder and then makes a formal complaint to the university about sexual impropriety, Erma’s career in academia is put on hold. Then when Jenny turns up in her bedroom in the middle of the night and shoots her, Erma feels compelled to search for answers.

The dangerously dark journey into the unknown has some terrifying twists as Erma becomes Sero – “I am a barbarian wandering foreign lands like one of my dreams.” Eventually, Erma can’t tell Sero’s world from her own and, as Gilles Deleuze reminds readers in the quote at the beginning of the book, “If you’re trapped in the dream of the Other, you’re fucked.”

Like the protagonist, the reader gets thrown into a Choose Your Own Adventure as the tension builds. It is an intriguing experience to try and work out if there is more control or less to have to choose from alternative narratives. Like in life, once you make a decision to set off down one path, there is no chance of turning back, but there are always further options. Just remember to breathe as the suspenseful story spirals out of your control and puts your life on hold!

Lezly Herbert


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