CAN YOU SURVIVE
In the history of the world, there are a few tragedies that affect you more than others.
Something about the manner of its happening, the circumstances, penetrate deeply, and leave you with a dull ache every time you think about it.
The sinking of the Titanic, is one such event for me.
I remember reading about it all the way back in my English textbook from 10th grade.
It was in the non-fiction section, and when we read it in class, I remember the feeling of utter despair and sadness washing over me.
I have never forgotten that feeling, and it was brought into sharp focus, when the James Cameron movie hit the theaters in 1997.
Despite the fictional & emotional story weaved into it, the cold hard facts....that feeling of impending doom, as the midnight hour of the collision approached, the graphic portrayal of all the chaos that ensued, the heart-wrenching prospect of 1300 people dying on that cold, icy night, everything is now a deep imprint in memory.
Which is why Can you survive the Titanic? - An interactive survival adventure, was hard to give a miss in the library catalog. 3 story paths, 43 choices, 21 endings, it said. And at first, I took that to mean that the book afforded a chance, at least for the duration of the pages, to change the actual history of the incident. That choosing a particular story path could mean that the Titanic would somehow not sink. Such is the power of illusion. But unfortunately, that is not a choice that we get to make. What we can do however, is choose which one of 3 characters on the ship, we want to be. A surgeon's assistant working as part of the crew, a governess to a wealthy first class family or a 12 year old boy, travelling with his father to New York. And each character is at a particular scene and part of the ship when the iceberg hits, and each is faced with 2 choices at every turn, which will ultimately determine, whether he/she lives or dies that night.
The spell of illusion is thick, as you get lost in the pages, and in the coldness of that night, imagining what you will do next, and exercise that slight control over all that is already out of your hands, in the deep dark recesses of the past and its shadows. But in all this, it is not a dark, brooding book. Rather, it affords you a chance to triumph and think your way through the adversity, and understand more intimately, what could have gone on in the minds of the people that night.
The book is beautifully laid out. The first chapter starts off with facts about the ship, and the way things were on the day RMS Titanic set sail. Then begins the race of an adventure. Each choice directs you to another page where you continue the trail to its finish. With 43 choices, there's enough adrenaline to keep coming back for more. The pages are interspersed with pictures and depictions of the scenes on the ship. The dark icy waters, a picture of Captain Smith, paintings of the gorgeous first class accommodations, a view of the grand staircase from the top, passengers lining up for the lifeboats and one of the actual sinking of the ship, the top half sticking out of the water, the lights still twinkling and blazing.
My 8 year old has spent quite a few hours already ploughing through the 3 story paths in all their permutations and combinations, and it was hard to call him away from a page, before he had seen it through to some sort of positive end. Wherein lies the true appeal of the book. The inter-activeness. The freedom to choose. The sense of having a hand in history. Now if only I could stretch that illusion a little longer, to imagine what could have been, had the Titanic somehow been miraculously rescued. Now t.h.a.t, would have made for a happy ending.