Seeing as it is “Rock of Bral month” at the Wildspace fanzine, here is a reprint of a review I wrote for an Endless Quest book set on The Rock, that very few Spelljammer fans are aware of:
Before I start this review, a note on the cover picture: The cover of this book has nothing to do with the adventure contained in the book itself. The artwork, by TSR artist Jeff Easley, is a great piece, but it was recycled from an earlier TSR publication. Most of the action of this book is set in space (fantasy space) and if you are hoping to see a ship sailing on a red sea, you may be disappointed. (I’m told Jeff Easley’s art is actually a picture of the Blood Sea of Istar, on Krynn – the Dragonlance world.)
ABOUT ENDLESS QUEST AND WILDSPACE
Endless Quest was a line of 36 “choose your own adventure” stories, published by TSR from 1982 to 1987 and revived for a second series of 13 books from 1994 to 1996. While you do choose the adventure in an Endless Quest book, the stories feature a viewpoint character that has a name and feel like an interactive novel, where you can change the ending. A Wild Ride was the forth book in the second series of Endless Quest books.
Wildspace was to be the follow up to TSR’s Dragon Strike line. Like Dragon Strike, itself, the Wildspace product line was built around an “adventure board game” which featured a video cassette. This core product was to be accompanied by a series of novels and other products, including this Endless Quest book. The word “Wildspace” comes from the Spelljammer Campaign Setting, which TSR developed for Dungeons & Dragons and Wildspace is Spelljammer’s little known sequel, as well as the follow up to Dragon Strike.
As well as this Endless Quest book, the Wildspace board game, four novels: Battle Against Necros, Battle Against Lord Fear, Battle Against the Flayons and Battle Against the Draconians were completed. But TSR decided to cancel the entire line just as it was due to be published.
THE SPELLJAMMER CONNECTION
The Rock of Bral, featured in A Wild Ride, comes straight from the Spelljammer Campaign Setting and is featured in the Spelljammer AD&D Adventures in Space (Boxed Set), SJR5 Rock of Bral, SJA2 Skull & Crossbows and one of the Spelljammer novels from the Cloakmaster Cycle. You don’t need to have read any of those books to appreciate A Wild Ride, but if you have them, you might have a greater understanding of what the Rock is like and can have a look at some of the maps to get a picture of the layout of the asteroid.
WHAT YOU GET
One 188 page novel sized paperback, written in 47 sections which you can read in various orders, depending on the choices you make when following the action of the adventure.
The story is by Louis Anderson (a pen name for Lester Smith who designed the Wildspace board game) and is accompanied by 19 black and white illustrations drawn by Terry Dykstra.
You play Jaxom Star, a youngster who lives with his grandfather in a junk shop on an asteroid called the Rock of Bral. Jaxom who sails a skiff through nearby wildspace to search for items that can be cleaned up and sold in his grandfather’s shop.
Four adventurers known as the Heros of Wildspace (Dare, Greenthorne, Deathmark and Arakeela) come into your grandfathers shop seeking information about a broach you discovered recently on one of the asteroids that is close to Bral. The Heroes of Wildspace are the characters from the Wildspace novels (and were also featured in the Dragon Strike novels). The broach looks like it belongs to Malakeesh, a powerful necromancer and illusionist from their homeworld. Malakeesh had built up a large army of undead on their homeworld and was only defeated after King Halvor the First united several of the nations that the necromancer and illusionist was attacking. During the battle he sent out waves of illusionary undead, before real undead and some of King Halvor’s forces fell for his trick. The Heroes of Wildspace are concerned that Malakeesh might be close to Bral and up to something similar.
You, as Jaxom, are asked to take Dare, Greenthorn, Deathmark and Arakeela out on your skiff, show them the place where you found the broach. If Malakeesh is out there, you will need to help them find out exactly what he is up to and then return to Bral with information that Prince Andru of Bral can use to defend your home.
If you choose the correct paths, Jaxom could end up a hero himself. If you choose the wrong paths, Bral could be destroyed or Jaxom could end up dead or as one of Malakeesh’s zombie minions.
THE BEST BITS
- A great “good vs evil” story for young adults that works well for older adults too.
- The Heroes of Wildspace are great characters, but Jaxom gets plenty of chances to shine in the story.
- Terry Dykstra’s artwork is great.
- The villains are believable.
- The Endless Quest format, means you can re-read the book, make different choices and see how it affects the outcome of the story.
- Dungeons & Dragons fans can raid Spelljammer information from this book.
THE WORST BITS
- It is a shame that this book was given a totally inappropriate cover.
- The Endless Quest “choose your own adventure” format means that some of Louis Anderson’s sections run along side others, and this means you don’t get the full 188 pages worth of story.
- Many of the 47 sections force you to go to a specific section, rather than giving you a choice, so you don’t really have as much choice as you might think.
- If you like the characters from this book it is frustrating that you can’t read the Wildspace novels to find out about their earlier adventures.
- The book gets the Spelljammer universe wrong. There are no helms and the phlogiston and wildspace are mixed into one thing that makes sails move ships magically. Spelljammer fans need to “get over this” in order to get the most enjoyment from this story.
The positives outweigh the negatives. It is a real shame that the rest of the Wildspace line vanished, but you can infer details from this book and the Dragon Strike books. I think this book could appeal to Endless Quest fans, Spelljammer fans and anyone who likes any of the Dragon Stike books.
A Spelljammer fan could easily raid the plot, characters and background of this book and use them in a Dungeons & Dragons game. The book does depict the Spelljammer universe incorrectly, but it would be very simple to ignore the changes in this book and convert things back to how they are in the original Spelljammer products. So this book could have a second life as a Spelljammer sourcebook after you enjoy the Endless Quest story.