Aaron Tubb
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Fuquay Varina
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Heart of Ice is a solo gamebook by author Dave Morris. It was originally published as a part of the "Virtual Reality" gamebook series, and later was republished on its own in 2000. It is interesting in that there are no random elements in the book, and that there are multiple potential ways to survive the book successfully, and even a few different successful endings. For a gamebook that keeps you going with the story, it feels pretty open.

The Story
In the future, the people of Earth devised a plan to stop undesirable climate change once and for all, and even change it a bit to humanity's benefit. The major powers joined their efforts and created a network of weather control satellites, all controlled by a complex artificial intelligence called GAIA. Callooh! Callay! The world is saved... until GAIA contracts a computer virus that makes it go crazy. Now, like most AIs in sci-fi material, GAIA can think for itself, and once people realized something was wrong (major cities destroyed by flooding or tidal waves, ice caps melting, and devastating droughts) and tried to disable GAIA, GAIA responded by neutralizing any threat to itself. In other words, GAIA hijacked some major national defense systems and destroyed some of the major military bases and seats of government of the world. The people of Earth no longer a threat to GAIA's existence, GAIA continues to change the weather at random.

That was nearly 300 years ago...

By the time the book starts, most of Europe and Northern Africa are freezing, snow-covered wastelands with a few population centers where the weather isn't so harsh. Your character's story starts in a tavern (made from a crashed space ship) in the Alps. While you are spending the night there, GAIA hijacks the television signal to give you a message and a quest; GAIA wants you to travel to the middle of the Sahara, into the ruins of an ancient city, Du-En, built by a mysterious and extinct civilization, and find a jewel-like meteorite of great power, the "Heart of Volent". Turn to page 1...

Character Creation and Survival
The book has a great replay/reread value, due to the large variety of skills or classes you can pick from. Each selection of skills will require you to make different decisions during your adventure for you to survive to the end. Your character has 4 skills (chosen from a list of 12), a number of Life Points (usually 10), some money, and maybe some starting equipment, depending on what skills you have (you only start with a handgun if one of your skills is SHOOTING). For example, here's one of the classes:

The Spy
Skills: AGILITY, CYBERNETICS, ROGUERY, STREETWISE
Profile: Even as the world dies a slow death, governments vie with one another for the wealth and power that remain. You steal secrets and trade them to the highest bidder.
Life Points: 10
Money: 30 scads

Along your way, and especially near the end, you will encounter other people who heard GAIA's message about the Heart of Volent; you will have to work cooperatively with some of them to find what you're looking for, but these are very shaky alliances because no one will want to share the Heart when/if you finally find it. These other characters and their interactions really add some great storytelling to the book.

Also, you don't have to be a good fighter to do well in the book (though it probably won't hurt!). One of my favorite skills to take is PILOTING, because it lets you drive a working car, if you can find it! (ever played FALLOUT 2 and got that old car in the game? It's like that) It'll really help you traverse the freezing wastelands in between cities. All the skills are pretty cool though, and there's not a single skill that seems useless.

Conclusion
This has to be one of the most well done gamebooks I have ever had the pleasure to read. It isn't frustratingly difficult to complete, but I would be very surprised if someone reached one of the winning endings on the first (or even second) read.

The character creation and class system are great, and I even read through the book multiple times after I beat it, so I could see some of the other interesting places and events that I missed because I went different ways or had different skills. The only thing I wish was better was the terse endings (which, I actually find to be a problem with nearly all gamebooks I've ever read, including Lone Wolf and Fighting Fantasy books. Only one little paragraph to wrap up such an epic adventure!?).

Anyway, if you like gamebooks, and want a fun gamebook where you are really given a lot of choice as to where you go, that also has an interesting narrative and post-apocalyptic setting, I highly recommend this book.
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Eric Dodd
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Thanks Aaron, that sounds very interesting.

Is there a combat system as such? Do you just compare skill levels to determine if you succeed, or is it just a matter of having a skill that allows you to follow certain options?
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Aaron Tubb
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Red Wine Pie wrote:
Thanks Aaron, that sounds very interesting.

Is there a combat system as such? Do you just compare skill levels to determine if you succeed, or is it just a matter of having a skill that allows you to follow certain options?
There's no real combat system, and skills don't have levels; you just have the skill or you don't (similar to Kai disciplines in Lone Wolf). Combat is sort of like:

After walking down the dark alley for about a minute, you are attacked by two thugs armed with knives.

if you have CLOSE COMBAT, turn to #. if you have AGILITY, turn to #. if you have SHOOTING and a barysal gun with at least one charge remaining, turn to #. if you have none of these, turn to #.

Combat is basically just a descriptive paragraph that ends up with you losing some amount of Life Points (or not losing any if you have the right skill). In the example above, CLOSE COMBAT will lead to a paragraph describing how you beat up the thugs without losing any LP, and then you probably get any stuff they were carrying. AGILITY will probably let you escape without losing any LP. SHOOTING may lose you 1 LP from a knife attack, but then you shoot one of the thugs and the other runs away and you get some of their stuff. Not having any of the skills could mean you manage to escape, but only after getting stabbed and losing 4 LP. This is just an example, but there are situations like it in the book.

The skills are:
AGILITY
CLOSE COMBAT
CUNNING (think on your feet and trick people)
CYBERNETICS (ability to program and operate computers)
ESP (sense danger and read minds)
LORE (you know history, legends, and general knowledge)
PARADOXING (you can change the laws of nature with your mind)
PILOTING (drive vehicles)
ROGUERY (stealth and thieving skills)
SHOOTING
STREETWISE (this skill is really useful in cities)
SURVIVAL (this skill is really useful in the Saharan wastes)
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