by George Ivanoff - October 10th, 2011
2-in-1 books! Remember them? They were a gimmicky way of presenting two stories in the one book, with two front covers. You pick up the book and start reading. You finished the story, close the book and flip it over — and voilà — a new front cover and a new story. Brilliant! I loved books like this as a kid.
My first experience with a 2-in1 book was way back in primary school, somewhere in the dark, distant 1970s. The two stories were The Humans of Ziax II and The Drought on Ziax II, both by John Morressy. Short, simple science fiction stories, accompanied by black and white illustrations, they were perfect for a reluctant reader trying to reform his ways. The cover illustrations weren’t very good and it’s interesting to note that the two covers used two different fonts. (My wife is a graphic designer, so I’ve learned to care deeply about the misuse of fonts.) But as a kid, I didn’t care. I enjoyed the stories, and I loved the idea of a 2-in-1 book with two front covers that you flipped over. In fact, I remember flipping the book, over and over again, looking at each of the covers repeatedly, simply because I loved the idea of it. (Yeah, I didn’t get out much.)
Other 2-in-1 books crossed my path over the years, but most of them have faded into obscurity. Let’s face it — it’s a gimmicky idea and sometimes publishers were so intent on the gimmick that they weren’t all that concerned with the stories.
But then in the 1990s I came across a series of 2-in-1 books called Shivers. Edited by Paul Collins and published by HarperCollins, they were a set of kids’ horror books. Each book had two unrelated stories by two different authors. The linking features were the genre and the striking covers by Marc McBride… and each cover featured a red splash with the words “Two twisted tales to turn you upside down!” They were a lot better than the average 2-in-1 book, as they featured stories by the likes of Christine Harris, Meredith Costain, Patricia Bernard, Dianne Bates and Margaret Clark.
I had not seen a new 2-in1 since Shivers, until…
I was recently browsing through all the Doctor Who books listed on Boomerang Books (just something I do every now and then because I’m a nerdy fanboy), when I came across (insert drum roll) a new range of 2-in-1 Doctor Who books. Of course I HAD to order one.
There were three to choose from. I chose System Wipe / The Good, the Bad and the Alien. Why? Because the tag line for System Wipe reads: “The virtual world of Parallife is in very real danger…” A Doctor Who story set in a virtual world? I had to read it. You see, I’ve written two books set within a virtual world (Gamers’ Quest and Gamers’ Challenge) and I had often thought to myself that the concept would work well within the parameters of a Doctor Who story.
System Wipe is written by Oli Smith, who also happens to write computer games. It’s a really entertaining read with a few thought-provoking ideas thrown in. The Doctor gets trapped in the virtual world of Parallife, where game characters have become self-aware after the mysterious disappearance of all the human players. Meanwhile, Amy and Rory have to deal with robots intent on demolishing and then rebuilding the surface of the Earth, in a real world devoid of human life. My only complaint with this story is that I don’t think it’s long enough. With a little more length, there is so much more that could have been explored. It is, nonetheless, a zippy little read, well worth the investment of an afternoon.
The companion story, The Good, the Bad and the Alien by Colin Brake, sees the Doctor and his companions arrive in the American Wild West. Here they have to deal with bank robbers, aliens and a missing super weapon. It’s fast-paced and reasonably entertaining, but also a little pedestrian. I would perhaps have enjoyed it more, had I read it before System Wipe.
So there you have it — the 2-in-1 book is apparently alive and well. And it seems quite suited to the Doctor Who universe. I think I’ll probably pick up the other books in this series.
So… has anyone out there read any 2-in-1 books? Leave a comment and tell us about them.
Catch ya later, George