theNewerYork Press, $6.00, ISBN 978-0-9890926-3-0
Experimental Fiction, 2014
Let’s begin by stating the obvious: Small Creatures / Wide Field is a Choose Your Own Adventure type of… thing that is not at all like a Choose Your Own Adventure gamebook. The only reason why this review is slotted under the gamebook category is because it is interactive in nature. However, it lacks any plot or coherence that typically characterizes a gamebook. Then again, it is published by theNewerYorkPress, an indie publisher that specializes in experimental fiction, so weird fun is to be expected.
It starts out innocently. You are in front of your “crappy house” in a “crappy neighborhood”. It’s all so sweet. So, what will you do next? Pry off the boards or check out the basement? Each option leads to entries that are completely disjointed from the previous. Interspersed between entries are fragmented episodes of the lives of three really sad people, who are stuck in miserable relationships and trying to be all wry and witty about their situations. It becomes a rather twisted kind of game to see whether you can stumble upon all these episodes by randomly flipping through the entries, although it may be easier to just ignore the whole interactive thing and just start reading from start to finish. This cute spiral-bound thing has only 24 pages, after all, counting the front and back cover.
The entries are cute because John Mortara is having fun with puns and dark humor all over the place. After a while, the whole experience of Small Creatures / Wide Field becomes charmingly surreal, like trying to sit through a Woody Allen movie when the mind is completely blown after too much partying with recreational drugs. Or is that an Uwe Boll movie? Really, it’s hard to decide whether this “gamebook” is a work of genius or a self-indulgent snot, but it’s so easy to be entertained by it. Maybe, that’s good enough at the end of the day.