I think that there is something to be said for the interactivity that a book like Cup of Death brings to the reading experience. Someone who craves a more active role in reading could possibly benefit greatly from a text like this. Similarly I think its interactivity could be a great way to get people, who prefer things like RPG over reading, involved in reading. However I think that for me the idea falls a little short.
I’m not a passive reader. I like to interact with the text as much as possible. I enjoy plot twists and intricate story lines because they challenge my perceptions and make me a more active reader. Cup of Death just didn’t do it for me. Despite that fact that there are twists, turns, and multiple endings, the whole thing was a little flat. I wanted more choice, or less choice with more story telling. There just wasn’t enough content to warrant a "choose your own adventure" format For example when I chose to visit one of the characters in the book, it simply told me he wasn’t home and ended. I know that if I were actually investigating a crime that this could be a possible outcome but in literature I think it is more of a cop out than anything. With some more involved writing the twists and turns that a "choose your own adventure" could offer might be interesting.
I think that writing a novel in which your main character is your reader is also a shortcut for a writer. There is no need for a back-story because you are the character it’s built right in. You would think that this would draw you in but it makes it less real. There is no risk. I find myself thinking of Dreyfus when he talks about the lack of risk. It is as simple as flipping a page and the risk has been taken away. You can go back. I guess the risk would be greater if you had to make your choices and stick to them, if there was no way to go back then you’d be stuck, like in reality with the choices you’ve made.
Not being a great gamer myself I have very little background on role playing games but from the few I have seen and the even fewer that I’ve played, they come with slightly more risk than this book. I know that you can always start over, or that you can gain more lives but at some point the risk is that you’re are going to have to start again, with an interactive book even that risk is taken away.
I think that Cup of Death is a really interesting prism to look through when exploring interactivity because it is a simple boiled down version of more “risky” interactive mediums. It highlights the fact that any alternate reality we access simply through the mind currently has no risk associate with it. People who spend time “in” World of Warcraft or Second Life risk nothing except maybe their social life and real people skills.
Cup of Death also affords us a way to look at how graphics change our perception of alternate “realities.” Theoretically I think that this book could be changed into a video game and with very little editing on the part of the text we would interpret it in an entirely different way. The passivity of the narration in-between the choices is a really problem when the text is simply presented in a book form. When you are the one walking down the streets, fighting the “bad guys” and doing more of the “decision making” you feel more involved and therefore more like the interactivity is worth it and that you have made some real effort. When I just read what’s going on I don’t find myself feeling like I’ve made any “real” decisions just that I’ve read a lot of endings to a very short novel.