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To Be or Not To Be [Paperback]

Ryan North
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: £17.82
Price: £17.69 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Aug 2013
To Be or Not To Be is a choose-your-own-path version of Hamlet by New York Times best-selling author Ryan North. Play as Hamlet, Ophelia, or King Hamlet--if you want to die on the first page and play as a ghost. It's pretty awesome! Readers can follow Yorick skull markers to stick closely to Shakespeare's plot, or go off-script and explore alternative possibilities filled with puzzles and humor. Each ending in the book is accompanied by a full-color, full-page illustration by one of the 65 most excellent artists working today, so each rereading yields new surprises and rewards. Ryan's prose is, as always, colloquial and familiar but full of clever references, vivid imagination, and only the most choice of jokes. Inventive devices like a book-within-a-book (to mirror Hamlet's play-within-a-play) take full advantage of the gamebook medium and liven up the original story for even the most disinterested of Shakespeare readers! To Be or Not to Be became a sensation when it launched: over 15,000 people backed the book in just one month, and it remains the number-one most funded publishing project ever on To be, or not to be: that is the adventure!

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To Be or Not To Be + Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened
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Product details

  • Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Breadpig (1 Aug 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982853742
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982853740
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.5 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 318,569 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"The Bard would not protest too much, wethinks." --Cbc

About the Author

Ryan North is the writer behind the super-funny webcomic Dinosaur Comics, the critically acclaimed and Eisner-nominated Adventure Timecomic, and the coeditor of insanely popular self-published Machine of Death, which became's number-one best-selling book on the day it launched. A sequel, This Is How You Die, will be released in July 2013 from Grand Central Publishing. North lives in Toronto.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant idea executed beautifully 5 Oct 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
'To Be or Not to Be' is a hilarious game that takes you through Hamlet, and various fictional Hamlet-related scenarios, in a reader-driven adventure. You can play as one of three characters and choose what to do next.

I was introduced to this text by a friend, who explained the basic concept before reading it to us in a book group. I was half expecting the whole thing to be in Shakespearean verse, but actually it's written in lively, humorous prose.

Our two turns produced entirely different but thoroughly enjoyable stories. The writer has not just come up with a brilliant idea but executed it beautifully.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius 19 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Ryan North needs to dedicate himself to doing this full time. Actually, no he doesn't. Life without dinosaur comics wouldn't be worth living. Wasn't that Aristotle? I think it was.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb 23 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Great teaching tool and alternative history for a great work of literature. And that is the word count used up.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing read 7 Aug 2014
By Annie
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Honestly the best book on my bookshelf. If you're a Hamlet fan it's a must!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  51 reviews
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To Read This Review, Scroll Down. To Skip Reading This Review, Scroll Down Even Further 27 Aug 2013
By K. Farman - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
You have chosen to read this review!

Good choice! TBONTB:TITA (hereinafter referred to as "this book" because wow that's a long title) is the most fun you'll have reading a book. Having backed this on Kickstarter, I've already had this book for a while. Not only do you use YOUR IMAGINATION to see it all play out, but you get to CHOOSE WHAT HAPPENS?! Isn't that great? It features a full-color illustration for each ending, which is fun and exciting. It also features some better endings than William Shakesman himself wrote! Even if you finish the book once, there are many more paths to take! The eBook version is great as well, with links to each chapter instead of having to use your fingers to manually turn the pages to the desired outcome. Welcome to the future!!

This book is a take on some boring old play that was written by a dead guy probably like 21,320 weeks ago. Instead of having to go through as some boring Prince, you can choose your path through the eyes of two other people, AS WELL AS THE PRINCE DUDE. That's three people you can be! Anyway, this book has some great laughs, goofy endings, and is just plain amazing. I'd tell you how many different endings there are, but to be honest there are so many that I forgot!! I'm sure all that info on this page, though. Well worth the price.

"Aha, you have totally convinced me to buy it!"
(Turn to the page where you buy this book)

"I think I'll pass"
(You go on living your life as normal. Nothing changes about your future. Except for the tiny little regret that keeps you up inside. What would have happened if you had bought this book?? Now you'll never know.)
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To Read or Not To Read (SPOILER: YES READ IT NOW DO IT!) 20 Aug 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
To Be or Not To Be / B00ECJN7T6

How much do I like this book? I will tell you. I like this book so much that even though I participated in the Kickstarter for the book and got a paper copy AND an electronic copy in four different electronic formats, I still bought the Kindle version before writing this review just to make absolutely sure that this book will follow me around on my Kindle account for the rest of my life or until the heat death of the universe (whichever comes first).

If you like the fun and zany humor in Ryan North's "Dinosaur Comics", you will probably love this. It's not just that the idea of a Choose-Your-Own-Path Hamlet re-telling is delightful to me (though it truly is), there's also a wonderful amount of off-the-wall humor that tickles my funny bone to the core. I haven't read through the entire book (I think there are officially 3,001,181,439,094,525 different paths through this amazingly-densely-packed adventure of awesomeness), but I have read through huge chunks of the Ophelia adventure, and I loved every moment of it. Seriously.

The thing I like most about Ryan North's writing style is that he manages to hit that perfect zany-random-Monty-Python style humor that I love while still being progressive and not relying on tired old sexist stereotypes or gross-out humor. Not only does the reader get to go through as Ophelia (AWESOME), but she's also a "capital-s Science" major (Hamlet is, of course, a "capital-u Undeclared", natch), she's taller than Hamlet, and she also (if you take the appropriate path!) manages to invent thermometers and central heating, all without feeling like a gimmick or a 2-dimensional character. It's really amazing to see someone write a humorous strong female character who also comes off as totally real and delightfully relatable. I DEMAND THAT MORE HUMOR AUTHORS DO THIS! But in the meantime, we can all read Ryan North's masterpiece and stew at that jerk William Shakespeare for ripping Ryan off so badly. (Like, seriously, I don't think Shakespeare included the science major stuff at all. Boo.)

Back to the book! The PDF version of this baby has 768 pages, and it's jam-packed with gorgeous full-color illustrations. (These are rendered in black-and-white on my Kindle Paperwhite, but they still look detailed and beautiful.) And speaking of eReaders, this is the cleanest, bestest formatted ebook I have ever owned, bar-none. I was really concerned about how the Kindle would work with a Choose-Your-Own-Path book, but it works even better than paper -- Ryan and his team of professional formatting ninjas have linked everything beautifully in a visual style that works intuitively well, and also the Kindle's "back" button lets you skip back not just to your previous choice but to ALL your previous nested choices, one by one. I can't say how awesome that is when you want to go back to five choices ago to try something else, so instead I will just say that I have now experienced save-scumming while reading a book in order to beat Queen Gertrude in a deadly chess match. Aw yeah.

I don't want to spoil too much of the book, but some passages just beg to be shared. So I will leave you with my favorite-so-far ending just for hilarious audacity, and that would be the ending where I-as-Ophelia convince Hamlet that murdering people for revenge is a vicious cycle and instead we should put Claudius in prison for regicide, which netted me THIS ending: "So! Turns out you scored a possible 100 out of 100 in LEGAL JUSTICE POINTS but unfortunately you only got, like, a 3 in ADVENTURE POINTS. Man, that's baloney! That's what you get for working within the pre-existing legal system instead of employing unpredictable vigilante adventurism, am I right??"

This is an awesome book. If you like Hamlet or humor or zany Choose-Your-Own-Path books or would just like to see an example of a strong female character not only DONE RIGHT but done right in a humorous setting where she is just as awesome and funny and real as all the other characters, then YOU WILL LIKE THIS BOOK. And if you have any reservations about getting a CYOP book on the Kindle, I can officially testify that this book is well-formatted like the crown jewels are shiny, which is to say VERY.

~ Ana Mardoll
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I had expected better 9 Mar 2014
By Evixus - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Choices tend to have one of three effects and after a dozen very quick plays (because the majority seems to be rather quick) it becomes obvious that one choice continues the story, the other leads to a one page ending, and on the rare occurrence that you're given a third choice it is completely irrelevant and acts just the same as one of the other choices.

The most fun I had with this book was the authors explanation of what he was trying to do. Good concept, poor execution considering the amount of money that went into funding this. Perhaps as a 99 cent app I would feel like I got my monies worth.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely fun! 28 Aug 2013
By Diego M - Published on
Did you know that Shakespeare has completely plagiarized 'Hamlet' from 'To Be or Not To Be'? True Story.

This is basically how the novel starts, and it has captured my attention ever since. The concept of a choose your own adventure book has always appealed to me, but the books have always been too small, not very funny, and most of the choices end abruptly. Ryan North's 'To Be or Not To Be' is a completely different matter altogether.

Like many, I was one of the over 15,000 backers from the Kickstarter campaign who helped get this book published, so I received an early copy. After several months of waiting, I was simply ecstatic to receive 'To Be or Not To Be' in the mail. It is a heavy, thick tome that I can only describe as "juicy". Not only is it huge, it is also hilarious, extremely thought provoking, captivating, filled with beautiful illustrations from my favorite artists, and, most importantly, fun!

The fun part is that you can either make your own choices and read the ensuing hilarity, or you can follow what Shakespeare did, and laugh at how Ryan North pokes fun at his choices. I highly recommend reading/watching Hamlet before reading this, so you can fully understand all of the humor.

Did you know that Ophelia is truly a strong, smart, and independent young woman who in her free time thinks of ways to regulate air circulation, measure the temperature of a room with alcohol, and other simply brilliant ideas ahead of her time? If you choose to be Ophelia you realize this early on, and get to see what is truly going on in her mind while everything is happening. With this knowledge her death feels 10x worse. What would have happened if Hamlet had not acted crazy? If he had confided in her? You can find out if you choose the right options. You can also choose to start off as the ghost father and mess around with everyone with your ghostly ways, or be Hamlet and finally overcome your state of perpetual inaction!

After reading this book over and over, there seem to be an endless number of choices and hundreds of different endings. Even better, each ending is accompanied by a beautiful color illustration by some of the best artists of our era. I love flipping through the book and seeing the various images and trying to figure out what the heck had happened for it to get that bad/good/random. One of them even shows Hamlet turning into the Hulk!

Also as a person who took a course on Shakespeare and learned all the underlying themes and motifs of Hamlet, I found this book extremely accurate. It highlights the important quotes and explicitly points out and pokes fun at the different themes. I wouldn't be surprised if middle school students read this book instead of the original for the more accessible language, and actually do better on their exams.

At the end of Shakespeare's Hamlet, after all of the misunderstandings that lead to so many tragic events, you cannot help but be left with the question "What if?". Ryan North's novel is finally granting readers the opportunity to answer those questions and see how things could have been better, or worse, or just really random.

Overall, this is a vastly entertaining novel that I will re-read many times and keep forever.

Update: Ryan North is now working on his next choose-your-own-adventure novel called 'Romeo and/ or Juliet'! Look forward to the sequel!

I also wanted to mention that the kindle edition is amazing as well. Personally, I have both. The kindle edition makes it easier for the reader to backtrack, and save spots. Also since the book is kind of big and heavy, it's nice to have a version a little more portable in size. But I love my paperback, and I enjoy the weight, the colors, art and everything about it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful, extended riff on Willaim Shakespeare's Hamlet 20 Nov 2013
By Duncan Brown - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a delightful book. It's an extended riff (with a modernist sensibility) on one of the greatest works of literature in the English language, William Shakespeare's Hamlet.
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