SKILL 12 STAMINA 24

After backing You are the Hero on Kickstarter I felt compelled to write a review on Amazon. Unfortunately, I barely mentioned the actual book and just banged on about myself (as usual). But the book’s ace, so get it. And here’s the “review”:

YOU are the Hero

At some point during my childhood I watched a programme on ITV called The Book Tower. I didn’t read much, but the show seemed ever so slightly gothic and weird, and what’s more it was hosted by the likes of Tom Baker and Neil Innes, so you knew you were onto a good thing. One particular episode, which was hosted by the actor Alun Armstrong (you’d know him, he’s been in loads of things. Uh… like “Krull“), featured a kid reading a book in which he was required to sneak past a goblin in some pseudo medieval fantasy setting. This being early 80s telly, the goblin didn’t look terribly scary, just a bloke dressed up like one of Santa’s elves fallen on hard times, but I liked the idea, and the next day asked my Mum if she would be able to find the book for me. Books were cheap back then, so I didn’t have to wait for birthdays and Christmasses.

Unable to remember the name of the book, I described it as best I could “Something about a wizard, and it’s a different story every time you read it”, and my Mum returned home from work that evening with, yes, The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. Turned out the book was actually a game, in which you fought monsters, hunted for gold and sneaked past goblins. The goblin in the book was significantly cooler looking, luckily enough.

Eventually, after hours of wandering lost in The Maze Of Zagor, and failing to find the correct combination of keys to open the Warlock’s enchanted treasure trove, I completed the game, but that wasn’t the end of the adventure. There were two more evocatively titled books available in the series, The Citadel of Chaos and The Forest of Doom. I was hooked.

Jonathan’s Green’s book is an exhaustive history and celebration of the Fighting Fantasy Gamebook phenomenon, and is a nostalgic thrill for anyone who ever contemplated the difference between Swamp Orcs and Marsh Goblins, or cheated at a Test Your Luck roll. It features fascinating interviews with all the key players and crucially, is bursting at the seams with the wonderful artwork that the series generated, a reminder of how alluring and exciting the books were for kids in the 80s. YOU ARE THE HERO really brings home the differences between the FF books and their grown up, more established cousins. The art in Dungeons & Dragons, for instance, had a clean, coiffed, almost Renaissance Fayre quality. The FF books, by contrast showcased an odder, more British sensibility, dirtier, grungier and more anarchic.

This book makes me want to crank the soundtrack to Robin Of Sherwood (as much as you can “crank” any music by Clannad), put on my best green haired wig, and drift back to a simpler time. And maybe try to sneak past that goblin once again.

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