Friday, 6 December 2013

Fighting Fantasy gamebooks and proffesional procrastination...

Hey guys!

Hope all has been well?

As the title of this post suggests I have not had the time I would have liked to get projects done last month, no matter! All things in their own time =)

On to some things that I have been able to do then.

A while back I had a bit of spare time and decided to pick up reading all the books from my FF collection. These books have been an inseparable part of my life since childhood and are probably one of the major causes of the brain damaged insanity that saw me spend most of my adolescence buying model kits and small leaden toys...

Anyhow now that I am older (and poorer...) I have a magnificent collection of gamebooks to peruse at leisure. Having never actually attempted to read all the books chronologically before, I decided why not??
I'm not going to go into ridiculous detail or give away any spoiler-esque material (because that shit drives me mad) I'm more or less just going to give my thoughts on the books as a whole and, I suppose compare them to my memories of reading them as a young twit (if I actually CAN remember back that far...)

(BTW I wont be using a rating system for these reviews. That shit is for retarded reality tv crap)

So then...

#1 The Warlock of Firetop Mountain

Still one of the best titles around imho. What can I say? A classic dungeon crawl. Lavishly illustrated by Russ Nicholson, this book has a nice claustrophobic feel and some great encounters. While never one of my personal favs, you have to start somewhere! There's really nothing at all wrong with the adventure and a good pace and suitably evil villain/overlord give some replay to this book. Funny thing that I remember being utterly lost in the maze section as a kid, but really enjoying it this time through?? Good times in the dungeon  =)

#2 The Citadel of Chaos

Great book. The cover art by Emmanuel must stand out as one of the most original in the FF line up (although a second cover by Ian Miller was used for reprints of this book) I just think its cool. A sort of tableau of the evil baddies you'll be up against is lined up outside the Citadel itself, all framed by a blood red sunset/sunrise filled with giant bats. Great stuff.
As for the book? Again Russ Nicholson provides some of the most compelling interior art I have ever seen, I was especially taken by how he created the foreboding lighting effects throughout. Some of his creatures have to be seen to be believed! This particular book always left me a bit worried of being in the dark as a child...
The writing by Steve Jackson (GB) is top notch. Not a long book by his standards, and fairly linear in approach, which is something of a rarity for Mr Jackson, I always think of him as the more "puzzle/mystery" orientated of the pair - Ian Livingstone being more for storytelling and setting an 'adventuresome' mood. But no disappointments in finishing this one.

#3 The Forest of Doom

The first Fighting Fantasy gamebook I ever read and my favourite FF book (and cover)
I actually feel for illustrator Martin McKenna having to redo the art for the reissue of this book years later for 'Wizard' publications. Imagine being asked to create artwork for one of the most iconic books of the series, and then being told not to deviate from the original cover created by none other than Iain McCaig!
Anyway. Obviously I like this book a lot. To be totally honest, its just a dungeon adventure set out in the open! What really makes it cool however is the creepy, verdant Forest itself. Almost all the encounters in this book get a wonderful illo by Malcolm Barter (a sadly under-used illustrator of these books imho) And you find yourself in every possible location a forest could possibly throw at you. In clearings, up trees, down holes etc. One of the best features of this book for me at least, is that it allows for a replay in itself. That is, the fact that you are looking for items to get you to the end of the book means if you dont have them by the appropriate section, you are simply given the option to turn around and trudge back into the glades! I know that doesn't sound like much, but I always felt sad when I got to sections like that in other books and knew it was over and had to start the book again.
Great stuff =)

#4 Starship Travaller

 This one gets treated unfairly I think. Def one of the hardest of the early books to complete, and a first for a sci fi FF book. I really like it. I was a big fan of Star Wars/Star Trek as a kid and this book has influences from both (though prob more Trek...) This is also the first time you find yourself able to command others in a FF book too, a responsibility that leads to a lot of tension throughout the story!
The art inside is fantastic. Peter Andrew Jones has a very unique pen and ink style that I dont think I have seen the like of in other FF books (it reminds me of the work done for the Highway Warrior series by Melvyn Grant for Joe Dever) Its all very spacey and doesn't give too much away leaving the encounters you have with aliens being, um, very ALIEN and a bit strange, which is exactly how it should be.
I've always been in two minds about the cover (also the work of Peter Andrew Jones) While I like the image a lot, I just don't know if it was the right situation from the book to use? IDK maybe. But hey, it could have been this...

Figure that one out!

#5 City of Thieves

Again great art by one of the best, Iain McCaig providing both the cover and the internal illos for this one. The first book set in a fantasy city, the story is a tried and true 'find the thing and use it against the bad guy' story. But its the setting that makes it. Some fantastic creatures and truly inspired traps wait for you amidst the crumbling slums and terraced houses of Port Blacksand (this is beginning to sound like a sales blurb...) With the aid of the fantastic illos, this book has a very special feel for me, easily one of the most stylish stories of the series. The added idea of being in a semi developed place for once also limits your 'homicidal adventurer' tendencies. Causing trouble in the wrong part of town could see the adventure ending from a jail cell!
The bad guy (Zanbar Bone) must have been an inspiration for Iain's later work on creating 'Darth Maul' for SW Ep1 (although I have never heard him mention this)

Cool. I have read a few more but my fingers are starting to get tired so I'll leave it there for now.

On the model front? Well the Spit mkXIV and FW190A8 are coming along, when I can clear a space for pics I'll be able to show off the first of my Post Apoc Hot Wheels cars and a vinyl kit I was given ages ago is almost there too.
Busy busy eh?

Why is my foot glued to the floor??


  1. My wife just me a strange look when I burst out laughing at your statement about ratings :) I agree with your sentiment too!

    I commend your "un PC" writing style, you rock my friend, you rock!

    1. =)

      Too much PC niceness leads to a lack of objective thought I find.
      (Luckily my wife doesn't read my blog so I can swear as much as I want... damnit!)