Oh my God.
I just got my ass handed to me by a book!
But to be fair, it was THIS FUCKING BOOK!
#10 House of Hell
Forest of Doom may have been the first FF gamebook I ever read but House of Hell was the first one I owned.
What a start!
This has to go down as the hardest most frustrating and downright wet pants creating (when you are 6...) FF book of all time. Yes, alright maybe not THE hardest but its def in the top three.
My hat comes off to Mr Jackson (GB) for his efforts with this story. I remember being totally destroyed by this book as a young child and not being able to wait until I had saved enough to get another gamebook so that I didn't have to play House of Hell anymore!
The book itself is worthy of some sort of prize for its twists and turns most of which end you up as part of the sacrificial offerings being entertained at the House. The number of dead (and I mean dead) ends and traps from which there is no recovery is staggering. I truly believe there is only ONE correct path through the story and any deviation from it leads to eventual failure and getting roasted by a pack of deranged cultists.
How does it read though? Not bad. There are no mistakes or dud sections here.Basically this book feels like a collection of mazes populated by the aforementioned cultists and a whole host of horror cliches. The whole thing is quite terrifying once you step back and actually think about what your character is going through, and this is where my appreciation for the book's most original qualities lies.
A lot of people have stated well before me that this is the only FF book in a 'modern' setting, and that its is just one big maze, but I think that there is more on offer.
This book, for the first time in the FF series (aside from the vast 'Sorcery' epic still being completed) marked a departure from the norm. It wasn't a kid-friendly title with some Orcs to kill and a treasure to be had, it was an horrific ordeal with the only prize on offer to the character being escape and his/her mortal life!
The connection to HP Lovecraft's sinister mood setting is strong in many of the sections, and for the first time your human interactions with the people you meet must be made with great caution. A hardened adventurer with a strong arm and sharp sword you are not!
Speaking of Lovecraft. Tim Sell is the interior illustrator for this book. His work has also graced the covers of several HP Lovecraft reprints. The pictures range from unsettling to macabre. Just look at this!
I was 6! 6 years old!! This pic in particular kept me looking at my wardrobe with dread!
The cover was provided by master painter Ian Miller and features his trademark biological phantasms along with a stormy depiction of the House and the night you arrive.
In conclusion? I don't know what to say TBH. I have a long and torturous history with this gamebook. The originality of its content and Steve Jackson's sheer balls for writing it into this series can not be overstated.
I don't like it. I might not want to replay it. But i have to respect it.
It stands alone.