As a child, did you ever find yourself trying to find out what happened next by going back a few pages? And did you ever find yourself in a position where you were using all your fingers and thumbs as bookmarks? If you answered yes to both of these questions then, just like me, you were reading Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks back in the nineteen eighties, they were great weren’t they?
Like you, my introduction to Fighting Fantasy came in the classroom where all my mates were reading these books with covers full of monsters , dark forests and sinister looking castles. And they weren't like normal books either; reading over people’s shoulders I saw that you got to choose how the story went and it could just as easily end in death as it could glory. I wanted in and promptly pestered my folks for my own FF books.
For someone like me, FF books were a godsend as you weren’t just reading a book anymore, you were actually living the adventure and deciding what would happen next. They were amazing times; wandering strange lands on quests for treasure and glory and frequently dying in incredibly gory ways (check out ‘Seas of Blood’ for the best examples of how to die messily). I’m not going to lie, most of the time I cheated like a madman. I’d nip ahead in the book to see what happened next and then make my decisions based on that. And the number of times I killed monsters without even rolling a dice (because I was just that good apparently…) It wasn't playing the game that did it for me though, it was the feel of travelling those lands and yes, escaping for a bit and being someone else. The books were written very well as far as that went, it was incredibly easy to get immersed very quickly.
So I got all nostalgic a year and a bit ago and set out to find some of my favourites from back in the day. There’s still a few that I’d like to find (‘Island of the Lizard King’ is one) but I’m in no big hurry. What I’ve got here will keep me happy for a bit.
‘Forest of Doom’ and ‘Deathtrap Dungeon’ were the first two FF books that I got way back in Christmas nineteeneightysomethingorother. I was a big fan of forests in fantasy novels even then and so it was amazing to be able to go off and have an adventure in one myself. ‘Deathtrap Dungeon’ is the FF book that everyone knows I think. I've spent hours playing/reading this one (stands up to repeated reading very well I think) and I still have a little chuckle every time I see the barbarian with sunglasses. Seriously, he’s wearing sunglasses; go and see for yourself.
‘The Citadel of Chaos’… You know what? I've only read this book through the once but it still left a lasting impression on my young mind, possibly through use of the word ‘citadel’ which I found really impressive for some reason. And it has an Ian Miller cover! Even back then I knew I liked Miller’s work :o)
I like forests and I also like cities in fantasy fiction as well. ‘City of Thieves’ was my first excursion into one and I barely made it out alive. I’m going back in again this weekend to see if I can get the better of Zanbar Bone once more. Wish me luck?
Did you ever read FF books as a kid? Any favourites?