Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 5, 2013 17:15:56 GMT
I own this book since long but have only read it partially because the pages are coming off do you find it a good read ?
Not really to be honest. Steve's writing is just too dry for novels and the characters are all pretty annoying. It was nice seeing a bit more of the characters mentioned in Creature of Havoc though - it was interesting seeing what Vallaska Roue was actually like for instance.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 5, 2013 17:17:11 GMT
odo_ital: The real problem with the book is that Chadda Darkmane, also known as the hero, is an extremely annoying person and the chapters featuring him are really hard to get through. However the chapter with Dire and Marr are actually quite interesting, so it's still an interesting read.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 5, 2013 17:22:10 GMT
hynreck: So I’ve read this book not so long ago and plan to read its two sequels eventually later, however much painful it might turn out, but I thought for now I’d give a small review of this one for fun, a bit like a used to do for all the FF gamebooks before, but obviously sans the gameplay part.
This was a bit of a dull experience. It left me feeling a bit split between a normal reader and a Fighting Fantasy fan. See, this is a book that’s meant for the FF fan at heart, anybody else trying to read this (in the unrealistic rare case of this happening) would feel lost and stupid. Or think the book was stupid. Which is not far from the truth, but this is getting slightly ahead of myself.
For a normal reader, Trolltooth Wars is dreadful. I’ll explain why, but not in relation with this opening sentence, as a normal reader (aka someone with no interest in gamebooks and/or FF) shouldn’t read it in the first place. For a FF fan, this book is still dreadful. But an interesting dreadful all the same, and this is the sole reason to trudge through this epic mess.
I use strong words, and while TW might not deserve such harshness, as it is, frankly, mostly harmless, there isn’t many other ways in which I can describe the pain of going through it: painful for my eyes mostly, that kept rolling up in their sockets in disbelief. So, I find myself in a familiar situation with a good ol’ Where to start?
Well, let’s start with the hero of the piece, shall we? While sometimes TW feels like an ensemble piece that got shortchanged, Chadda Darkmane is still pretty much clearly the appointed hero, or number 1 on the call sheet, so there’s no doubting that fact. And boy, is he weak. And let’s face it, when your main hero is weak (not in the physical sense, but conceptual sense), then you can’t be surprise when your novel turns up to be shit.
Basicaly, he’s an unlikeable jerk. He’s mean, stubborn, vain, unrefined, I lack the descriptive prowess; but it’s all there on paper. It feels like Steve Jackson went out of his way to make him unlikeable, which seems like an unwise move. Surely, if you’re counting on people to stick with the character for a while or a few books you’d want them to root for the good guy? You’d let them identify with him a bit? No? I mean, I like my anti-heroes as much as the next guy but come on, you have to let us taste the good side a bit, not just near the end, after three quarter of the book’s done (and barely worth mentioning, really). Chadda feels like a Barbarian, basically. Which would be fine, I guess, if he was cast as such, but it’s not the case. As it turns out, even a rough and gruff type like Conan turns up to be friendly and likable to a certain degree, something Chadda Darkmane never achieves.
His supporting cast, which consist of manservant Chervah and Jamut Mantrapper (guess what’s his specialty?) isn’t much better in the likable department. Chervah is an annoying and slightly useless tag along C3P0 wannabe who’s only redeeming feature is to inspire pity when he is bullied by the often cruel Darkmane, while Jamut is on the greedy backstabbing sliding scale of unlikable fellows who causes troubles for the hero more often than not (and I mean trouble in a Agent Goodnight from The Man With The Golden Gun way, more than in a plot way, though this does happen, too).
The antagonists are probably the strongest of characters here, some of them having notoriously featured in their own gamebooks. They either feel more fleshed out and/or more interesting. As pointed by others, it’s a sad thing when the most likable character of them all turns out to be (supposedly) evil Zagor himself. Incidentally, I ended up rooting for Zharradan Marr and Balthus Dire whenever their turn came up, having a hard time picking sides (other than for the opposite side of Chadda).
The book feels very episodic, in a bad way. In fact, I daresay that it is seemingly constructed from a bunch of background sections cobbled up together. You can’t construct a book out of background informations, though it’s informative and interesting for the Fighting Fantasy fan to learn more about events which touches on some of our favourite gamebooks, and to see and thus learn more about important characters, their motivations, their day to day lives when they are not trying to conquer the world or kill YOU the hero. It’s also fun to get answers on myriad of small details, like some of the inner workings of Zagor’s domain, if for nothing else than curiosity’s sake. These quite welcome insights into specific parts of Titan are, unfortunately, just about the only redeeming features of this book.
TW also has the bad habit of introducing bit-part characters just so that a part of the story related to the main plot but unrelated to the main characters can be told, through their eyes, with a dash of unsubtle manipulation of emotions to achieve the desired effect, without any kind of shame or reserve. Those characters, once the chapter’s done with, are then promptly thrown away and never seen again, and this, of course, without any form of explanation. Here, the biggest offender is of course the Coven attack sequence. We are introduced to an whole family just so we can experience the massacre under their point of view. I was, frankly, flabbergasted when I realised that they were not meant to return. I’m of the school of thought that you don’t introduce something or someone in a story if it’s going to be useless, superfluous. If you are describing a room to me and there is a chair, fine. You’ve filled the room with items, now let’s move on. Don’t spend two pages describing the chair in details if it’s just going to sit there, gathering dust. It’s called wasting the reader’s time.
I also thought the book quite graphic for something one would assume was aimed toward children of an age range similar to that of the gamebooks. Though I didn’t mind now (and believe even my younger self wouldn’t have), it is gratuitously laid and unnecessary. There is something as too much information. And I’m also a firm believer in the less is more approach. Unless, like in this case perhaps, Steve Jackson intents were to gross, which perhaps was what passed as cool back in the eighties.
Finally and not the least, the book ends with what is nearly the worst ending ever: manipulation by the Gods. Like those Greek Gods of old. Yep. Chadda’s life is even saved that way. It was all a game boys and girls, nothing to see here. I felt cheated, I felt bored, I felt like stopping reading right away except …of course the book was over by that point. How unoriginal. The only way this ending could have been worst is if Chadda Darkmane had suddenly waken up in his bed, laughing at his own silliness.
Well, I was the one laughing at this silliness by the end of this. I believe, for a fan of FF, that TW is worth the read, if only once to fulfil your curiosity, but I can’t see it being worth it for anyone else. Too bad for Steve Jackson, but the man seems truly better at devising gamebooks than writing straightforward stories, for sure. I predict Trolltooth Wars will stay untouched in my bookshelf for awhile now.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 5, 2013 17:22:55 GMT
One book I won't be looking for in the thrift stores any time soon.... but if I happen to see it there, you know me, I'll probably end up buying it but undoubtedly won't read it. Just something to spruce up my collection nothing more. But you're right, Steve should stick to gamebooks.
The more beautiful and pure FF is – the more satisfying it is to corrupt it.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 5, 2013 17:23:47 GMT
sylas: Not read this in a looong while, but I don't remember it being as terrible as this. Dare I go and pick it up again just to find out. From what I recall, the best character featured was Zagor who turned out not quite the evil warlock we are led into believing previously, and gives him a purpose of being in his mountain lair other than waiting to deal with thieves and trespassers.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 5, 2013 17:24:11 GMT
hynreck: It might not be as bad as I say, who knows. Taken individually, some chapters are quite good. They're nice... background sections. The battle at the end was mostly nice.
But I'm guessing that, the younger (and more impressionable) the audience, the better it is. I've read that at 37. So what I consider big flaws nowadays I have a hard time letting go. Plus, zero nostalgia.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 5, 2013 17:26:03 GMT
kieran: Ah, hynreck, I've missed your write-ups. I have to agree this book is utter garbage (minus the illustrations).
S P O I L E R S Mantrapper's betrayal is so heavily signposted that Darkmane needed a slap round the chops for not seeing it coming. Poor old Zagor. And doesn't the annoying Dobby the House Elf-esque character turn out to be a god or something equally wince-inducing?
E N D
S P O I L E R S
I wonder if the sequels are any better? I've never quite mustered the courage to try them!
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 5, 2013 17:31:58 GMT
hynreck: Thanks guys. I'm going to read the sequels for better or worse (or is it worst? anyway...). And I'll review them. And I swear I will do my best to find the positive about them, aside from the illos which should be great.
As for the Chervah, Kieran, you are right: spoilers obviously! Chervah was a real... chervah, who got possessed by I can't remember which god so that he could keep tabs on Darkmane, and who grew so fond of the Chervah's body (maybe gods don't have sex, who knows?) that when the Chervah bit the dust, he kept living in it. So at the end, when we're in the gods palace or whatever, I guess we're supposed to feel relief or joy at the sight of not only Chadda Darkmane still alive, but the Chervah as well. Then there's that terrible No, Wait! moment (almost a fridge moment) when you realise that the Chervah is still quite dead in fact (reminds me of a Kung Pow! joke) and that the god who possessed him is using his cadaver as a meat puppet. (wonder if he will still find sex so satisfying when the Chervah's dick falls off?)
I wonder if the sequels are any better? I've never quite mustered the courage to try them!
I don't have the fortitude to reread the FF novels for an Everything I really Need to Know... but the 'message' of Demonstealer was so blatant that I can't forget it, no matter how much I wish I could. It boils down to: if you're 'good', it's okay to accuse your friends of all kinds of terrible things on the flimsiest of evidence, and never apologise when you find out you were wrong.' Horrid book.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 5, 2013 17:35:42 GMT
hynreck: lol nothing wrong in liking something, right? Got plenty of stuff myself that I love that other would find moronic, I'm sure. (just not so long ago I was watching Exterminator 2 and very much enjoying that apocalyptic fashion sense of the eighties, very enjoyable) My list would be too long to compile but I'm sure everybody here's in the same boat as us. Don't worry and keep on being entertained. Cheers!
Unfortunately the Deus ex Machina ending ruined everything. Using Deus ex Machinae to finish writing is comparable to cheating to finish playing a gamebook.
Jackson is so much better at writing second person gamebooks than at writing novels. The novel actually weakened Zharradan Marr. In Creature of Havoc there was a REASON in the plot as to why Marr let the creature on the Galleykeep - it was his creation. And the mirror in the gamebook was not "an ordinary mirror" it took a crystal club to smash it.
In Darkmane's defence, although he is unlikeable, he is actually a lot better than the protagonist of Warlock of Firetop Mountain. Remember that he did scorn the idea of stealing for the sake of stealing. The protagonist of Firetop Mountain was nothing more than an aspiring burglar and a murderer.