Jackson, Steve


2 out of 5

(2 books)

Creature Of Havoc

One of the Fighting Fantasy choose-your-own-adventure gamebooks.  Here you are a monstrous creature trapped in the dungeons of the sorcerer Zharradan Marr and only by confronting him can your discover your true past.

This book starts well, putting you in the shoes (clawed feet, more accurately) of a savage and bestial creature.  This is executed quite well, with your character's actions not always following directly on from what your human intentions may have been.  In fact, if you try to be peaceful on the very first decision point, you end up brutally murdering the Dwarf who you're trying to show you mean no harm.  This unpredictable nature to the results of your choices adds an interesting new layer to the gamebook; one which could lead you to eat a Hobbit!

Unfortunately the book rapidly devolves into all the annoyances which have plagued me whenever I've tried revisiting the Fighting Fantasy books (really, I need to stop trying); namely repetition and spending more time thumbing through pages than you do reading.  This is particularly annoying in this book because it contains closed loops that, once you find yourself in them, there is no way to progress or backtrack from.  In all honesty, the second time I got caught in such a loop (in a different place, so there's definitely at least two too many in there) I gave up reading the book.  I skipped to the last passage to see how it ends and was glad to see the back of it all.

2 out of 5


The Citadel Of Chaos

The second of the Fighting Fantasy adventure gamebooks, in this one you play as a young mage tasked with ascending the titular citadel and assassinating the evil sorcerer Balthus Dire.

As a kid I absolutely adored the Fighting Fantasy books and this was once one of my favourites (although Ian Livingstone's 'Forest of Doom' held the No. 1 slot), but, as with 'The Warlock of Firetop Mountain' which I also recently re-read, sadly it hasn't stood up to the test of time.  I'm not saying that the book itself is dated, I'm sure a fresh young reader will enjoy it, I'm simply saying that unlike some great children's literature it's just not as enjoyable for an adult.

The problem is that most of the sections in the book are very short and, frankly, you spend more time leafing through the pages looking for the section you've been told to turn to than you spend actually reading the book.  What makes this a particular shame is that, in the infrequent longer sections, Jackson manages to do a great job of describing sinister dungeons and monstrous creatures.  I'd have happily read a proper novel in his style, but that's just not how this book goes.

So, probably a fun book to give to a younger reader, but definitely not one an adult should waste any time on.

2 out of 5

Collaborations & Anthologies:

The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain (here)


Fantasy (here)