You Are The Hero by Jonathan Green

I am a massive fan-boy for the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks as they are what started me off on the path of fantasy as a genre back in my very early teens. I suspect this can be said of a lot of people.

Jonathan Green’s history of the Fighting Fantasy scores very nearly top marks from me due mainly to two main things. The first is the artwork, the book is crammed with the cover and internal art from all of the Fighting Fantasy books – I don’t think I can express in words how iconic these images are for a generation of fantasy literature fans. It is true, as Jonathan Green suggests that one of the main draws for the series were the monsters and pictures of the monsters that accompanied them; this is true of this book as well. If you have no interest in the history of Fighting Fantasy (hard to believe I know) this book should take pride of place in your collection anyway just for the sheer amount of great fantasy art (sometimes in very different styles) in one volume.

The second is the nostalgia; the whole book took me back to my very early teens and great memories of the Fighting Fantasy books in particular. Notwithstanding how old it made me feel, I was taken straight back to the first time I saw the Bloodbeast and when I was in awe at the imagination of the writers. I also recalled my confusion over how a monster with no arms and legs that had to stay in a pit of slime could be so dangerous.

The book is extremely well put together by Jonathan Green with great features (such as the fact sections contained in scrolls) that are reminiscent of its subject matter. The book also contains sketches of concept art, maps of the structure of the gamebook created by the author and first drafts of narrative. This gives the reader access to see the thought processes of some of the heroes (well heroes to me anyway).

I also found the history of how the founders of Fighting Fantasy came together and the early days of their work together fascinating bearing in mind what these endeavours have produced for fantasy as a genre. It was also very interesting to understand the thought processes behind Penguin taking on Fighting Fantasy and how it had an impact in literacy for teenagers (boys in particular).

The insight of so many big names in fantasy (think John Blanche, Ian Miller and of course the founders themselves – Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone) is also great to see and it is impressive to see that they all pretty much were involved with or were inspired by the early days of the gamebooks.

Anyway, I think I have heaped enough praise on the book. A great recalling of this golden age of fantasy writing, the only thing that could have improved it would have been a new adventure slipped in to the already weighty volume. It also prompted me to find a second-hand copy of Deathtrap dungeon so I could fight the Bloodbeast all over again!

10/10 A great recalling of this golden age of fantasy writing.

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