At the end of my previous Fighting Fantasy article, I’d covered the first couple of Fighting Fantasy books released in 1988. It was evident that some attempt was being made to find new writers to contribute to the sequence, as a result of Jackson, Livingstone, and other stalwarts of the early series dialling back their contributions. In other words, the Fighting Fantasy crew were trying to counter the succession problem I’d identified at the end of part 8; for this part of the article, we’ll see that process continue, with two of the four books I’m covering this time coming from people who hadn’t written a mainline entry in the series at all. One of them will be of crucial importance to the later phases of the series’ tenure at Puffin; the other one… well, we’ll get to that.
The other two gamebook authors making a return this time are Luke Sharp and Ian Livingstone. Luke Sharp had put out two previous Fighting Fantasy books, both bad; Ian Livingstone had co-founded the series, but his subsequent gamebooks had been a bit hit-and-miss. Who’ll come out on top here – the old hand whose creative well might have begun to run dry through overuse, or the apprentice whose previous efforts were at best mediocre, at worst a flagrant waste of paper?
You are a solar trooper and secret agent named Sky Lord Jang Mistral, member of a four-armed humanoid warrior of the sixteenth aeon. As a member of the Ensulvar race, you serve mighty King Vaax. Recently, Vaax fell out with his former major-domo L’Bastin, who had been embezzling from the royal household to fund his cloning hobby and replacing household staff with mind-controlled clones to cover for this. Now L’Bastin has apparently established a weaponised clone laboratory and is churning out Prefectas, dog-headed super-warriors. You must board your starship, the Starspray, and root out this menace!
There’s no two ways about it: Sky Lord is weird. This is the sole Fighting Fantasy book in the mainline series to have been penned by Martin Allen, who had previously co-authored the Clash of Princes two-player gamebook with Andrew Chapman. After this, at least according to the database at gamebooks.org, he never wrote another gamebook, and it’s entirely possible that the bizarre nature of Sky Lord contributed to this.
Remember my Chasms of Malice review? How I hated that book! If you recall, one of the first red flags was the bizarrely terse introductory blurb, which came across more like brief notes than a fully fleshed-out introduction. (“I swear I finished my homework, Mr. Livingstone! Here it is!”) Here, again, the introductory material provides its own red flag, but of a rather different nature. It’s certainly vividly detailed and imaginative, but it’s also a farrago of utter nonsense, a total fever-dream version of a setting writeup. Perhaps the intention is for the gamebook to be a very deadpan parody, but if it is the writing style doesn’t quite manage to pull this off; it just gives the impression of absurd, arbitrary things happening largely at random. (Spoiler: this continues into the main adventure.)Continue reading “The Reading Canary: Fighting Fantasy (Part 10)”