Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Review: Critical Failures by Robert Bevan

*This book is not YA

Many of you who have followed my blog for a while know that I have a background in gaming--primarily with RPGs and MMOs. What most of you likely don't know, is that for five years or so I was a Dungeons and Dragons DM (dungeon master) for a local gaming group called The Gamer Gathering. (I've also doing Vampire: The Masquerade live action role playing, but that's enough about me.)

With this background in mind, I knew I absolutely had to read Critical Failures when I heard about it over at Absolute Write. The idea of people being sucked into a game world sounded totally awesome to me. And the fact that the book promised to be funny (and even better--it was) only sweetened the deal.

Up front and honest: this may very well not be the right cup of tea for some of my readers. But this is one of the best books I've read all summer and I want to make certain it gets its moment here at I Write, I Read, I Review.

The Plot: (Summary from Amazon.com)
Tim and his friends find out the hard way that you shouldn't question the game master, and you shouldn't make fun of his cape.

One minute, they're drinking away the dreariness of their lives, escaping into a fantasy game and laughing their asses off. The next minute, they're in a horse-drawn cart surrounded by soldiers pointing crossbows at them.

Tim now has the voice and physique of a prepubescent girl. Dave finds that while he lost a foot or two in height, he somehow acquired a suit of armor and a badass beard. Julian's ears have grown ridiculously long and pointy. And Cooper... well Cooper has gotten himself a set of tusks, a pair of clawed hands, and a bad case of the shits. He also finds that he's carrying a bag with a human head in it - a head that he had chopped off when they were still just playing a game.

Shit just got real, and if they want to survive, these four friends are going to have to tap into some baser instincts they didn't even know existed in their fast-food and pizza delivery world.

It's fight, flight, or try to convince the people who are trying to kill them that they don't really exist.

Meanwhile, a sadistic game master sits back in the real world eating their fried chicken.

This is not going to be a normally structured review. Why? Because when I initially read this and wrote a review to go up on Amazon, I wasn't sure if I would post it here since it's not really meant for my blog's main audience. I do occasionally review an adult romance, but this is comic fantasy and it's another animal all together. But hey, it does share one thing with the rest of my reviews: it's honest. :) If you like humor and fantasy it may well be worth a shot.

(Originally posted on Amazon.com):

Have you ever played Dungeons and Dragons? Vampire: The Masquerade? Heck, even a Final Fantasy game would do in a pinch. Have you ever wondered what it might be like to step away from the table or sofa and inhabit the world you are playing in?

Be careful what you wish for.

In Critical Failures, Robert Bevan introduces us to Tim and his motley crew of friends. We join them on an epic quest of adventure and hilarity when they tick off their Cavern Master, who sends them into the game world to experience life in the "game" first hand.

As someone who DM'd D&D and played live action Vampire: The Masquerade, I found a lot of joyous nostalgia and a ton of humor in this novel. I loved each of the characters -- Cooper with his ability to say the wrong thing until you least expect it; clever Tim who makes a terrific halfling; curious and 'innocent' Julian whose choices make him so great at diplomacy, and snarky Kat. (Just to name a few)

The pace was quick, the dialog witty and the ending threw me for a loop in the best way possible.

For anyone who has ever gamed, wished they could be part of a game, or who loves comedic fantasy Critical Failures is a novel I would highly recommend. This was the sort of book I still wanted to be reading even when I reached the end.

If you are uncertain whether Critical Failures would be for you, I strongly suggest downloading Cave of the Kobolds, a short story set in the Caverns and Creatures universe. It is free on Smashwords and you can find it here.

Personally, I really enjoyed this freebie. It's funny, but we do also get a bit more about the characters, especially Cooper. (Who is by far my favorite.) This is definitely an excellent way to try Robert's writing and I think he did a fantastic job on it. 


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