Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Ravages of Fate by Ulysses Ai

My first impressions of the Ravages of Fate were not good. Did this guy write the introduction with the heavy aid of a thesaurus, or is he just showing off? Either way, it doesn't really work. "Paining you with a dichotomy of wretchedness and remembered latitude?" Really? I think I eventually figured out what that's supposed to mean, but I took a few wrong turns in the maze first, and I think I had to fight and ogre and steal it's latitude before I could find the exit. After passing some guy teetering on the edge of madness with glee at his impending death. Don't know what his deal is. Didn't ask.

To (mis)quote the immortal words of Pierre Bosquet, "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la litterature: c'est de la folie." Or, "It is magnificent, but it is not writing: it is madness."

That said, once we're past the introduction, the author quickly abandons the thesaurus and/or pretenses, and spins a surprisingly good yarn. It turns into some of the best writing of the year, which I was shocked by, after the introduction. It's descriptive. It's vivid. And in particular, the author creates believable dialogue (such a relief after Dating a Witch!) Actual dialogue is rare in gamebooks; it's not the norm. So major props for not only attempting it, but pulling it off successfully. The characters of your three companions are the strongest part about this gamebook.

While I enjoy the story in the first half, the second half revolves around nothing so much as the fight with the big troll. While I think it's an interesting idea, and devoting so many sections to the fight allows it to be extremely dynamic and interesting, I felt the balance was WAAAAY off. It struck me as very, very hard to win legitimately. Hell, I cheated my pants off, and (while I enjoyed the fact that I had no pants) I still couldn't win!

A couple things that might help with the balance: Either reduce the starting vitality of the troll, so that he can go down more quickly, or have the attacks described by your companions do actual real damage to the troll, or both. Actually, across the board I think all the Vitality numbers need to be reduced. The fight just took too long.

At the end of the day, this is a gamebook of highs and lows. I love the writing for the better part of the book, but the writing in the background sets my teeth on edge. I love the dynamism off the troll fight and just how much can be done with it with fifty-ish sections devoted just to that, but in execution, it took too long and was impossible to beat.

If I were an editor, and this came across my desk, I would say, "Yes, after another re-write or two." It has what it takes, now the author just needs to get out of the reader's way and let him enjoy it.


  1. Funny, I had the opposite reaction. I thought the climactic fight was pretty good, but the endless-wall-of-text buildup made it feel more like static fiction than a gamebook. It did have very good writing, though.

    1. Haha, I noticed that too when I read your review of the Ravages of Fate. I didn't dislike the fight, it just had some real flaws, and unfortunately, when it comes to gameplay, one critical flaw is all it takes.

  2. I liked this one a lot. Not so much the extended combat, but I loved the setting, the plot, and the writing. I think the whole Hunger Games/Running Man thing works well for a gamebook of this sort, because it gives you an instant motivation. You're convicted (you don't need to know what for - you're innocent, of course :-) ), and you need to get out. Sweet and simple. The actual writing was some of the best in the competition.