Critical Failures by Robert Bevan
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In Critical Failures a group of friends meet for a little role playing, inviting a stranger to play with them. The stranger turns out to be strange indeed. Soon their fantasy game becomes very real.
This is almost the exact same premise as the '80s tv show Dungeons & Dragons, wherein some kids get swooped up into the game and must fend for their lives. More originality would've been nice, but as long as there's excitement and fun in the adventure that's all that matters. Oh, I suppose that since this is a comedy, it's also important that this be funny. Let's see how it pans out...
Critical Failures could've been a little more adventurous. The characters didn't get very far and spent much of their time jailed. Still, Bevan squeezed in some low-level fighting in keeping with the way a good old D&D game campaign usually begins. He also kept up the action about as much as he could. After all, wimpy beginners can't be slaying dragons and conquering hordes. There's lots of fun for old school gamers. I got a few nostalgic chuckles as Bevan walked me down memory lane. As a writer he smartly added in a couple characters who were new to it all, so that things could be explained and elementary mistakes could be made that might heighten the tension or hilarity, which brings me to...
I'm a 12 year-old-boy trapped in a middle-aged man's body [insert "insert" jokes here], so I enjoyed the potty humor...well, at least to a point. I need variety too and there's too much reliance on "your mom" jokes to provide comic relief. It's no relief if it's repeated so often that the humor is drained out of it. But to be fair, this book is meant to be representative of some immature, socially abhorrent young men playing a role playing game. When I played D&D, this is pretty much what it was like. It weren't pretty.
Overall, Bevan did a decent job combining adventure and humor in this fantasy setting. Slaying things and making it funny can't be easy, so I give him props for that.
As a novel for fans of fantasy, who are non-role-players, well, I guess they'd find some enjoyment in Critical Failures. However, all others should steer clear of this one. It's not meant for you, and the author's awkward phrasings and occasionally stilted dialogue would only grate upon your brain, especially if it wasn't receiving the influx of pleasure the rest of us are getting from this otherwise admirable attempt at a mock up of the role playing experience.
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