Books Illustrated by Ian Miller

Fighting Fantasy

2. The Citadel of Chaos
Author: Steve Jackson (UK)
Illustrators: Emmanuel (first British cover), Ian Miller (second British cover), Richard Corben (American cover), Kevin Jenkins (British reissue cover), Russ Nicholson (interior)
First Published: 1983 (original British edition), November, 1983 (American edition)
Reissued: May, 2002 (still as book #2)
ISBN: 0-14-031603-5 (original British edition), 0-440-91280-6 (American edition), 1-84046-389-9 (reissued British edition)
Length: 400 sections
Number of Endings: 19 instant failures, 1 victory, plus failure by inadequate inventory, insufficient spells or loss of Stamina points.
Plot Summary: You are a wizard-in-training sent to infiltrate the citadel of Balthus Dire, an evil demi-sorcerer. Your mission is to prevent him from unleashing an army upon the innocent Vale of Willow by assassinating him in his lair.
Translations: Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Spanish, Swedish
My Thoughts:

The first thing that struck me about this book was its magic system, which isn't nearly as interesting as Steve Jackson's later work on Sorcery but which starts the adventure off on an interesting note by giving the reader a list of talents to pick from, Lone Wolf style. The next thing I noticed was the fact that the back-story seems very D&D-inspired, though this observation is based mainly on the conspicuous use of the phrases "Lawful Good" and "Chaotic."

Upon getting into the actual gameplay, I'd have to say that it's a more solid design than Warlock of Firetop Mountain, but it's somehow a bit less engaging. This may be partially due to the fact that I don't have as many nostalgic memories of this book than of the previous volume, but I'd say that the sometimes rushed-looking artwork and Steve Jackson's less-than-thrilling prose didn't help either. Jackson's talents definitely lie more with game design than with actual writing -- his text just seems flat most of the time, and his tendency towards padding out sections by mentioning passageways that you can't follow is simply annoying. I also found that some of his encounters (like the whirlwind-woman) feel utterly pointless and silly. He does deserve credit for the occasional amusing detail, though, and it was nice to know that female goblins do exist (see section 339).

Despite my complaints, there are a number of very nice features to the book. The challenge level seems about right -- you have to play quite a few times to win, but each time you play, you learn new and helpful things which can be applied to the next trip. It's also true that you can roll extremely awful ability scores yet still emerge victorious. Probably the highlight of the whole book is the final confrontation with Balthus Dire, which gives you a lot of options and keeps the tension high throughout. The fact that victory leads you to a potentially-unsatisfying ending is my only complaint about the whole end sequence, and the open-ended final paragraph isn't really all that terrible. Actually, I wish I'd read this book more thoroughly before writing my first Kobolds Ate My Baby! solo adventure, as the encounter with Tabriz in my book could have been enhanced by including a tribute to this scene. Oh well.

Errata: If you leave the library (18) to approach the dining area (31), it says you come from the Game Room. This is a bit jarring, but it doesn't seem to actually harm the flow of the adventure.

Life's Lottery

  Life's Lottery
Author: Kim Newman
Illustrator: Ian Miller (hardback cover)
First Published: 1999
ISBN: 0-684-84016-2 (hardback), 0-671-01597-4 (paperback)
Length: 488 pages (300 sections) (hardback), 615 pages (300 sections) (paperback)
Number of Endings: 120 (I think; it's a bit hard to count)
Plot Summary: You live the life of Keith Marion, an Englishman born in 1959, from birth until death.
My Thoughts: This is an amazing book. It contains more possibilities than you could possibly expect, and the paths through it run from funny and touching to grim and disturbing. The more you read it, the more the paths rebound off of one another, increasing the meaningfulness of all that happens. The depth of the book is further enhanced by reading The Quorum, an interesting novel (reviewed on the Gamebook-Related Products page) set in the same world. Even the mechanics of the book are somewhat innovative. The book uses the "go to x, then y" instruction, which requires the reader to read two sections in a row -- this means that events that happen in the middle of several different paths don't have to be pasted repeatedly into different parts of the book. A nice space-saver. Even more interesting is the fact that the book works if you ignore the instructions and simply read it from cover to cover -- there are intermediate sections which can only be found if you read it this way and which give meaning to the proceedings. In my opinion, this is a book that everyone (gamebook fan or not) should read. It shows the remarkable power of the interactive format, and it's more than just a little bit thought-provoking. The only points which may go against it for some people are its frequent references to British culture (which I love, but which may confuse some international readers) and its subject matter (there's quite a bit of sex, violence and profanity in here). Still, I just can't recommend this book enough. should be able to hook you up with a copy if you can't find one elsewhere.

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