As a boy, Thomas Kirkman witnesses his brother’s death at the claws of Balverines. But no one believes in Balverines anymore, or Hobbes or Hollow Men....moreAs a boy, Thomas Kirkman witnesses his brother’s death at the claws of Balverines. But no one believes in Balverines anymore, or Hobbes or Hollow Men. Even Heroes are in short enough supply to make people question whether they really grow horns or glow from within. Thomas spends each day studying such fantastic creatures while his father despairs about having a son unwilling to take over the family business. Finally a cruel deathbed revelation from his mother spurs Thomas to action; he’ll travel east to the land of Balverines and bring back the head of the beast that killed his brother.
Accompanying Thomas is his friend and servant James Skelton, younger but more worldly – having the kind of knowledge that comes from living in the poorer part of Bowerstone. Together they embark on an adventure taking them from the snowy peaks of Windside to the pirate-ridden waters off Blackridge and beyond. But what keeps this from simply being a series of events is the friction between the two friends – with Thomas’s idealism clashing against James’s pragmatism.
While The Balverine Order is set in the Fable universe, it’s not a direct tie-in to any of the games – taking place between games 2 and 3. It’s completely accessible to newcomers and well-written enough to please any fan of fantasy. The friendship between Thomas and James wisely grounds the action and an interesting cast of supporting characters fleshes out the adventure. There’s also a fun bit of sleuthing involving an angry northerner and a lost ring.
Bonus item: If you buy a physical copy of the book, you’ll also get a code for the Shardborne sword, a legendary weapon benefiting evil players. (less)
Quick! The zombies are getting close! Do you try to reload the rifle or pick up the morning star? Hop in a taxi or run for the subway? Duck into Ninte...moreQuick! The zombies are getting close! Do you try to reload the rifle or pick up the morning star? Hop in a taxi or run for the subway? Duck into Nintendo’s Comic Con booth or hope the Lucasfilm hallway leads to an exit? These are the choices you must make in Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?, a gamebook by Max Brallier, a game writer for Poptropica.com.
The main character is a male 25-year-old New Yorker with a crappy apartment, a crappy job and – frankly – a crappy life. In many ways a zombie apocalypse would be a step up, so when a morning meeting is interrupted with news of a cannibalistic attack on nearby hospital workers his (and your) mind starts working.
Like a Choose Your Own Adventure, flavor text describing your situation precedes two or three choices: do you stay hidden under the platform or make a run for it? You turn to the page number indicated by your choice and keep reading. Where this book differs is that the text is usually several pages instead of a paragraph or two, leading to the feeling that when you’ve reached one of the game’s endings you’ve just read a pretty cool zombie novella.
In all, there are 74 “An End”s spread throughout the book’s 400 pages, with one “The End” providing the definitive conclusion. In my playthroughs, I never found an instant-kill scenario and was never trapped in one of those loops some gamebooks have.
While Brallier includes the requisite amount of gore needed to properly tell a zombie story, the various paths edge between horror and black humor – providing an interesting amount of variation especially in terms of the other survivors you meet. That, with the varied locales, will have you holding your place in the book because maybe you didn’t decided to take the bridge out of town after all.
Ebook note: I read/played this on my Kindle and was amazed at how well it worked. Instead of flipping to page numbers, the choices are smart-linked and the bookmark function let me jump back to explore alternate paths. (less)