Seth's Reviews > Elfish Gene: Dungeons, Dragons and Growing Up Strange

Elfish Gene by Mark Barrowcliffe
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Jan 28, 09

bookshelves: memoir, nonfiction
Read in January, 2009

(Note, read the authors comments in the comments section, he points out a few factual errors in this review that I think are worth noting before taking my review seriously.)

Hahahaha...no.

I picked this book up because I was a huge dork in high school and middle school - the dorkiest, and hung out with some fairly damaged individuals. I was looking at a book to wince at my own memories as I share someone elses, and also in a way celebrate that time.

Barrowcliffe has...issues, though. He has a tendency to write sweeping generalizations he shouldn't ("Women don't play Dungeons and Dragons") or talk about his high school being worse than Abu Ghraib (really? You fucking went there, pal?). It's filled with tons of amusing stories, and really gets alive when he talks about gaming - you can tell that, despite all of it, he really loved playing - but in the end, this is the story about a writer with a fantastic ego twisting in his own insecurities.

There's a post-script at the end about how he went to a modern game with strangers, that feels tacked on because it probably was. I can just imagine an editor forcing him to try things out to give readers an idea what things are like today, and him resisting all the while. As it is read, Barrowcliffe starts off having to remind the reader yet again he is successful and has a wife and a kid. He goes into the game with every intent to dislike it, and does, and lets the players know he has a wife and a kid, and more importantly, he's a writer! He writes things. The players are not impressed or try to impress him back, and he is horrified they don't give him proper respect. He ends the book with a pity condemenation of these poor, poor souls, and retreats to the safety of...you guessed it...his wife and his kid.

Yeah.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Mark (new)

Mark Barrowcliffe Seth - thanks for your comment.
Just as a factual pointer, I never said school was worse than Abu Ghraib, I said the particular punishment that was meted out to the prisoner who had to hold on to the wires was exactly what our physics master used to do to pupils. It was, exactly that. He used to stand them on a rubber bucket for the purpose.
And I would also point out that - as I wrote in the book - I didn't bring up the fact I was a writer with the D&D group at the end, I was asked what I did. If I expected respect for being a writer in the UK then I'd wait a long time. We look up to reality show contestants, as is right and proper.
Anyway, glad you at least found some of it funny.
I did end up getting back into D&D, by the way, after the book was published and have now sold a fantasy novel. Mordor has long shadows, it seems....


message 2: by Seth (new) - rated it 1 star

Seth Mark wrote: "Seth - thanks for your comment.
Just as a factual pointer, I never said school was worse than Abu Ghraib, I said the particular punishment that was meted out to the prisoner who had to hold on to ..."


Ah, thanks a lot for the factual errors. Glad you pointed them out, and I hope people who read my review note it.

A fantasy novel, eh? Despite my negative-at-times review would suggest, I'll probably get my local book store to pick it up for me when it comes out, if it hasn't already. It sounds intriguing, and if there is even the hint of the humor of The Elfish Gene, it'll be more than worth my time to read.


Shane Hey Seth I had no idea that you already read this. Now I definitely can't wait to read it. I started writing something like this myself a year or two ago, it was a lot of fun. But as usual it ended up on the pile of "things that I never finished".


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