Mike (the Paladin)'s Reviews > Mazes and Monsters

Mazes and Monsters by Rona Jaffe
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's review
Nov 16, 2009

did not like it

This thing was sooooo noticed in it's day. They did a TV movie with a young Tom Hanks.

The warning here? Mommas don't let your babies grow up to play Dungeons and Dragons. Oh the game in the book is Mazes and Monsters but I doubt anyone missed the point. The poor sap in the book completely loses himself in his character. I wonder what that says about the electronic games of today? I mean if it was dangerous for a few friends to sit around a table with some paper and dice (which I did and still do occasionally) how much danger does an MMORPG represent?

Come on. This thing was pathetic when it came out and it's still pathetic today.

If I could I'd give this one less than one star...but if you try to give no stars it just looks like you read the thing without rating it... Had this book not hit a fashionable inquisitory victim it would never have been so popular. It just isn't that good. But like so many things before and after (remember the foo-fa-rah over Harry Potter?) Dungeons and Dragons and the other role playing games (RPGs)that came along were (at least at first) deemed by "society" to be dangerous. Yes a group of nerds sitting around a table with some dice, a few sheets of paper and some books were in imminent danger of losing their minds because they could, for a few hours imagine themselves to be heroes, wizards, rogues and ...yes, clerics.

(I wonder how the jocks can handle fantasy football...isn't it a risk?)

Since my "hey day" as a Dungeon Master I have raised a family, had a career and been ordained as a minister (yes a Christian church...a real one). Unlike the poor schmuck in the book I don't continue to live in an imaginary world unable to get out. I don't (and never did) wander around "city steam tunnels" dress in costume (though if you do it doesn't bother me...enjoy), nor confuse fantasy with reality. I still read fantasy books, and now and then still play D&D.

But I don't own this book anymore and the only recommendation I can give is don't waste your time. Seldom is propaganda this pitifully, woefully, useless. As said before, pathetic.

Update 6/27/15

I looked back at this review after reading and reviewing Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It. I a, also old enough to remember when it became difficult to find a comic book. In the 1950s there were congressional hearings about the danger of those nefarious graphic adventures...Like captain America and Bucky or Batman with Robin... Today's books would really freak them out.

Then as I noted above many here probably recall the campaign against Harry Potter. Some Christians see danger in any kind of fantasy I think.

My Pastor back in the 80s pronounced from the "pulpit" that, "If you're still playing Dungeons and Dragons you're sinning!". I had to lay the game aside for a few years to remain in good standing with the church.

Of course I'm a Pastor myself now and play both as player and Dungeon Master (that title freaked a few people out I recall).

This book rode the tide of hysteria about D&D...sadly not only is it pretty much pure propaganda, it's not well told propaganda...

Oh well. I'm sure you can get it from the library if you want to try it. As noted, can't recommend this one.
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Comments (showing 1-20 of 20) (20 new)

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Mike (the Paladin) Did anyone else note my typo? My "career" became a "carrier", oops.

message 2: by Tracey (new)

Tracey *applause*

message 3: by Tracey (new)

Tracey Er, for the review, not for having made and caught the typo. :)

message 5: by Michael (new)

Michael R. Was this book based on real life, or completely fictional? I recall way back in the D&D heyday (late 70's), that some 'genius' from MSU became so enthralled be the game that he did crawl around in the sewers of Lansing and became lost for a few weeks until he was eventually found.

message 6: by Tracey (new)

Tracey She thought it was based on reality - but she was deluded. There's a Wikipedia article that seems pretty good - the most relevant bits are "apocryphal" and "The legends had risen due to newspaper reports concerning the disappearance of a Michigan State University student named James Dallas Egbert. Egbert had played Dungeons & Dragons and did in fact go into the steam tunnels of his school, but with the intent of committing suicide." Cue mass hysteria.

message 7: by Michael (new)

Michael R. Eggbert... That's right! I remember the newspaper articles. I think it was a bigger story in Michigan. I thought there was some doubts as to whether it was actually a suicide attempt, or whether the kid actually just weirded out.

Mike (the Paladin) No so far as I know he was already struggling with issues, the D&D had nothing to do with it. In a corollary back in '50s a kid lost it and committed a murder (I don't recall details, I was young), and they found a lot of comic books in his room...voila(vwala)! Comic books cause children to wig out. For several years it became difficult to find comics (there were even congressional hearings).

I played D&D back in the late '70s (and still do when I can get a group together). For a while attacking Dungeons and Dragone was the "Cause célèbre". I can remember our pastor renouncing Dungeons and Dragons from the podium (our church doesn't use a "pulpit"). There was huge hysteria for a while...enter Rona Jaffe and the desire to make a buck (not that I blame her. She probably made at least a couple of million off people's paranoia).

message 9: by Michael (new)

Michael R. Very interesting. I do remember, whether or not there was a shread to truth to it or not (I've learned to be skeptical of media from personal expireinces and knowledge), they reported that James E played D&D constantly and while he was missing that it was related to a desire to play a real-life version underground.

Also, the comic scare you mentioned, did cause hysteria, because young boys were being lead astray by the 'wicked' comics of the day. I think this occurred in the 50's. I don't rmember the name of the report someone published detailing specific titles, issues, and pages as examples of 'perverse behavior'. I believe it was mostly from the old horror comics. What resulted from the hearings was the 'Comics Code' which is stamped on every cover of every comic book. I haven't been a collector for at least ten years but I was still there when I last checked. All comics then had to be approved, forcing many issues to fold.

Sad but true.

Mike (the Paladin) No the comics code has been gone a long time. I loved the old silver age books (they were comics code approved but managed to stay good). I lost interest in the darker comics that have become popular... Still, that's personal taste. For a while when I was a kid superhero comics and almost all became more difficult to find (you know they had been in every drug and grocery store).

The media goes from cause to cause... it happens.

message 11: by Michael (new)

Michael R. I lost interst (in comics) when the prices started to rise over $1.00 an issue making it increasingly difficult to afford to collect many titles, and the profileration of multiple covers with gold, silver, and sometimes green (think Hulk) foil covers so they could charge another $1!

I agree. The stories from the Silver Age of comics were the best! Yes, from the drug store comic rack.

Mike (the Paladin) I found Marvel comics when I was around 12 and from then on I collected. I had to sell my collection some years ago, but till the mid 70s I tried to keep up the titles I liked.

In '78 I was the one who found D&D, bought the basic set, and then the hard backs and DMed the game. I still DM (I've also been a player over the years of course). But the group I DM for has more trouble getting together. We stopped before Christmas last year and still haven't been able to "restart".

Oh well.

message 13: by Michael (new)

Michael R. I was a Batman fanatic in the 60's, and discovered Marvel's in the 70's. I was able to go back and buy many of the marvel's from the 60's. They had the best storylines. Peter Parker, Ben Grimm, and Tony Stark had so many personal problems outside of saving the world. I loved all the titles - that was my problem.

We briefly played D&D a few times in the early 80's but we only had a couple players, and I'm not sure we ever did really understand the concept, nor played correctly.

Mike (the Paladin) D&D works well with, in house rules. When I got with a group later at a game shop I found I'd been "mis-playing" a few rules, but it didn't really matter.

message 15: by Jenn (new)

Jenn I sometimes wonder if fantasy is the Zahpod Beeblebrox of mass media. It keeps people from focusing on what is really causing havoc with the world.

Mike (the Paladin) I'm not sure how to take that....???? I mean you know how who Zaphod Beeblebrox is, so you read fantasy.

I'm confused.

message 17: by Jenn (new)

Jenn Zaphod Beeblebrox's purpose was to fly around the universe causing "scandals" so that no one would pay attention to those who were really in charge.

I guess my point was that there is so much intellectual garbage and smut being published and yet write a book with wizards and dragons and syddenly now you've crossed into the demonic. So when Harry Potter came out with all the hubbub there were also books being published for young people that had explicit sexual and substance abuse content, barely vieled anti-religious propaganda, graphic over the top violence. And did any of these books even get a blink? No because the devil was at Hogwarts.

Am I making sense?

Mike (the Paladin) Yeah...I think I may be slowing down. Frightening.

message 19: by [Name Redacted] (new)

[Name Redacted] My dissertation is about the creation of the category of "magic" by the Greeks and its deployment as a rhetorical tool to attack others during the Roman period. Long story short, it began as a term for "Persian religion" and then became a term for "foreign religion" and finally became a term for "unauthorized, decentralized religious rites" -- it was invented by pagans and never meant what we think of today when we think of "magic." Magika in antiquity was EXPLICITLY religious, always relying on invocations of gods and the various nature spirits people in the ancient Mediterranean believed surrounded them; it wasn't some "third party" option, and everyone from Plato to Tacitus to Pliny condemned it as evil and threatening to society because it was assumed to be indicative of foreign or anti-social sympathies. Jews and Christians alike were condemned by the Greeks and Romans because their religions were foreign, and therefore they were practicing "magic." Heck, by Roman law anyone caught engaging in "magic" was exiled (if rich) or executed (if poor) because it was tantamount to treason. Even the words translated as "sorcerer," "witch," etc. in English versions of the Torah/Tanakh usually refer to foreign priests (when they aren't actually referring to foreign scribes or other government functionaries) in the original Hebrew or Aramaic. The earliest Christian anti-magika literature (from Justin Martyr, Tertullian, etc.) was condemning magika BECAUSE magika was religious and therefore meant people were turning to foreign gods or foreign versions of Christian and/or Jewish religious praxis. Even in the NT the anti-magika passages rely on the connection between OT condemnation of foreign religious praxis and the contextual meaning of Greek & Latin words related to "magic". So the Harry Potter madness never made a lick of sense to me -- though Rowling did do some excellent research! EG: "Accio" is a common Latin summoning-charm, and "Alastor" is a type of Greek vengeance spirit.

Also, the take away for me from this book and its film adaption? Rather than "D&D is dangerous!", I assumed the point was actually the common-sense dictum "Mentally ill people are dangerous to themselves and to others!" Because seriously -- they establish from the beginning that the kid who goes nuts was ALREADY NUTS. The other three kids are actually well-adjusted, reasonably happy and healthy people (especially given their families) who have fun and make friends playing a simple game until Crazy McNutbar starts mucking things up. At least Jack Chick's insane comic attack on D&D had a clear, consistent (if utterly ludicrous) message -- Jaffe's book/film can't seem to make up its mind!


Mike (the Paladin) 0_0

Subtle social satire huh?


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