Alex's Reviews > Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons

Empire of Imagination by Michael Witwer
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For the most part, this book was entertaining and informative, which is what you hope for with this kind of pop culture bio. The author was clearly a fan of the game and very much pro-Gygax.

My main issue was with the prose, which came off as a little repetitive (especially in terms of recapping what had come before) and often syrupy. The breaking point, for me, was toward the end with an overwrought scene involving the grim reaper. I completely understand the need to "dramatize" real events and present them in a more fiction-like style, but at a certain point, you have to stay true to the facts or you run the risk of your research being questioned. The scene I mention was just needlessly fictionalized. If it hadn't happened so late in the book, I would have stopped reading.

And, while on one hand I appreciated the time jumps from chapter to chapter, I couldn't help but feel like I was missing big, important chunks of time. I could also do without the "gameplay" interludes between each part. It seemed very forced and didn't really pay off. But that might just be me.

My second major issue was the audiobook narration, which was borderline unlistenable. The narrator felt the need to read the entire book as if he were telling a funny family tale, with chuckles and knowing laughs almost every other sentence. It was supremely distracting and very annoying. My tolerance is pretty high with audiobooks, but this one was just rough.

All that said, I found the book to be compelling enough to power through those two frustrations and I don't regret it. Witwer has clearly done his homework when it comes to Gygax and it shows. It's a well-researched and compulsively readable book. If you've ever wanted to know more about the most famous roleplaying game in history and the man who brought it to life, Empire of Imagination is a great starting point.
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Reading Progress

July 25, 2017 – Shelved
July 25, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
October 8, 2017 – Started Reading
October 9, 2017 –
October 10, 2017 –
45.0% "Enjoying the book so far, even if the prose is a bit repetitive, but the audiobook is maddening. The narrator reads the book as if it's one long, nervous joke - chuckling and narrating with a smug, unbearable tone. It's almost made me want to drop the book. But the story of Gygax is interesting and it's well-told, though it does sometimes feel like the time-jumps between chapters are glossing over key moments."
October 11, 2017 –
75.0% "The prose is somewhat clunky, but the information is engaging and readable. Though, if I read "dialed a number he knew by heart" one more time, I'm going to scream. Audiobook continues to be a tough slog. Not sure why the narrator has to chuckle awkwardly every other sentence. Overall, though, a quick and interesting read."
October 11, 2017 – Finished Reading

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