|Fighting Fantasy 40,000 - In the grim|
darkness of the far future,
there is only cars!
I've been reading 'Dracula the Un-Dead' recently, an 'official sequel' to the classic original Dracula novel, written by one of Bram Stoker's descendants, and a book so painfully mind-numbingly awful that it's getting physically painful to read through. As a result, I'm going to totally change gear and play something not even remotely fantasy-ish.
Cast your mind back to a time when Mel Gibson wasn't someone that a movie producer would avoid like leprosy. Seems difficult to imagine, doesn't it? We're talking 1985, a mere 4 years after 'Mad Max 2' hit cinemas. A post-apocalyptic world which didn't involve zombies? Sure, it happened. What it did involve, though, were biker gangs and juiced-up cars.
Life is weird, sometimes. Let's get on with it.
|"Dracula the Un-Dead"|
It's a bad book.
A very, very bad book
Right, so according to the backstory of this book, a mysterious virus kills off most of the world's population, leaving the survivors struggling for survival among the world's resources... which you'd kinda expect, given how few people there are, would be kinda abundant. Apparently people would kill over a tin of beans, which is just strange if there's only 15% of the population left trying to acquire all the tins of beans in the planet, there'd surely be plenty to go around... why am I over-thinking this? There's worse things to worry about. Like the way that this virus is meant to happen in JUST OVER FIVE YEARS FROM NOW!!
Scared yet? You should be, because I'm one of the survivors, and I've been asked to drive across the country to pick up some petrol (or 'gas') from another settlement of survivors. And to help in my travels, I've been given a Dodge Interceptor car. With mounted machine guns. And rocket launchers. Y'know, I've spent most of the last week reading about Mina Harker fighting vampires with a katana sword, and that was less dumb than this idea. Why does the car need rocket launchers?
|In some post-apocalypses, you don't need|
cars. You just need a skill score of 12.
Slightly Peeved-Off Kevin has a nice skill of 12, a luck of 9, and a stamina of 30. Yes, 30. The book tells me to add 24 to his stamina roll. My guess is that Kevin has recently retired from being the star of Deus Ex or something, and now has bullet-resistant skin. On the other hand, this could mean that there's going to be a LOT of combat in this game. Oh boy... My car also has its own stats, with an 8 in firepower an a 32 in arour plating. And rockets, did I mention those? Yeah... Right, let's drive.
A short way from my home base, I'm driving along when I hear sounds of gunfire. I pull over to investigate, and I'm confronted with a man wielding a shotgun who insists that I recently shot his wife and kids. I try to explain to him that I didn't, and wind up pointing my gun at him. If this was 'The Walking Dead', I'd expect things would end in a far more gruesome manner, but this time the man relents and apologises.
|Armed with rocket launchers, as strong as wet cardboard|
The book then tells me that I'm tearing down the road at several kilometres an hour... wait, kilometres? From the language of the title (Freeway, isn't that an American word), I expected my car would be running on miles, not kilometres. I wonder for a while about the post-apocalyptic embrace of the metric system... oh wait, no time to think about it, a red chevy is shooting at me.
|Beans - more precious than grenades|
Y'know, I don't want to be one of those "I hate everything, grrr angry" type of internet reviewers, but there's really no way to hide the fact that I've not been enjoying this book so far, and that one single combat encounter shows pretty much why. I will now need to find somewhere to get my car fixed, before I accidentally crash into a stray sheep and die in the resulting fiery car explosion.
I examine the wreck, and when I get back into my car, I get a radio message from home base telling me that they have been attacked by a gang of bikers (boy, I'm sure glad I gave those directions to my home base to that suspicious chap from earlier, I'm sure he's not at all related to this at all!) and they have now kidnapped one of the town's leaders. I shrug my shoulders - this kind of stuff happens - and press on. Eventually the highway is blocked with abandoned and wrecked cars, causing me to take a diversion.
The diversion leads to a river, with a bridge. However the bridge is partly open, so if I want to get over it, I'll have to get the car to jump the gap. That should be easy enough, given that my car has a 'stamina' of only 3 left and no way to heal it back up, which I take to mean that the only thing stopping the car from falling apart is the duct tape I've wrapped around it.
|Are we still talking about it? Can't|
we just get Beyond Thunderdome?
Eh, never mind that, the book decides to give me one of those 'fight two enemies at the same time' combat sequences I do so hate. In fact, I suspect this may be the first of those. I really hate these kinds of combat, they feel far too cluttered and unstructured to work well for me. I manage to kill both bikers without too much trouble, probably because I'm not in my car any more.
I search through the abandoned vehicles of one of the recent car pile-ups, only to eventually stumble upon a crowbar. I hope to find some petrol cans somewhere among the abandoned cars, but the book tells me that I 'suddenly feel' paranoid about my car and asks if I should run back to it. Afraid that some sneaky bugger has made off with the last of its armour plating (I can't think why, because the damn stuff is obviously made of tin foil), I hurry back to my car, only to find that it is quite fine.
I drive off, and am suitably punished for my paranoia only a few segments later when I do indeed run out of pertol right in the middle of the grasslands. And thus was the end of Slightly Peeved-Off Kevin. His gravestone will read "Rest in Peace Slightly Peeved-Off Kevin, too paranoid to step ten paces away from his broken car in case someone nicked the hubcaps, now eaten by a mutant kangaroo in a field somewhere."
|Why's it always down under that makes these kind|
of sci-fi things? I think they're plotting something. Beware
people - the Australian future of kangaroos and kids who
draw silly patterns on their faces! It's coming, I tells ya!!
Having said that, if I compare it to the other book I've read this week (in which Dracula actually says to Mina Harker's son "I am your father" without even the slightest trace of self-parody), this is definitely the better book. So well done Freeway Fighter, you're more enjoyable than the worst Dracula book in the universe.
On the bright side, I have been able to get my hands on a few other books lately, which I'll update on in a later post. Sadly, Return of the Vampire is not among them - that one seems to go for a pretty penny! Stick around!
(If you've enjoyed this article, be sure to check out Justin MacCormack's two bestselling collections of horror stories - "Return to 'Return to Oz'", "Cthulhu Doesn't Dance" and the young adult coming-of-age comedy "Diary of a gay teenage zombie". His newest novel, "Twilight of the Faerie", is available now)