Blood Bowl

Reviewer: Jake Beal

Author: Matt Forbeck

Published: 2005

Reviewed: 2006-04-15

Publisher: Games Workshop

When I told one of the other MITSFS keyholders I had read this book,
she laughed at me and proclaimed that even she was smarter than that.
In retrospect, I wish I had been. When I began reviewing books, I
pledged to myself that I would finish every book I started reading for
a review, no matter how bad---in return, I was allowed to be as picky
as I wished in choosing which books to start reading. "Blood Bowl"
was the book that broke me. Mr. Forbeck, you've taken my critical
virginity---are you proud?

Not that I didn't try my best. I made it almost 200 pages into this
licensed brick before giving up. I suppose I should explain, however,
what it was that led me to start reading in the first place. "Blood
Bowl" hails from a genre that I have broken many lances on: the
hybridization of a fantasy universe and modern ideas. Usually, the
author starts out with a cute idea, like "Orcs with guns!" (Mary
Gentle's execrable "Grunts") or "What if adventurers had to deal with
cops?" (Keith DeCandido's excellent "Dragon Precinct").

Usually, it starts out fun, as the author plays with the concept. If
the author is smart, they stop it at a short story, and leave it as an
enjoyable moment of make-believe for all involved. The "Chicks in
Chainmail" anthologies, for example, contain many stories of this
sort. If the author is truly talented, they make a gamble, turn it
into a novel and reader realizes that they're serious and the book
says something really interesting through metaphor. Most authors who
make the gamble, however, are not as talented as they think they are,
and Mr. Forbeck is no exception.

In the case of Mr. Forbeck, the concept is "Football with swords!" I
read the first few pages, which dealt with the failings of the
standard fantasy world's dragon-slaying economy, and I was
hooked---I'm a sucker for authors who take a hoary stereotype and show
how its consequences turn out to be ludicrous. Unfortunately, he then
goes on to replace it with something even more stupid and
unsustainable: the modern NFL, exaggerated for heroic fantasy
standards. Competition in tryouts is cutthroat, right? So somebody
cuts the throats of competitors---a dozen of them in one night. And
then everybody starts invoking the god "Nuffle" and they go to the
"Dungeon Bowl." The fact that he started out playing the realism card
just adds insult to injury---it's false advertising, plain and simple.

It's not even good prose: sentence by sentence, the book reads not
unlike an average piece of fanfic. Mr. Forbeck just progresses from
plot point to plot point with the characters explaining things as they
go, filling up the pages with no overall story structure besides
chronology. Not unexpected for a book apparently connected with a
roleplaying game I'd never heard of, but I try to restrain my
prejudices until given evidence.

Eventually, I just couldn't take it any more and put it down. My dear
readers, I apologize for this: it's entirely possible that somewhere
in the next couple hundred pages, Mr. Forbeck redeems himself,
unbeknownst to me. But I doubt it. If you're obsessive about both
roleplaying and football, you might enjoy this book, picking up subtle
football in-jokes that I missed, or something. Otherwise, I recommend
spending your precious time elsewhere: I literally spent hours staring
listlessly out the window of a train in preference to reading any more
of this poorly written paperweight.