(2012) George R. R.Washington, Virgin Books £7.99, pbk, 240pp, ISBN 978-0-753-54099-2
Back in the day - thatís the 1960s, the Harvard Lampoon wrote a spoof novel based on The Lord of the Rings (which was a pretty big campus novel at the time) called Bored of the Rings, the title partly referring to the length of the original Tolkien novels. Since then, and more recently due to the success of films based on books, we have had humorous titles based on Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, again, and the Twilight books, and The Hunger Games and now comes A Game of Groans clearly inspired by the success of the novels written by George R. R. Martin, and subsequent Game of Thrones television series, although the disclaimer on the back cover says that this is not 'endorsed or associated with' the Martin series nor the HBO TV series. If that is true, then lucky escape George.
This is A Game of Groans: A Parody of Slush and Soot. 'Slush' is the right word for this offering, but 'soot' is the wrong word, and having read it another four-letter word beginning in 's' springs to mind, because this is truly awful. You will know what word I mean by glancing at the cover, showing a knight in a pose, with a bird on his helmet and various droppings staining his armour.
At a first glance, and with my reluctant reader credentials, this is my kind of book. Itís short, only 228 pages long, so we have to be grateful for small mercies, and it has prologue, even a prologue to the prologue and 63 other chapters, giving an average chapter length of less than 4 pages. In true Martin style, each chapter is devoted to a character, and their viewpoint, so we get chapters called Gateway, Headcase, Lolyta, Malia. Allbran, Triton, Juan, Sasha, etc, etc. You might think that some of the names are supposed to be funny, but you might be mistaken about that. George R. R. Washington Ė not his real name, it is actually a guy from Chicago called Alan Goldsher, also has this really annoying habit of having some of the dialogue in Spanish, and then having a footnote at the bottom to explain the term used, with maybe a funny quip bolted on Ė maybe.
Does it start well? Of course not! It starts with a boy wizard, a pointy-eared alien, and a cyborg tall figure swathed in black along with a few other characters who are known as the Others trying hard not to mention who they are for pseudo copyright reasons, and it goes quickly downhill for there as we get a whole cast of characters performing varying levels of mayhem, political intrigue, lust and violence with various in-jokes aimed at Martinís writing style, story arcs, subplots, etc, etc, stirred together with some jokes that will make the reader groan, or puns that will make them wince.
If you are a fan of the George R. R. Martin series, then you might want to read this Ė I can think of no other reason, unless you are doing it for a bet or a dare or your family have been held hostage, but you would be sorely disappointed at the end of it.
If you are a fan of humorous fantasy fiction Ė no, make that humorous fiction in general you might read this and also be sorely disappointed.
Avoid like a plague or locusts, frogs, zombiesÖ(insert a plague of your own choice here), and donít say I didnít warn you.
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