This is one of the few truly surreal gamebooks. Its plot ‚" an adventurer obtains an artefact which contains the entire universe and teleports the player to various random and unusual locations through space and time, pursued by otherworldly demons ‚" provides a leitmotif connecting a series of scenarios and mini-adventures. Unlike similar attempts (the Lone Wolf Dazhiarn novels come to mind), it really does give a constant feel of otherworldliness ‚" the scenarios include the player being cast in a chess game, confronting gods on horseback in a world of dreams, visiting a library in limbo populated by bespectacled dragons and practical-joking archivists, reasoning with a ‚aelogic dog‚, helping the bearer of a talking harp in a world of pig-men, and in theZiggurat World itself, which features a living doorway, insectoid bulls and soldiers who wear black glass to entrap flying centipedes. Other scenarios provide variety with fantasy, horror and sci-fi themes ‚" a haunted mansion, two different futuristic sci-fi scenarios, an apocalyptic future of the adventurer‚(tm)s own homeworld, an underground cave of elves, a skeleton army and so on. Some of the scenarios contain tricky puzzles and some interesting reflections on the nature of belief and the effects of scientific reasoning on the world (one character literally disenchants magic items).
It‚(tm)s a clever book, genuinely non-linear and very replayable owing to the complexity, diversity and depth of the scenarios. Typically the rewards of the scenarios have to be attained by finding a ‚aegood‚ path through to the end, as opposed to simply surviving or escaping. Many of the situations are intriguing and have numerous non-lethal outcomes, leaving the player wanting to return to each particular world to find out where s/he went wrong.
My biggest criticism with the book as it stands is that it can be finished successfully with very little gameplay (a player with good stats can beam straight to the Ziggurat World and bypass the world-hopping entirely, and still win). The maze ‚" the most challenging aspect ‚" is inessential to completion and it‚(tm)s nearly impossible to attain its benefits, rendering it superfluous. Because the choice of ‚aeworlds‚ depends on luck (even/odd rolls), the attempt to collect all seven portents is pretty much doomed. The book is intriguing enough that I wanted to replay and explore it even after ‚aebeating‚ it, but I feel it would have been even better had the world options been chosen and the maze section necessary for completion.
This is still one of the best Fighting Fantasy books in my opinion, a truly immersive gaming/reading experience which keeps the reader coming back for more.