on 17 December 2011
In the first book of the Troubleshooter Rules trilogy, Allen Varney masterfully demonstrates the potential in a setting often dismissed as simple base humour and slapstick for serious satirical writing. Although an air of dark humour pervades throughout, the tone of the story is one of definite menace. Although based on popular role-playing game PARANOIA, no familiarity with the game is assumed as the story of Troubleshooter Team Rotisserie and their quest to return a stolen helpbot is told from the perspective of Team Leader Fletcher-R-JSV-1, interspersed with the debriefing room activities of the team at the mission's close. As the story progresses, the reader is introduced to the setting of Alpha Complex as Fletcher learns of its murky underside, gradually gaining pace until a page-turning climax and a conclusion which leaves the reader anxious for the release of part 2.
Although the writing is at times difficult to read or overly clunky, it is of an overall high standard that should appeal to fans of comedy writers such as Douglas Adams, and for the most part is in a style which carries the story along, without any glaring instances of humour being allowed to get in the way of the story. In conclusion, a fantastic read and well recommended.
Disclaimer: Review copy received free of charge.
on 6 February 2012
Paranoia as a roleplaying game is often overlooked as nothing more than absurd slapstick and a variety of entertaining, messy and implausible ways in which players can kill each other's characters. With this novel we are treated to a solid realisation of the Alpha Complex that the rulebooks talk about but never manage to bring to life in quite the same way. The trademark humour is here, but it's more like the icing on a rather dark cake, and no reader is going to go away from this book thinking that there isn't a serious side to the setting, even if it is dressed up with helpbots that behave like ambulatory versions of the Office Assistant ("You appear to be suffering a fatal or near-fatal neurolytic event! Would you like advice on dying with dignity?").
This is both a highly entertaining read for sci-fi fans and an invaluable source of material for Paranoia GMs planning their next session, we we get a glimpse into the kind of Alpha Complex envisaged by one of the authors of the game itself.