2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 14 October 2012
This is a really fun book. The basic premise: a group of friends are keen players of 'Caverns and Creatures', a game not totally unlike 'Dungeons and Dragons' (cough), but when they insult their new Cavern Master, he retaliates by sending them into the game for real. And so a half-orc barbarian, a dwarven cleric, a halfling rogue and an elvish sorcerer find themselves getting used to new bodies, learning to use their abilities, facing up to trolls, goblins, giant ants and a humourless town guard, and finding ingenious ways to survive, but all strictly within the rules of the game.
I've never played D&D, and my only contact with the culture was reading 'The Elfish Gene' many years ago, so a lot of this could have been incomprehensible to me. It's a testament to the author's skill that it wasn't; there was never a point where I felt I needed more explanation (apart from the title!), or that I was missing the point of a joke. And yes, it's funny, very very funny. The first half depends a great deal on the barbarian orc, whose low charisma rating manifests itself in explosions of bodily fluids and a great deal of swearing and aggression, which palls fairly rapidly, but the second half is much more clever, and laugh out loud humour right the way through. The appearance of the sister (as a half-elf druid with antler's horns) and her boyfriend (a muscular type transformed into a wimpy bard) liven things up greatly.
The plot - well, it's all pretty silly, but completely logical within the constructs of the game. There were multiple times where a solution took me by surprise yet was satisfyingly consistent, and the ending is ingenious and unexpected, setting things up very nicely for the next book. The characters don't have a great deal of depth (but then a barbarian orc is bound to be fairly one-note), but they adapt very nicely to their changed circumstances and learn to use their abilities over the course of the book. The only big negative for me was that so many of the jokes depend on what can only be described as adolescent humour - a lot of four-letter-words, gross-out descriptions of blood, vomit and worse, dismembered corpses and the like. I'm not offended by such things, but it's a very cheap type of humour, and although a certain amount is fine, and it's in character for the barbarian, the best moments for me were the more subtle ones - such as the halfling having a sister who's half-human and half-elf, or having to use a British accent to understand elvish. There's enough humour inherent in the situation to make the juvenile jokes unnecessary. This is an entertaining light-hearted read, and I'm tempted to say three stars because of the silliness, but I've had a bad week (stupid cold) and this book cheered me up no end and made me laugh. Four stars.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 1 March 2013
Critical Failures is an interesting blend of a novel. The story starts with a group of lads Tim, Cooper, Julian and Dave awaiting the arrival of a new Games Master for their weekly game of Caverns and Creatures, a Dungeons and Dragons style role playing game. As you might expect the author takes every opportunity to poke fun at the stereotype gamer, nerds with absolutely no prospect of ever finding a girlfriend. When the Games Master finally arrives, wearing a cape, they all take the opportunity to have some fun at his expense. Matters go from bad to worse and our "heroes" find themselves magically transported to the Games World with the GM having full control over this environment.
Bevan neatly combines the fantasy and comedy genres with quite a lot of action for the characters but with them of course fully aware of their game characters strengths and weaknesses. The strength of this novel lies in the humour. I found myself laughing out loud a lot but also rooting for our hapless heroes. Fantasy and RPG fans will get the jokes and find this funny. Anyone who is partial to slapstick humour will enjoy this also I'd imagine. It's not a high brow book and the humour isn't subtle but we all need a laugh sometimes and Critical Failures does this effortlessly.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 17 December 2012
Unabashed heroic fantasy meets unapologetic beer-swliing trash-talk in this tale of four friends who find themselves sucked into the world of Creatures and Caverns (Bevan's answer to Dungeons and Dragons). Though all the elements of sword and sorcery at its most kitsch are present, our surly, rude, and somewhat dim-witted heroes make for a sardonic antithesis that allows a grown man to sit back and enjoy the adventure without a trace of guilt. With a host of companion novellas also available, Critical Failures is a great series for those looking for a generation x flavour to their to might and magic. Or just a good laugh.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 January 2013
'Critical Failures' is the story of a geek called Tim who arranges weekly a role playing game similar to Dungeons & Dragons. Tim & three friends make the mistake of inviting stranger Mordred to play with them and they end up at his mercy when he puts them inside the game after they insult him.
It isn't hard to grasp any of the role playing game rules if you're unfamiliar with them, things are explained as the story moves along and it all makes sense. How exactly Mordred puts them inside the game doesn't really get fully explained but that wasn't a concern for me, it was an interesting enough concept not to question it too much.
The characters are brilliant, particulary Cooper who winds up an Orc with a horrendously low charisma score which makes him utterly disgusting to be around - I don't think I've ever thought 'Yuck!' so much in my life! The dialogue is fantastic, it really brings the characters to life and adds to the humorous tone. There's honestly nothing I didn't like about this book. Even the situations Bevan puts his characters in seem to be designed for maximum hilarity.
To sum up, this book really made me laugh. I loved it. The ending made me want a sequel, right now!
on 23 October 2015
If you were a kid in the '80s, you'll probably remember Dungeons & Dragons, wherein some wholesome American kids got sucked into an RPG world. You can soil your treasured memory of this classic animation in two ways.
1) You can rewatch Dungeons & Dragons. It's shamefully awful, and the cowardly Eric is the only remotely sensible character in it.
2) You can read Critical Failures by Robert Bevan.
Books where people get sucked into role-playing games and computer games are apparently a thing, which surprised me more than it ought to have done, really. And they tend to be a fairly comic thing, because the premise is inherently absurd so you might as well run with the comedy. With Critical Failures, Bevan takes this to new levels with a barrage of Mum jokes, swearing, copious foul-smelling bodily functions and general depravity. And that's *before* the party are magically transported into a carefully name-changed "Caverns & Creatures" realm by a narked "Cavern Master".
You can only get away with this level of filth if you are very, very funny. With so many gags in one book, Bevan could never hit them all out of the park, but the strike rate is impressive. This is a very funny book indeed. He also has fun with the absurdities of D&D (including speaking with a foreign accent to denote the use of a different language) - but this is all done with a dash of respect for the source material. I'm not a gamer myself, but I recognise someone poking a bit of fun at something he loves dearly.
There are currently three books in this series, and a host of short stories. I'm going straight on to book 2, and I'll see you on the other side.
on 17 August 2015
Target wise I would say the intended audience was teenage/ young adult males and perhaps South Park fans.
The book itself is not too dissimilar from the concept of the 80s cartoon Dungeons and Dragons, where a group of teenagers are pulled into the fictional world and need to learn to survive using their skills. In the case of Critical Failures, this occurs thanks to a request for a new Cavern Master to run the game. It follows the journey of the characters as they come to terms with their pre-relocation actions and their character's stats and abilities.
I wanted to read this book as, although I had characters rolled and scenarios ready, I have never actually had the chance to role-play and it is something I have always wanted to do. I thought the premise sounded like fun. The book itself contains a lot of toilet and adolescent humour, so if that's your cup of tea it is good for a chuckle. It doesn't matter if you have any experience or knowledge of role-playing as initially the rules are explained and as things become real there is no need to know when a dice roll is needed, or if a person contains the skills. The author does a good job in ensuring that the story s not hung up on game rules, thus avoids alienating non-players.
For me, I would like to have seen some more character development and some branching off of personalities as experience tempers them, which may come in the second or third book. I get the feeling that book one is more of a scene setter than anything else, but I am sorry to say that although I enjoyed the book for what it was, with so many other fantastic books on my reading list, I don't think I will be continuing with the series.
on 11 December 2013
I was extremely impressed by Critical Failures. It's beautifully written. The plot is taut and it's a brilliant expose of how 20-40 year old men talk amongst themselves when they're sure no-one else is around. Bevan's style is both strong and fluid, making the novel a quick read.
However, while Critical Failures is an excellent book - it's not for everyone.
1. If you're a fan of South Park or Seths Rogen or MacFarlane: buy this book, you won't regret it.
2. Alternatively, if you know your Steve Jackson from your Steve Jackson (or understand what that means): buy this book, you won't regret it.
3. If you want a lighter shade of fantasy literature, Critical Failures is to Lord of the Rings, what Red Dwarf is to Star Wars: buy this book, you won't regret it.
4. If you're an author still looking to find your voice or understand why your adverb & adjective laden work is repeatedly getting one and two-star reviews: buy this book, you could learn a lot from Bevan's writing style.
If none of those apply, you'll struggle with Critical Failures. That's not a fault of the book - it is a perfect photograph of the characters and Dungeons & Dragons environment it seeks to portray - it's just that the subject matter may not be to everyone's taste.
Nonetheless, I can heartily recommend it as a storming novel and I'll certainly look forward to reading more in the series.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2013
I love Robert Bevan, This and would be happy to bite his big black mentor.
This is definitely the most fun I've had with a book this year, and I know nothing whatsoever about role-playing games (though I'm a connoisseur when it comes to dick jokes). I laughed out loud countless times, and stayed up late into the night to finish it. Buy this book now.
on 14 June 2015
I was really, really pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I've read all three now and can't wait for a fourth installment. The humour is puerile, ridiculously so, and that's not something that can usually carry me through a 20 minute episode, nevermind three novels, but in this case I just couldn't stop laughing the whole way through. It probably helps if you play DnD as a lot of the jokes are about juxtaposing the way things work in the DnD world to that of the real world, but things are fairly well explained to the reader by the inclusion of a character who's never played DnD before having to have most things explained to them. All round a great book, I'd go as far as to say a must read for any DnD player.
on 18 November 2013
Super geek fest
I was on the unlucky end of dungeons and dragons, I started secondary school a year after they closed the group, but I have always had a fascination and played computer games when I can get m hands on them. This took me into the world and let me explore. Funny and light hearted, yet it made me feel for the characters even the rather... shall I say animalistic Cooper!
I would recommend this to anyone with a good sense of humour and either experience of these types of games or a desire to play.