Top critical review
Overrated - Not The Author's Fault
on 16 February 2017
This book has got a lot of praise from loads of fans and even John Wardley who produced many of its attractions. It's well written, however I feel that, as a non-fiction book, it's very overrated. It skims over a lot of unexplored detail and I feel doesn't offer as much insight as people think. Many of the information appears to have been collated from public-facing sources, or observations by the author, so never truly gets under the skin of the park. Its quotations & sources range from press articles to forum posts to the author's wife, for example. However due to sad reasons explained in the introduction, I do not blame the author for this as he was forced to write it in a short amount of time.
Effort has gone into summarising the park's history. However it always stays overtly objective, in quite a vanilla version of events, becomes pedantic at times in order to detail absolutely everything (the replacement of fast food outlets with different fast food outlets, the fastrack systems, who really benefits from these facts?). It misses the core that made the park great back in the day. And John Wardley is accredited with all the usual, which isn't really the big picture.
However, as he explains, the author is not involved in the theme park industry and comes at it from a fansite point of view, simply wanting to write a good fan read. Hence "unofficial". But the book misses the point of what Alton Towers was - to inspire and be very visual, a park with a unique character and beginnings. It seems to inhabit the world of online fan communities rather than the nitty gritty industry through the years.
The best parts are exploring the unused plans for the Battersea project, which is great research. However, hardcore fans probably know most the book's content already or be able to easily access it online (since all the information sources referenced here are online), and so it seems to appeal largely to younger / more casual fans. I don't believe it should be considered anything more than an interesting self-published fan book. Not a bad thing, and I commend the author for creating something on an interesting subject in a short space of time, but I feel the book's reputation is very exaggerated by others.