August 23, 2010 by lloyd
Sam Reviews Blood Bowl:
This week I’ve been spending most of my free time playing the Blood Bowl PC game. Since it was on my mind, I decided to dig out an old friend of mine from my book shelf. Blood Bowl by Matt Forbeck. Here we have one of the very rare cases of comedic fantasy within the Black Library canon, and is sure to be an instant hit with both fans of the board game, and those being introduced to Blood Bowl for the first time.
The book follows the events of Dunk Hoffnung, a would-be hero out to restore his family’s fortunes, who ends up being recruited for the Blood Bowl team the Bad Bay Hackers after a narrow escape from a chimera. Starting with his attempts to make the team, and following his fledgling career in game notorious for its bloody violence and low survival rate, the story packs moments of humour alongside the unexpected twists and the political intrigue which goes on outside (and often in blatant full view) of the public eye.
The first thing which makes this book stand out is it sense of humour. Often books set in the Warhammer universe are incredibly dark and gritty affairs, dealing only with the violence and warfare which has is what the main game is concerned with. However, Forbeck has taken the view that people can’t be fighting all the time and must have lives outside the battle fields. This is an approach which is also used as one of the basis of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and indeed Matt Forbeck’s writing has been compared to Sir Terry’s by some critics before, in one case being described as, Terry Pratchett meets John Madden. While I enjoy the dark nature of many of the books set in the Warhammer universe, it is nonetheless refreshing to find something of a more light hearted nature. And this book certainly provides many points for humour, with possibly my favourite moment being when Dunk is thrown over the stadium wall by the fans and then penalised by the referee (“He called it excessive celebration, you jumping over the edge of the stadium like that.”) Further moments of humour can be found in almost anything involving the ogre M’Grash, and the dialogue between the commentators Jim and Bob succeeds in breaking up the action of the game scenes.
Another area in which this book scores is its depiction of a world beyond that seen in the board game. Matt Forbeck manages to take us deeper into the culture surrounding Blood Bowl in the Warhammer world, and reveals a world full of just as much corruption, friendships, rivalries, and plain simple sabotage as would be present in the actual politics of that world. However, if the book does have a fault, it is here that it can be found. A lot of what is shown seems to clash with the generally accepted views of the warhammer background. For example, the skaven, a race generally described in the main canon of warhammer background as being little more than a rumour to most of the Empire’s populace, are shown drinking quite openly in a bar. Moments like these can be a bit jarring to any die hard fluff fans, but when taken in context with the book they don’t provide too much of a problem. Just don’t keep saying things to yourself like “That’s not right, an orc would never even be able to get into a dwarf bar!” and similar.
All in all, it is a very entertaining read, and has remained a firm favourite of mine along with the rest of its series. I would especially recommend it to fans of the game, and to fans of Terry Pratchett’s books, as well as anyone who is just looking for something of a more light-hearted nature to read.
+ A good example of comedic fantasy.
+ Provides an interesting depth to the game.
- Doesn’t match up with established background.