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Item - The Rings of Kether

(British edition, first printing)
(British edition, later printing)
(American edition)

Combined Summary

Series: Fighting Fantasy (1982-1995, Puffin) — no. 15
Contained In: Adventure Gamebox - A Thrilling Fighting Fantasy Collection (Collection)
Translated Into: Los asteroides de Katar (Spanish)
Os círculos de Kether (Portuguese)
As coligações de Kether (Portuguese)
A Ketheri maffia (Hungarian)
Ketherské bratrstvo (Czech)
Der Stern der Schmuggler (German)
Les Trafiquants de Kelter (French)
Uchuu no renpou-sousakan [宇宙の連邦捜査官] (Japanese)
Author: Chapman, Andrew
Illustrators: Oakes, Terry (cover)
Spender, Nik (interior)
Dates: May, 1985 (British edition, first printing)
May, 1986 (American edition)
ISBNs: 0140318607 / 9780140318609 (British edition, first printing)
0440974070 / 9780440974079 (American edition)
Length: 400 sections
Number of Endings: 20 instant failures, 2 victories, plus death by Stamina loss
User Summary: You are a futuristic narcotics officer looking to infiltrate and destroy the drug smuggling ring of the notorious Blaster Babbet.
Demian's Thoughts:

Andrew Chapman's second entry in the series is an improvement over his first, and a fairly distinctive offering. The sci-fi/noir tone is a change of pace, and the gameplay offers an enjoyable mix of investigation, puzzle-solving, exploration and combat. This is one of the books I remember finding most intriguing as a child; in fact, I actually convinced one of my fifth grade teachers to let me run my class through it. Given the book's subject matter, I could probably have chosen something more appropriate... but I don't recall any eyebrows being raised, and I'm pretty sure we met an unfortunate fate before there was time for anyone to get too offended by the book's violence or drug/alcohol content. I'm not sure how many times I played this in my youth, but I do know that I never managed to finish it successfully....

Given my past failures, I was rather surprised by how easily I completed the book this time around. Indeed, this is probably the first book in the series since Scorpion Swamp that I finished before feeling it had completely worn out its welcome. While it did take a few tries for me to find a good lead into the main storyline, most of my failures were quite early on, and once I got over that initial hump, my successful read-through occurred surprisingly painlessly. It's possible that I was just incredibly lucky -- I did have a decent SKILL score in my successful attempt, and I made a lot of random directional choices without encountering too many major threats -- but whatever the cause, I was actually a little disappointed not to meet at least a little more resistance in the endgame, which is not my usual feeling while reading a Fighting Fantasy book! In spite of a sense that the the author may have been running out of steam as the book neared its end, the book's unique setting and mechanical inventiveness outweigh its flaws and leave it among my favorites so far in the series.

There are certainly a fair number of things one can nitpick about in the book -- while the mechanics are inventive, they are perhaps not as elegant as those found in later gamebooks. A riddle that is solved simply by guessing the first letter of the answer might have been better disguised with some kind of alphabetical-to-numeric coding system, and the car chase that potentially loops forever feels a bit artificial (though I enjoyed it on balance). Personally, though, my biggest complaint was the lack of development of the villains and their lairs -- Zera Gross dialed the exaggerated grotesquerie too far into the realm of silliness for my taste, and 'Blaster' Babbett had no real character at all. This didn't detract too much from my enjoyment of the adventure, but given how flavorful the setting and its inhabitants seem early in the book, it's disappointing that it devolves into an aimless dungeon crawl with two-dimensional villains for the finale.

Perhaps it sounds like I enjoyed this book less than I actually did, given the amount of criticism I've leveled at it, but compared to so much of the bland fantasy that dominated the gamebook market when it was published, you have to give it credit for trying something new... and in spite of its flaws, it remains a very readable, and not overly frustrating, adventure.

More reviews by Demian

Fireguard's Thoughts:

The Rings of Kether is one of a handful of Fighting Fantasy books that forgoes the usual sword and sorcery to take place in the distant future in a far-flung corner of the galaxy. It reaches neither the heights of Rebel Planet or the depths of Sky Lord, but all in all I had a rather good time reading it. The investigation aspect isn't bad, although the settings could have been a bit more vivid. It's worth checking out at least once.

More reviews by Fireguard

Special Thanks:Thanks to Nicholas Campbell for the jagged-logo British cover scan and to Fireguard for the plot summary.
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Known Editions

American edition
British edition, first printing
British edition, later printing

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