Death By Cliché

Death by Cliché - Bob Defendi

[I received a copy of this book from the publisher.]


I'm on the fence regarding this novel, as some parts were fun, but some others made fun of gamers in a way that I would expect from someone who doesn't play—as in, clichés that weren't so funny as demeaning.


Damico, game designer, finds himself trapped in a tabletop RPG scenario, as a non-player character, after he got shot in the head by a loony Dungeon Master. (Which in itself is a bad cliché already, but that may be me being a wee bit sensitive after years trying to debunk myths in my hometown, like "oh you're a gamer, so you must be weird and deranged". Meh.) It's only a game, right? Right. So it doesn't matter if all those cardboard characters—peasants, the Evil Overlord, the buxom tavern wench...—get to die, because they're just ink on paper, or in the head of the game master. Except they're not, not exactly; and conversely, if they are, does it mean that Damico is dead, and nothing more than ink as well?


And this is one of the strong points of "Death By Cliché". Sure, it's nothing the literary world hasn't seen before (what is real, what defines reality, what defines humanity...), yet it doesn't matter: it remains an interesting theme. The humorous approach doesn't detract from this kind of "serious" questioning, and at the same time is enjoyable, because, well, it's fun.


The clichés I'm a bit undecided about, as mentioned previously. The book is packed with them, which is totally expected with such a title and premise, and some of them work really well. If you are, or used to be, a gamer, odds are you've encountered a lot of them, whether places, situations or people. It pokes fun at the tired fantasy tropes (the evil lord, the long days of travel—sorry, I'm not a "travel fantasy" person— the fabled Artefact, the cliché large-breasted tavern girls, and so on). Plenty of themes to play with, and it's obvious the author had lots of fun with those. Also, the feeling of reliving some old gaming sessions, or discussing those with an old friend. I'm positive that every gamer, at some point, even the most serious/storytelling-type/roleplaying ones, gave in at some point to some jolly good cliché or silly action. This is part of what makes such games funny, after all.


Some tropes didn't work as well for me; but then, they're clearly the ones that tend to make too much fun of gamers in general, and can easily be construed as more derogatory than mere fun. You know, the "oh but it's just for fun, don't get angry" thing, to cover a hurtful comment/joke. That's the kind of the impression I got.


The writing style was often tongue-in-cheek, sometimes deliberately breaking the fourth wall. I tend to like this, so it made me smile. I couldn't care less about the chapter quotes, though; the first three or so were cool, the rest quickly became tedious.


Conclusion: As expected, a lot of clichés, that may have been exploited better; but all in all, it was a fun ride.