From the Publisher
“Funny . . . [Barrowcliffe’s] gently knowing style makes the pain of identification a pleasure.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Mark Barrowcliffe’s humorous, self-deprecating memoir of his misspent youth, ‘The Elfish Gene,’ is another welcome addition to the growing ‘nerdsploitation’ genre.”—Associated Press
“Hilarious, unbelievably well-remembered . . . begs a movie adaptation. . . . Barrowcliffe writes . . . with uncommon insight.”—The Seattle Times
“In the best tradition of British humor. . . . Laugh-out-loud funny.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“Wonderfully captures the insensitivity, insecurity and selfishness of the adolescent male.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
As a 12-year-old in England in 1976, Barrowcliffe (Lucky Dog) made a fateful choice: he started playing Dungeons and Dragons. Role-playing games were just beginning their rise, and Barrowcliffe, along with 20 million other socially maladapted boys, spent his adolescence in dining rooms and basements as a druid, warrior or magician, throwing oddly shaped dice and slaying monsters. While D&D allowed Barrowcliffe to escape his mundane, much-bullied existence in an all-boys school, it also threw him into an equally cruel nerdiverse of Nazi wannabes, boys with nicknames like Rat and Chigger, and his polymath, Falstaffian best friend who once ate a still-frozen chicken pie on a bet. Barrowcliffe, whose own schoolboy nickname was "Spaz," wonderfully captures the insensitivity, insecurity and selfishness of the adolescent male. His eye for the oddities of 1970s British life is equally astute. At times, Barrowcliffe's relentlessly self-deprecating humor descends into a tedium of self-loathing. The book also loses some of its focus toward the end when D&D gives way to heavy metal clubs and tolerant girlfriends. However, these are minor imperfections when measured against the quality of the author's vision. Barrowcliffe renders all the comedy and sorrow of early manhood, when boys flee the wretchedness of their real status for a taste of power in imaginary domains. (Nov.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal
In this autobiography, Barrowcliffe tells the story of a self-proclaimed nerd living in 1970s Coventry, England; Dungeons & Dragons; and the boys who played it. He provides a humorous look into the world of fantasy role-playing at a time when computer RPGs didn't exist and people were forced to use their imaginations. He recounts his foray into the game, his struggle to belong, and what ultimately led to his "growing up." The writing is often self-deprecating and combines views on the city with detailed descriptions of the gaming sessions. Despite-or, in part, because of-the long descriptions of gaming, this book will appeal to those interested in the RPG phenomenon. The author's character development leaves readers with a strong sense of who these boys were and why they played the game. This book is ideal for anyone who is into fantasy role-playing or interested in the cultural and social implications of such games.-Kelliann Bogan, Colby-Sawyer College, New London, NH
A reformed geek reflects on an adolescence spent slaying mythical creatures, much to the detriment of his social development. Growing up in Coventry, England, during the mid-1970s, Barrowcliffe (Infidelity for First-Time Fathers, 2002, etc.) was obsessed with Dungeons & Dragons. When other lads were discovering the subtle charms of the fairer sex, "Spaz," as he was (only somewhat) affectionately known to his fellow basement-dwelling denizens, was immersed in the recently released role-playing phenomenon that had made its way across the Atlantic and swept up the author and other social misfits in its wake. D&D, with its mystical worlds of sword-wielding warriors, magic spells and deadly creatures, enabled the author and his cohorts to escape from their distressingly mundane lives into a world in which they had the power to control their destinies-a welcome departure from reality, where they were outcasts at school and easy targets for bullies. For some-including the author-however, the game quickly progressed from welcome diversion to all-consuming obsession. As the game gained popularity, religious groups accused it of fueling interest in the occult and satanic rituals, but the main problem for the author was the extent to which it stunted his social growth and, until the spell was broken, precluded the chance to experience a "normal" life. Barrowcliffe's retrospective self-awareness is by turns poignant and amusing, though the level of detail he provides about the fantasy games and worlds of his youth may deter readers unfamiliar with the terminology and concepts they involve. Still, as fantasy movies dominate the box office, the author offers a timely, appropriate memoir of addictionrecovery. Not as captivating as the games it discusses, but worth a few hours holed up in the basement.