Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hobgoblin by John Coyne

Back to the vaults for an old book that deserves being read - this month it's Hobgoblin by John Coyne! This wicked little thriller has everything you could want: games, mayhem, Irish monsters... you like Irish monsters, right?

Published back in 1981, when Dungeons & Dragons was still a phenomenon, Hobgoblin is the story of Scott Gardiner, a prep school student obsessed with a roleplaying game set in medieval Ireland. Scott actually has a bit of a nervous breakdown when his character, Brian Boru, dies during one gaming session... and, at the same moment in time, his father suffers a fatal heart attack shovelling snow.

A year later, Scott moves with his mother to an authentic Irish castle--she's serving as caretaker/curator. Scott soon finds his grip on reality not the surest; are creatures like the Black Annis real and haunting the castle? If neuroses weren't troubling enough, there's also the issue of a pretty lass as a distraction.

Coyne was a terrific writer of British horror; this book is perfect for a teen boy who likes plenty of creepy situations (I still remember, after over 25 years, the scene where a monster cops a feel of one girl) -- probably because, at 17 years old, I had never read anything else so transgressive.

And Scott seemed real to me, despite his obsession and inexperience with the lasses. Or maybe because of it. Any geek will understand the yearning towards the fantastic -- our own lives seem so mundane in comparison. Who hasn't wished life was more like LOTR? Unfortunately, we forget the violence of games would then spill over and making life a lot more dangerous. I'd rather risk a transcontinental flight than a banshee's wail any day.

But if you gave me a sure steel sword, I might change my mind...


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