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Colton Keiser


The Forces of Krill #1 by S. Eric Meretzky

“There are no Magic Sneakers and no Prince of Kaldorn in this book. You have been cheating. Vindictus, the Patron of Decision Novels, appears. Reaching out of the book, he casts a spell on you, and you turn into an unbelievably ugly toad.” Pg.124


Zork is a classical fantasy multi-sequential fictional series. Written by S. Eric Meretzky, a video game developer, best known for innovating in interactive fiction adapting many series including “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy '' and “Zork”, under his company Infocom. Meretzky had originally made the Zork series as a text-based interactive video game. These games had positive reviews related to many innovative systems including the in-game map and “help system” (Wikimedia Foundation, 2024, Zork Zero). Its legacy is known as “the father figure of the genre” regarding its influence over interactive fiction (Wikimedia Foundation, 2024, Zork). The Zork book series seems to come in the middle of the praise for the game series and Meretzky tried to capitalize off the brand by expanding it to other mediums. Although the books have had more negative reception with one critic stating  “Any child of any intelligence will swiftly realize they're being patronized, and will return to their fantasies…and a good thing too.” Tor Books were the publishers of the Zork book series but there does not seem to be anything interesting regarding the story of how they came to publish the Zork series and working with Meretzky (Wikimedia Foundation, 2024, Tor_Books). Meretzky is still working in the video game industry to this day as a designer, at “Boffo Intergalactic Games”. (Wikimedia Foundation, 2023, Steve Meretzky)


Regarding the narrative and multi-sequential style. Very few decisions in the interactive paths resulted in the robust branching paths. At the beginning of the novel, they play with this idea by giving the characters more context for future decisions and world-building with different paths while connecting the paths shortly after. Many “alternative” decisions result in instant deaths for our two main characters June and Bill (or their Zork personas Bivotar and Juranda). This gives an illusion of choice to the reader as many of the decisions are swiftly punished instead of giving the reader further opportunities to get out of those unforeseen dangers. I wish Eric Meretzky played with the idea of alternate routes granting the two main characters more context for other decisions, or more branching paths in the narrative more often. The only true branching path is a choice made early in the book by having the characters choose “Path of House of Ellron” or “Aragain Falls”. In these two alternate paths the kids will adventure different routes in Zork to get to their uncle Syovar. The point system is also interesting as every ending of the book is allocated points out of 10 depending on the progression the reader has made.

            There are many fun parts of the story where the characters meet gnomes, hermits, an enchanted frog that they must listen to, and much more. The book does not take itself seriously and I believe that this is a strength as it leans into the irrational nature of fantasy novels and comes off as a parody in many ways. One instance of this is choosing to trick a gnome into helping the two kids cross a bridge and cutting the bridge down before the gnome can collect a payment for the labor. This is treated as a comedic scenario that the characters never reflect on. Pointing out the immoral nature of fantasy novels with similar situations. Another is the opening quote I chose. This is when the book asks you late into the story if you have these special items to get out of a scenario. These items do not exist and hence if the reader lies they are punished by Meretzky. This self-awareness saves the book a lot from many critiques of cliche tropes, and a standard fantasy narrative. The branching paths though many ends suddenly do open the reader to a lot of immersive world-building with the existence of many races of creatures, warlocks, and other geographic areas explored that would not have been introduced in a more linear story. For what it is and being a book catered for a younger audience I give it 3.5/5 stars for being a fun take on an interactive fantasy series. The series has many strengths with its structure and has good world-building and humor but that can not cover up a very cliche narrative that is at the foundation of the series.





Reference Sources

Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, December 16). Steve Meretzky. Wikipedia.


Wikimedia Foundation. (2024, February 19). Tor books. Wikipedia.


Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, December 6). Zork Zero. Wikipedia.


Wikimedia Foundation. (2024, February 11). Zork. Wikipedia.