For authors of books on adventure games, the book for the beginner is surely the most difficult. First, because the author is, generally, an experienced adventurer and may find it difficult to appreciate the elements beginners find demanding. Second, he'll surely receive flak from some quarters for omitting an 'essential' piece of information. The conclusion? The author's on a hiding to nothing.
Dave Havard is a brave man, therefore, and, while his beginners book is by no means perfect it's good to see this neglected area addressed at all. A5 in format with 50 pages and a paper cover the Beginner's Guide divides into 11 chapters and an appendix. The first two describe themes and adventure types (text-only, icon driven, etc), The third, and largest, chapter takes you by the hand and guides you through a sample adventure transcript (including pre-drawn maps). In this case a golden oldie (literally!) - Artic's Golden Apple. After a chapter of notes on Golden Apple and another on saving and loading adventures, Dave discusses synonyms and includes a comprehensive sample list that'll prove a handy reference whilst playing any adventure. Chapter seven continues the verb/noun input discussion whilst eight expands into a full sentence parser debate. After sections on character interaction and the dreaded maze Dave devotes a chapter to experienced adventurers (describing the workings of adventures).
All in all an admirable stab at creating a beginner's guide. However, I have three gripes. First, the book is riddled with appalling spelling mistakes (who playtested the manual, Dave?). Second, although the basics are included I don't think they're given enough space. I'd have preferred the book to have dwelt on each point much Longer, introducing multiple examples in case the beginner finds one particular example hard to grasp.
Third, I thought the design could have had more thought given to it. The introduction of the transcript of Golden Apple appeared far too soon. There should hove been a number of individual discussions on many more game element's. Once the reader had come to grips with each single component would have been the time to lump them all together and introduce the transcript.
However, the Beginner's Guide is still a recommended buy as it includes many hints and tips never before seen in a single publication. Excellent value for money.