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Literature / Spectral Stalkers

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If this cover doesn't convince you that you're in for one hell of an Acid-Trip Dimension adventure, nothing will!

"Hunted across Time and Space!"

Spectral Stalkers is the 45th entry of the Fighting Fantasy series of Gamebooks written by Peter Darril-Evans, his third and last contribution to the series.

You are a wandering adventurer who, after having your fortune told in a fair in Khul, was forewarned of great danger coming your way on the next stages of your journey. Dismissing the fortune as hocus-pocus mumbo-jumbo, you then set off towards the town of Neuberg for more adventures.

En route to Neuberg, a mysterious Winged Humanoid suddenly drops from the sky and lands right in front of you, and for you he delivers the Aleph, a mysterious Orb which can send whomever carrying it across dimensions. You are now holding one of the most mysterious and powerful artifacts in all of Allansia, and its up to you to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands as you evade the sinister Spectral Stalkers coming after you, by skipping from one dimension to another.

This book is unique considering that, while starting in the usual Fighting Fantasy setting of Titan, by using the Aleph you can end up in a wide variety of settings — mysterious ruins, underground dungeons, faraway forests, fantasy gardens and even a futuristic spaceship at one point. The amount of paths you can take is endless, right to the point where your adventure feels almost like it is part of a Dream Sequence, complete with generous dose of Mind Screw.

There is no linear path, no straight route to the end; should you eventually find your way back to Titan after the trippy adventure with the Aleph, without getting lost between dimensions or falling afoul of the many traps along the way, you may find the rewards you seek...

Spectral Stalkers provides examples of:

  • Acid-Trip Dimension: Plenty in the Macrocosmos, from a world of insectoid people to a land divided into half by day and night to a mysterious spaceship...
  • Alien Geometries: A constant feature of the alien dimensions you end up in.
  • Alien Sky: Some dimensions the Aleph sends you have these, for instance in one of the worlds the sky is purple.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: Cerod's harp can talk. And curse you, if you get on its bad side.
  • Another Dimension: Majority of this adventure is set in the Macrocosmos, a series of interconnecting dimensions in the World of Titan.
  • Antagonist Title: The Spectral Stalkers, servants of the Archmage Globus.
  • The Archmage: Globus the Archmage, the Big Bad of the story and master of the Spectral Stalkers, who wants to use the Aleph for his own nefarious purposes.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Aleph, a magic artifact that can send you across great distances and through various dimensions. Interestingly this adventure doesn't involve you trying to find it — you get it right at the start of the adventure — but you're supposed to carry it with you and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.
  • Bizarrchitecture: Many worlds in the Macroscosmos features weird architecture.
  • Bizarro Episode: Feels like this, compared to other Fighting Fantasy gamebooks set on Titan.
  • Broke Episode: You start your quest with only 8 Gold Pieces and 2 Provisions, having been unable to find work as an adventurer during your travels.
  • Cave Mouth: You enter the giant mouth of Glund.
  • Cerberus: The Logic Dog is a two-headed Cerberus. He is also invincible and impossible to defeat; should you get into a fight with him you'll have to survive 3 Attack Rounds before he leaves you.
  • Circus of Fear: One of the worlds you can explore.
  • Collapsing Lair: Globus' fortress collapses after he's destroyed, taking with him the Spectral Stalkers, Silica Serpents, evil garden... you make a quick getaway using the Aleph which sends you back home.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Neuberg is previously the setting of Beneath Nightmare Castle.
    • Ian Miller, who did the illustrations of Beneath Nightmare Castle, also contributed the similar, trippy-looking artwork featured in Spectral Stalkers.
  • Cyborg: One of your allies is a cyborg named Wayland, whose lower body is an entirely mechanical cart and have electronic lightbulb eyes. Have we mentioned that this book is NOT supposed to be in a sci-fi setting?
  • Damsel in Distress: The Baron's daughter is trapped in the Circus dimension. Too bad she doesn't take your rescue kindly.
  • Eldritch Abomination:
  • Eldritch Location: Some off the dimensions just feels trippy.
  • Exact Words: The half-elf fortune teller you met in the backstory said you're in for an adventurer that does not lie "anywhere in this world".
  • Fate Worse than Death: Losing the Aleph and getting stuck in another dimension... FOREVER.
  • Fortune Teller: An old half-elf fortune teller forewarns you of your quest right at the start. Naturally you scoff at his claims only to quickly change your mind a few hours later when the Aleph reveals itself to you...
  • Garden of Evil: You step into one upon reaching the Ziggurat world. It may be filled with beautiful crystal flowers, but its also guarded by Silica Serpents and the flowers can spit acid at you.
  • Great Big Library of Everything: The Library of Limbo, so big it doesn't even exist in the normal universe.
  • Haunted Castle: One of the possible dimensions the Aleph can send you to.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Baratcha will give up her life for you if you have her near the end of the journey.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: By tricking Globus into accepting the Aleph, Globus would be subsequently destroyed by his own Spectral Stalkers.
  • Human Chess: One of the dimensions is a giant chessboard. You can get to be one of the pieces.
  • Human Popsicle: Baratcha, although to be precise she's more of a Giant Crustacean Monster Popsicle. She's on your side though, and helps you if you release her.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The Inn of the Ghostly Visitors sounds like a cozy place to spend a night, doesn't it?
  • Im Dying Please Take My Macguffin: You receive the magical Aleph from a dying Winged Humanoid right at the start of your adventure.
  • Inn of No Return: There's an inn whose owner, a suspicious-looking small man, allows you to spend a night in. He will attempt to drug you and sell you off to goblins for food.
  • Insectoid Aliens: The Mantirs are a race of insect people from one of the many dimensions conjured by the Aleph.
  • Interdimensional Travel Device: You can do this using the Aleph.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: It's like someone taped together various segments from different, rejected installments of Fighting Fantasy, and called it Spectral Stalkers.
  • Literally Shattered Lives: Silica Serpents are monsters made from glass, and breaks into pieces when bested in battle.
  • Living Toys: You can collect a sphere containing a toy clown which can come to life and untie you when you're tied up in a dungeon.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Sometimes you don't get to choose which dimension you'll end up next - roll a die and turn to the relevant section to find out where the Aleph decides to dump you...
  • MacGuffin Escort Mission: Guard the Aleph with your life if you value your mission!
  • My Brain Is Big: The Ranganathans you encounter in the Library in Limbo.
  • No Ontological Inertia: After Globus gets ripped apart by his own Spectral Stalkers, all of his creations die with him and his castle starts to fall apart.
  • No MacGuffin, No Winner: Your quest ends with Globus being destroyed and the Aleph sending you back to Khul, where you are rewarded by the Wood Elves, Mantirs and Vaskinds. However, the Aleph is lost for good, and you promptly decide its better to be lost forever in the Macrocosmos rather than being used for evil.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The Circus' ringleader, Marvip the Magician is actually a vampire.
  • Our Werebeasts Are Different: The henchwoman in the Circus dimension is a werecat. You assumed she's a human dressed as a cat, and din't realize her true nature until later.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: While some Fighting Fantasy gamebooks features a sci-fi setting, who'd expect two different sci-fi worlds (with robots!) to show up in this story, explicitly set in the fantasy world of Titan?
  • Pig Man: One of the dimensions the Aleph sends you into is a world ruled by pig-headed Zwinians.
  • Pursued Protagonist: The titular Spectral Stalkers are hot on your trail as soon as you get your hands on the Aleph.
  • Randomly Generated Levels: Certainly feels like it, the Aleph tends to create a random, unpredictable world for you to explore.
  • Random Number God: And you are at His mercy! In more than one occasion you're not even allowed to choose the next world to proceed - the Aleph will create one for you, and you roll a die to determine which dimension you'd end up next.
  • Royal Brat: The baron's daughter you rescued from the carnival actually chews you out for saving her because she doesn't really want to go back to her boring dad.
  • Scary Librarian: The Librarian of the Library in Limbo is a fire-breathing, talking dragon.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Solve the Soup Cans: Some of the puzzles and routes in this book feels just like this.
  • Time-Limit Boss: The clay golem cannot be harmed by your sword, but one way you can defeat him is to trick him to chase you until the clay he's made of dries up and turns him solid.
  • To Serve Man: Hostile goblins have a taste of human flesh, and you risk becoming their meals if you enter the Inn of No Return.
  • Wandering Minstrel: Cerod the Minstrel. He's the only human in a world full of pigmen Zwinians, and he's also a surprisingly skilled swordsman.