THE TOUGH GUIDE TO FANTASYLAND
by Diana Wynne Jones
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Diana Wynne Jones's The Tough Guide to Fantasyland is a fantastic piece of genre satire. The book is written as a tourguide to the generic lands which are found in every high fantasy novel. Jones begins the book exactly where most fantasy novels begin when she states "1. Find the map." Following her brief introduction, in which she lays the basic groundwork for what the tough guide is, Jones presents an alphabetical glossary in which she lampoons all the stock characters, sites and activities in fantasy novels. In many cases, she hits the nail squarely on the head by describing scenes which have come directly from Tolkien and countless imitators, good and bad.
However, Jones does much more than merely mock the conventions of the genre. She examines the worlds created by so many fantasists. In looking at the variety of flora and fauna commonly found in these magical realms, Jones points out that very few of ecologically stable. Similarly, they have economies which should collapse within a day.
The book is a fun book, which is one of the two qualities a successful satire has. The other requirement for a satire is to make the reader think about the topic. Jones definitely has much to say about the common tropes of Fantastic genre fiction. In doing so, she is not necessarily condemning these stereotypical features of fantasy, but she does point out they exist. Of course, one of the reason readers continue to read the same genre is because they enjoy these features.
Although Jones selected "fantasyland" to write about, she could easily have written The Tough Guide to Mysteryland or the The Tough Guide to Space.