Meyer - Book Reviews

***** - Excellent
**** - Good
*** - Okay
** - Bad
* - Terrible
+ - Half-star

The Water Mirror
(The Dark Reflections trilogy, Book 1)
Kai Meyer
Simon Pulse
Fiction, YA Fantasy
***
The Water Mirror

DESCRIPTION: Merle's young life, since being found as a newborn floating in a Venice canal, has been spent mostly at a dismal orphanage, but she's about to leave that life behind. The elderly mirror maker Arcimboldo, expelled from his guild for rumors of dark magic, has taken her on as an apprentice, and even a master of such dubious reputation has to be better than where she's been. Not that Venice itself is the great city it once was: for thirty years, it has been cut off from the outside world, surrounded by the resurrected Egyptian Pharaoh's army of mummy soldiers and flying, sun-powered skybarks, against which even Venice's stone lion guardians are as good as helpless. Only the mysterious Flowing Queen, a force alive within the very canals and linked, somehow, to the mermaids of the nearby seas, has kept the army at bay, but even that protection cannot last forever. Shortly into her apprenticeship, Merle stumbles across a plot by some of the city councilors to betray the Flowing Queen and sell Venice to the Pharaoh. The mystery of Arcimboldo's enchanted mirrors, the question of her own past, and the riddle of the Flowing Queen catch Merle up in an adventure that shake the very foundations of what she knows as reality.

REVIEW: Meyer presents a unique and magical version of turn-of-the-century Venice, in a world where stone lions are bred as mounts for city guards, mummies and priestly sacrifices power a malevolent Egyptian army in its bloody march across the known world, and Hell is not only a known subterranean nation but sends demonic emissaries to court the populace with promises of protection. In truth, he presents too many ideas to track here, piling mystery atop conundrum atop riddle and enigma, angling not just to create an alternate Earth but to call into question the very nature of Heaven, Hell, and Reality itself. That's just a bit too much to pile on one's plate, even if he has three books to play with, but then I tend to recoil from any book which purports to unravel the Meaning of the Universe. Some of the concepts in The Water Mirror cannot help but be so grand as to seem less like knowable elements of the story and more like tricks the author can pull out of his hat when needed to either move the tale along or snarl it up. That said, Merle's tale picked up fairly quickly and - for the most part - kept moving, though I never once lost sight of the fact that it was only the first third of a larger tale; I knew most of the mysteries she found would simply be questions left hanging without hope of an answer, which grew a bit wearisome. She proved a decent enough heroine nonetheless, not particularly outstanding but adequate for the task at hand. I might consider reading the next book if I find it deeply discounted, as I found this volume.

You might also enjoy:
Plain Kate (Erin Bow, YA Fiction - In a superstitious land, a girl sells her shadow to a witch for safety, then must win it back)
The Stoneheart trilogy (Charlie Fletcher, YA Fiction - An angry boy's act of vandalism plunges him into the invisible war between London's statues and gargoyles)
The Thief Lord (Cornelia Funke, YA Fiction - Two runaway orphans come to Venice, join a band of young thieves, and become part of a hunt for a magical artifact)
The Paper Magician (Charlie N. Holmberg, YA Fiction - In an alternate London, an apprentice Folder must use her paper-enchanting skills to save her master's life)
Blessed Lands Egypt (J. Carrell Jones, Fiction - In a modern-day Egyptian empire, a humble priest finds love and his own divinely-blessed fate)
The Piratica series (Tanith Lee, YA Fiction - A headstrong teenage girl in an alternate-history world sets out to become an honorable pirate queen)
The Golden Compass (Philip Pullman, YA? Fiction - A girl in alternate-world Oxford discovers a church-led conspiracy and hidden evidence of other universes)
The Death Gate Cycle (Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Fiction - Long ago, a great race of wizards split the world into elemental realms; now, their rivals, hardened by generations in a living magical prison, seek to claim them)
Thirteenth Child (Patricia C. Wrede, YA Fiction - In an alternate magical 1800's America, young Eff is considered cursed by birth)

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Bloody Jack
(A Bloody Jack Adventure, Book 1)
L. A. Meyer
Harcourt
Fiction, YA Historical Fiction/Adventure
*****

DESCRIPTION: When young Mary Faber's family died in a plague in 18th-century London, she was left to fend for herself on the streets. More by dumb luck than design, she joins up with a gang of displaced children who live by begging, theft, and selling corpses to ever-eager doctors looking for dissection practice. But Mary has plans, and using her luck and the little book-learning her late teacher father handed off before his death, she makes a bid for freedom on the open seas as "Jack," a ship's boy on the HMS Dolphin. For two years, she'll be hunting pirates, visiting exotic ports-of-call, making friends and enemies... and trying to hide her gender. It was hard enough with just the sailors and the officers, coupled with her own fiery temper, but it becomes complicated as her body matures - and she starts to notice James, a well-born fellow ship's boy, more than "Jack" ought to.

REVIEW: At first, the grammar threw me. Meyer writes Mary/Jack's story first-person with a fair degree of period street slang, but as the story progressed I got the hang of it, and Meyer eased off on the worst of it. Mary has some fine adventures and a fair bit of snap to her story, managing to lift it above the stereotypical girl-as-a- sailor tale which it could've so easily become. There's a dark undercurrent, as well, fitting the dismal life of a street girl in London and a sailor hunting bloodthirsty pirates on the high seas; a fair bit is implied without unnecessary detail, and I expect some readers will overlook it altogether. The ending, however, feels exceptionally awkward; I suspect that it was cropped by the editors deliberately to draw readers into the sequel. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it. I hope I can find the second book in paperback someday, if only to find out what happens. (I've seen the third book out, and the fourth in hardcover, but the local Barnes & Noble seems bound and determined never to stock the second one when it knows I'm coming to look.)

You might also enjoy:
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Avi, YA Fiction - A highborn young lady on a trans-Atlantic voyage is accused of murder)
Nick of Time (Ted Bell, YA Fiction - On the eve of WWII, an English boy runs afoul of Nazis, pirates, and a time machine)
Vengeance Road (Erin Bowman, YA Fiction - 18-year-old Kate sets out across the Arizona Territory to murder the outlaw gang that killed her pa)
The Dragonslayer's Apprentice (David Calder, YA Fiction - A girl is determined to become a dragonslayer)
The Misadventures of Maude March (Audrey Couloumbis, YA Fiction - In the mid-1800's, the orphaned March sisters set out for Missouri to find a lost uncle, relying on lessons gleaned from dime novels)
Star Sailor (Chris Fox, YA Fiction - A young girl sails a raft through the stars, having adventures)
Pirate's Passage (William Gilkerson, YA Fiction - A 1950's boy learns about pirates and life from a mysterious English captain)
The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme series (Elizabeth Haydon, YA Fiction - In a magical world, a boy who yearns for adventure gets more than he bargained for)
Stowaway (Karen Hesse, YA Fiction - A boy recounts Captain Cook's first voyage around the world in the mid-1700's, based on actual events)
Boston Jane: An Adventure (Jennifer L. Holm, YA Fiction - In the mid-1800's, an East Coast girl follows her would-be husband to the untamed northwestern frontier)
Captains Courageous (Rudyard Kipling, YA? Fiction - Washed overboard, a spoiled American boy must work for his keep aboard a fishing schooner)
The Piratica series (Tanith Lee, YA Fiction - A headstrong teenage girl in an alternate-history world sets out to become an honorable pirate queen)
Arabella of Mars (David D. Levine, Fiction - In an alternate Regency era where sailing ships ply the solar system, a girl faces adventure and danger to save her family from a scheming relative)
Sheepfarmer's Daughter (Elizabeth Moon, Fiction - Faced with an unwanted marriage, a young woman chooses to run away and become a mercenary soldier)
The Song of the Lioness quartet (Tamora Pierce, YA Fiction - In the magical land of Tortall, the girl Alanna poses as a boy to train as a knight)
Time Treasure (Sheila Raye, Fiction - A woman struggling to save the family salvage business finds herself entangled with a cursed sea captain, who thinks her love might end a centuries-old curse binding his crew)
Lumberjanes (Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters, YA Comic - Five girls discover some weird, magical goings-on at their summer camp)
Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson, YA Fiction - An English boy finds himself caught up in the hunt for a dead pirate's treasure)
The Accidental Highwayman (Ben Tripp, YA Fiction - In 1700's England, a slave boy is mistaken for his highwayman master and pulled into a plot involving faeries and a brewing rebellion)
Steel (Carrie Vaughn, YA Fiction - A broken, rusty blade pulls a modern teen girl into the age of pirates)
Princeless (Jeremy Whitley, YA Comic - In a fairy tale world, Princess Adrienne refuses to sit around waiting to be rescued and married off)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia Wrede, YA Fiction - A headstrong princess in a fairy-tale world gets tired of being "proper" and runs away to live with dragons)

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The Curse of the Blue Tattoo
(A Bloody Jack Adventure, Book 2)
L. A. Meyer
Harcourt
Fiction, YA Historical Fiction/Adventure
****

DESCRIPTION: Mary “Jack” Faber, known to her mates as Jacky, escaped near-certain death on the streets of London by posing as a boy aboard the HMS Dolphin. Found out at last after the pirate captain LeFievre tried to hang her, Jacky was put ashore in Boston. Her share of the prize money for the notorious pirate’s capture now pays her way at the prestigious Lawson Peabody School for Young Girls, where the well-to-do send their daughters to learn the fine art of ladyship. Though she still dreams of running her own shipping company, Jacky always thought it would be nice to be a lady – and her future fiancé, the ever-so-well-bred Midshipman James Fletcher of the Dolphin, would naturally expect a refined and proper wife – so perhaps this detour in her life is for the best. At least she has a roof over her head, clean clothes on her back, and three meals a day in her belly, which puts her miles ahead of her old hardscrabble life in London. Of course, becoming a lady isn’t nearly as easy as she thought it would be, especially when her own headstrong ways and rebellious whims land her in trouble almost from the start… but “Bloody” Jack Faber is nothing if not resourceful.

REVIEW: A slight ratings dip from the previous book, but I still enjoyed it. Jacky proves a force to be reckoned with, by high society and Bostonian lowlifes alike, but her plans in all levels of society seem to go wrong for her at least as often as they go right. The ongoing correspondence (or lack thereof, as those on both sides of the pond who disapprove of their match persistently interfere with mail delivery) between Jacky and “Jaime” Fletcher feels more like padding than plot; James seems inexplicably dense, the more I read of his letters, and I found myself thinking that Jacky ought to cut him loose and find someone more suited to her lifestyle and personality. The fact that she proves herself an incurable flirt who keeps running into potentially better matches make Jaime’s obtuseness more glaring. Overall, I thought Meyer brought in a few too many threads and left them tangled or hanging at the end – which, of course, sets up Bloody Jack’s next adventure. I have the third book on hand, and hope to start reading it soon.

You might also enjoy:
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Avi, YA Fiction - A highborn young lady on a trans-Atlantic voyage is accused of murder)
Nick of Time (Ted Bell, YA Fiction - On the eve of WWII, an English boy runs afoul of Nazis, pirates, and a time machine)
Vengeance Road (Erin Bowman, YA Fiction - 18-year-old Kate sets out across the Arizona Territory to murder the outlaw gang that killed her pa)
The Dragonslayer's Apprentice (David Calder, YA Fiction - A girl is determined to become a dragonslayer)
The Misadventures of Maude March (Audrey Couloumbis, YA Fiction - In the mid-1800's, the orphaned March sisters set out for Missouri to find a lost uncle, relying on lessons gleaned from dime novels)
Star Sailor (Chris Fox, YA Fiction - A young girl sails a raft through the stars, having adventures)
Pirate's Passage (William Gilkerson, YA Fiction - A 1950's boy learns about pirates and life from a mysterious English captain)
The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme series (Elizabeth Haydon, YA Fiction - In a magical world, a boy who yearns for adventure gets more than he bargained for)
Stowaway (Karen Hesse, YA Fiction - A boy recounts Captain Cook's first voyage around the world in the mid-1700's, based on actual events)
Boston Jane: An Adventure (Jennifer L. Holm, YA Fiction - In the mid-1800's, an East Coast girl follows her would-be husband to the untamed northwestern frontier)
Captains Courageous (Rudyard Kipling, YA? Fiction - Washed overboard, a spoiled American boy must work for his keep aboard a fishing schooner)
The Piratica series (Tanith Lee, YA Fiction - A headstrong teenage girl in an alternate-history world sets out to become an honorable pirate queen)
Arabella of Mars (David D. Levine, Fiction - In an alternate Regency era where sailing ships ply the solar system, a girl faces adventure and danger to save her family from a scheming relative)
Sheepfarmer's Daughter (Elizabeth Moon, Fiction - Faced with an unwanted marriage, a young woman chooses to run away and become a mercenary soldier)
The Song of the Lioness quartet (Tamora Pierce, YA Fiction - In the magical land of Tortall, the girl Alanna poses as a boy to train as a knight)
Time Treasure (Sheila Raye, Fiction - A woman struggling to save the family salvage business finds herself entangled with a cursed sea captain, who thinks her love might end a centuries-old curse binding his crew)
Lumberjanes (Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters, YA Comic - Five girls discover some weird, magical goings-on at their summer camp)
Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson, YA Fiction - An English boy finds himself caught up in the hunt for a dead pirate's treasure)
The Accidental Highwayman (Ben Tripp, YA Fiction - In 1700's England, a slave boy is mistaken for his highwayman master and pulled into a plot involving faeries and a brewing rebellion)
Steel (Carrie Vaughn, YA Fiction - A broken, rusty blade pulls a modern teen girl into the age of pirates)
Princeless (Jeremy Whitley, YA Comic - In a fairy tale world, Princess Adrienne refuses to sit around waiting to be rescued and married off)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia Wrede, YA Fiction - A headstrong princess in a fairy-tale world gets tired of being "proper" and runs away to live with dragons)

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Under the Jolly Roger
(A Bloody Jack Adventure, Book 3)
L. A. Meyer
Harcourt
Fiction, YA Historical Fiction/Adventure
****

DESCRIPTION: Mary "Jacky" Faber has come a long way from her days as an orphaned girl scraping a living off the streets of London. Since then, she's lived as a ship's boy aboard a British sailing vessel, traveled halfway around the world, survived pirates and stranding... and, along the way, fell in Deepest and Truest Love with the highborn James Emerson Fletcher. Once her gender was revealed, Jacky spent a disastrous term at a private finishing school for young ladies in Boston... a stay that ended with her name well-known among the local rabble-rousers and police, and with half the school in flames.
Stepping off a whaler (where she'd booked passage as companion to a captain's wife), Mary finds herself once again in London... and, here, her celebrity as the roguish "Bloody" Jack precedes her by way of a book published by a friend from Boston. This cannot bode well for her planned surprise reunion with James, whose family has actively discouraged their courtship, but Mary isn't one to back down from a challenge. Soon, she's swept up in another wild adventure as her impulsive nature and good intentions land her in one scrape after another, from society misunderstandings to brutal press gangs and back to the high seas with her own ship, a Letter of Marque... and a price on her head.

REVIEW: Sometimes, you just want a good adventure yarn with larger-than-life characters and near-nonstop action. The Bloody Jack series is an excellent choice for those times. This book, the third installment in the ongoing series, carries the tale back to the world of pirates and sailing ships, where Mary/Jacky has always seemed to belong. Though mostly a rollicking yarn, she is no perfect angel of a heroine, and her habit of leaping before she looks causes her at least as much trouble as it gets her out of. As she starts encountering old friends and enemies, some of those spur-of-the-moment actions come back to haunt her. Even at her lowest points, though, she always keeps an eye out for opportunities for freedom, a little money, or learning something new to help her through future potential problems. Her courtship with James continues to linger, mostly on the back burner, but at least in this book he starts showing some signs of being a worthy suitor for the famous "Bloody" Jack; in the previous installment, he proved remarkably obtuse, to the point where I wondered what Mary ever saw in the twit. The ending sees her on her way to her next adventure with yet more touched lives and wanton destruction floating in her wake. I expect I'll read the fourth book in the series, at least.

You might also enjoy:
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Avi, YA Fiction - A highborn young lady on a trans-Atlantic voyage is accused of murder)
Nick of Time (Ted Bell, YA Fiction - On the eve of WWII, an English boy runs afoul of Nazis, pirates, and a time machine)
Vengeance Road (Erin Bowman, YA Fiction - 18-year-old Kate sets out across the Arizona Territory to murder the outlaw gang that killed her pa)
The Dragonslayer's Apprentice (David Calder, YA Fiction - A girl is determined to become a dragonslayer)
The Misadventures of Maude March (Audrey Couloumbis, YA Fiction - In the mid-1800's, the orphaned March sisters set out for Missouri to find a lost uncle, relying on lessons gleaned from dime novels)
Star Sailor (Chris Fox, YA Fiction - A young girl sails a raft through the stars, having adventures)
Pirate's Passage (William Gilkerson, YA Fiction - A 1950's boy learns about pirates and life from a mysterious English captain)
The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme series (Elizabeth Haydon, YA Fiction - In a magical world, a boy who yearns for adventure gets more than he bargained for)
Stowaway (Karen Hesse, YA Fiction - A boy recounts Captain Cook's first voyage around the world in the mid-1700's, based on actual events)
Boston Jane: An Adventure (Jennifer L. Holm, YA Fiction - In the mid-1800's, an East Coast girl follows her would-be husband to the untamed northwestern frontier)
Captains Courageous (Rudyard Kipling, YA? Fiction - Washed overboard, a spoiled American boy must work for his keep aboard a fishing schooner)
The Piratica series (Tanith Lee, YA Fiction - A headstrong teenage girl in an alternate-history world sets out to become an honorable pirate queen)
Arabella of Mars (David D. Levine, Fiction - In an alternate Regency era where sailing ships ply the solar system, a girl faces adventure and danger to save her family from a scheming relative)
Sheepfarmer's Daughter (Elizabeth Moon, Fiction - Faced with an unwanted marriage, a young woman chooses to run away and become a mercenary soldier)
The Song of the Lioness quartet (Tamora Pierce, YA Fiction - In the magical land of Tortall, the girl Alanna poses as a boy to train as a knight)
Time Treasure (Sheila Raye, Fiction - A woman struggling to save the family salvage business finds herself entangled with a cursed sea captain, who thinks her love might end a centuries-old curse binding his crew)
Lumberjanes (Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters, YA Comic - Five girls discover some weird, magical goings-on at their summer camp)
Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson, YA Fiction - An English boy finds himself caught up in the hunt for a dead pirate's treasure)
The Accidental Highwayman (Ben Tripp, YA Fiction - In 1700's England, a slave boy is mistaken for his highwayman master and pulled into a plot involving faeries and a brewing rebellion)
Steel (Carrie Vaughn, YA Fiction - A broken, rusty blade pulls a modern teen girl into the age of pirates)
Princeless (Jeremy Whitley, YA Comic - In a fairy tale world, Princess Adrienne refuses to sit around waiting to be rescued and married off)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia Wrede, YA Fiction - A headstrong princess in a fairy-tale world gets tired of being "proper" and runs away to live with dragons)

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Cinder
(The Lunar Chronicles, Book 1)
Marissa Meyer
Fiewel and Freinds
Fiction, YA Sci-Fi
****

DESCRIPTION: Over a hundred years after World War IV, the world seems to have finally learned not to let greed and hatred escalate to violence. That does not, however, mean that prejudice or hatred are extinct. Cinder knows this all too well. As a cyborg, she's considered subhuman, despite her unsurpassed skills as a mechanic and the enhancements her brain interface and other additives give her. Only the Lunars - humans changed by generations living on the moon, gifted with mind-altering abilities akin to magic - are more hated and distrusted. The fact that Cinder never asked to become a cyborg after a terrible accident she cannot recall doesn't change how her stepmother and others feel about her kind, despite that fact that her superior mechanical talents are the only thing keeping a roof over the family's heads.
When Crown Prince Kai himself - object of countless crushes throughout New Beijing - walks into her shop with a malfunctioning android, she hopes her luck will finally improve... but things only get worse, as her sister Peony falls ill with the plague that's sweeping like wildfire through cities around the world. Suddenly, Cinder finds herself drawn into the heart of palace intrigue, where doctors race to find a cure and Kai struggles with the diplomatic demands of the Lunarian queen, demands that might save the Eastern Commonwealth or doom it to the mind control-induced slavery of the Lunar regime. Can one cyborg girl change the course of history?

REVIEW: Though technically sci-fi, this Cinderella-inspired tale almost feels more like a fantasy; the inhabitants of New Beijing even refer to the Lunars' abilities as "magic," despite there being a technobabble explanation. It presents a future with hope and despair, weighted somewhat toward the latter from Cinder's perspective, as she finds herself targeted by humanity's seemingly innate need to find someone or something to hate. Indeed, the disdain heaped upon cyborgs is so great that one wonders why anyone bothers with the procedure at all - yes, it saves lives, but only for a future as something more contemptible and disposable than an android. Cinder struggles to keep from giving in to despair as things go from bad to worse. The fact that Crown Prince Kai takes a shine to her from their first meeting, without realizing she's a hated cyborg, only makes things more complicated. That relationship felt a little convenient and somewhat one-sided, with Kai doggedly pursuing the girl who is, at the very least, several rungs below his station in a society still class-conscious enough to revere its royalty. Some of the plot twists and revelations are telegraphed fairly early on, particularly those concerning Cinder's origins, and some of Cinder's outbursts start to feel less like a justified burst of rage at the unfairness of her lot in life and more like a teenager slamming the door while complaining how they never asked to be born, but overall the story maintains a decent momentum. It ended on an odd note, though, almost as though it was intended to go on longer but was cropped for the purposes of generating sequels. That misstep almsot cost it a half-star, but overall I enjoyed Meyer's world and the story and (for the most part) Cinder to overlook that.

You might also enjoy:
Eve & Adam (Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant, YA Fiction - A teen girl discovers dark secrets at her mother's medical research lab)
Sky Coyote (Kage Baker, Fiction - People from the future create immortal cyborgs from our ancestors to manipulate history for profit)
Kiln People (David Brin, Fiction - Humans learn to make living clay replicas of themselves, which are inherently considered disposable property)
Red Rising (Pierce Brown, Fiction - A Red slave from the mines of Mars seeks justice and vengeance by infiltrating the ruling Gold class of the interplanetary empire)
Flash Gold (Lindsay Buroker, YA Fiction - An engineer girl in an alternate 1800's Yukon fights to protect her late father's powerful creation)
The Throwaway Princess (Elinor Busby, YA Fiction - A princess with a lame foot is exiled, until called upon for a quest)
Dragon's Keep (Janet Lee Carey, YA Fiction - A princess born with a dragon-claw finger faces malevolent dragons)
Graceling (Kristin Cashore, YA Fiction - Born with an unnatural gift for combat, a girl is used as an intimidator and killer by her royal uncle)
Cinder Edna (Ellen Jackson, YA Picture Book - Cinderella's neighbor, plain Cinder Edna, relies on brains and pluck rather than fairy magic)
Starflight (Melissa Landers, YA Fiction - Teen orphan Solara and spoiled son of privilege Doran become entangled with a peculiar starship crew in a cross-galaxy race against multiple enemies)
Ella Enchanted (Gail Carson Levine, YA Fiction - A girl sets out to break a fairy's "gift" of compulsory obedience)
Fairest (Gail Carson Levine, YA Fiction - Blessed with a beautiful voice and sharp mind, a girl is ashamed of her ugly face)
The Brain and Brawn Ship series (Anne McCaffrey, Fiction - In the future, the brains of physically handicapped humans power starships and cities, yet are still often considered tools)
The 2099 series (John Peel, YA Fiction - A boy in the future discovers a threat to global civilization)
Warbreaker (Brandon Sanderson, Fiction - A world of Returned immortals and powerful BioChroma magic stands on the brink of devastating war)
Frankenstein (Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, Fiction - A man who thought to play God is tormented by his own abominable creation)
Six-Gun Snow White (Catherynne M. Valente, Fiction - A half-native girl named Snow White flees her wicked Puritan stepmother in the Old West, in a surreal fairy tale retelling)
Thirteenth Child (Patricia C. Wrede, YA Fiction - In an alternate magical 1800's America, young Eff is considered cursed by birth)

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Help is On the Way
(A Basic Instructions collection, Volume 1)
Scott Meyer
Dark Horse Books
Fiction, Comics
*****

DESCRIPTION: Grown-up life in this modern world is so much more complicated than it ought to be, presenting numerous conundrums that can stump even the wisest and most educated adult. How do you deal with an unwanted gift? What's the best way to console a friend? How do you apologize when you didn't do anything wrong? What can the laws of physics teach you about your relationships? Former comedian Scott Meyer answers these questions and many more, in this compilation of Basic Instructions comics.

REVIEW: I've been reading these online at Meyer's website for a while, and was thrilled when he finally released a book. Very funny stuff, here, and all too true (like the best of humor,) though definitely geared towards an adult audience. I hope sales justify further volumes; some of my favorites don't appear to have made the cut for this one.

You might also enjoy:
Predictably Irrational (Dan Ariely, Nonfiction - A study explaining the well-known fact of human irrationality and its less-well-known costs)
Frequently Asked Questions: An Unshelved collection (Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum, Comics - The staff of a public library deals with the often-clueless public and recommends many real-world books)
Thank God for Culture Clash: A Candorville Collection (Darrin Bell, Comics - A sharp strip that skewers politics, media, social trends and more)
Duh! The Stupid History of the Human Race (Bob Fenster, Nonfiction - Dumb moments in history, stupid laws, botched quotes, and more, plus a discussion about why we're so often stupid and what to do about it)
Hey, Idiot!: Chronicles of Human Stupidity (Leland Gregory, Nonfiction - Stupid humans in truth and urban legend)
Welcome to Jesusland! (Formerly the United States of America) ("Landover Baptist Church," Fiction - From the popular satirical website, articles pointing out the hilarious hypocricies of the ultraconservative American right)
All My Friends Are Dead and All My Friends Are Still Dead (Avery Monsen and Jory John, Fiction - Picture books about people who can't seem to make friends)
The Darwin Awards (Wendy Northcut, Nonfiction - Stories of humans who selflessly remove themselves from the gene pool to prevent their stupidity from spreading to future generations)
The Pearls Before Swine collections (Stephan Pastis, Comics - A danged funny comic strip unafraid to poke fun at morons)
Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: A Brewster Rockit Collection (Tim Rickard, Comics - Clueless hero captain Brewster Rockit and his dysfunctional crewmates protect humanity amid inanity on the orbital station R. U. Sirius)
Create Your Own Conspiracy Theory (Charles Senescall, Fiction - How to start a profitable conspiracy theory in your spare time)
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race (Jon Stewart et al., editors, Nonfiction - A handy guide for aliens visiting post-human Earth)
Gulliver's Travels (Jonathan Swift, Fiction - An 18th-century Englishman relates voyages to strange lands with stranger inhabitants and customs, in a sharp satire of human irrationality)
Rip Haywire and the Curse of Tangaroa! (Dan Thompson, Graphic Novel - Based on the Rip Haywire comic strip, action-hero Rip and his mostly-trusty crew set out in search of a cursed treasure)
Rip Haywire Blows UP! (Dan Thompson, YA? Comics - A collection of the Rip Haywire daily strips, starring a square-jawed hero who never met an explosion he didn't like)

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Made With 90% Recycled Art
(A Basic Instructions collection, Volume 2)
Scott Meyer
Dark Horse Books
Fiction, Comics
****+

DESCRIPTION: A brand-new book offers more instructions for life's everyday puzzlers, such as taking a nap, minding your manners, or making non-fans grateful for the sci-fi movies Hollywood makes today. Also included are a special run of one-panel comics produced for a newspaper's annual restaurant review special, and "Rocket Hat," the expanded story of Meyer's Commander Cody knock-off hero.

REVIEW: Another brilliant, insightful, and hilarious collection of comics. The extras were also enjoyable, though I'm just as glad the proposed "Rocket Hat" spinoff didn't go ahead; it works better the way Meyers handles the character, with occasional visits to check in on his continuing crusade against the highly incompetent Moon Men. Filling it out to a full, stand-alone story would just overstretch the premise.

You might also enjoy:
Predictably Irrational (Dan Ariely, Nonfiction - A study explaining the well-known fact of human irrationality and its less-well-known costs)
Frequently Asked Questions: An Unshelved collection (Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum, Comics - The staff of a public library deals with the often-clueless public and recommends many real-world books)
Thank God for Culture Clash: A Candorville Collection (Darrin Bell, Comics - A sharp strip that skewers politics, media, social trends and more)
Duh! The Stupid History of the Human Race (Bob Fenster, Nonfiction - Dumb moments in history, stupid laws, botched quotes, and more, plus a discussion about why we're so often stupid and what to do about it)
Hey, Idiot!: Chronicles of Human Stupidity (Leland Gregory, Nonfiction - Stupid humans in truth and urban legend)
Welcome to Jesusland! (Formerly the United States of America) ("Landover Baptist Church," Fiction - From the popular satirical website, articles pointing out the hilarious hypocricies of the ultraconservative American right)
All My Friends Are Dead and All My Friends Are Still Dead (Avery Monsen and Jory John, Fiction - Picture books about people who can't seem to make friends)
The Darwin Awards (Wendy Northcut, Nonfiction - Stories of humans who selflessly remove themselves from the gene pool to prevent their stupidity from spreading to future generations)
The Pearls Before Swine collections (Stephan Pastis, Comics - A danged funny comic strip unafraid to poke fun at morons)
Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: A Brewster Rockit Collection (Tim Rickard, Comics - Clueless hero captain Brewster Rockit and his dysfunctional crewmates protect humanity amid inanity on the orbital station R. U. Sirius)
Create Your Own Conspiracy Theory (Charles Senescall, Fiction - How to start a profitable conspiracy theory in your spare time)
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race (Jon Stewart et al., editors, Nonfiction - A handy guide for aliens visiting post-human Earth)
Gulliver's Travels (Jonathan Swift, Fiction - An 18th-century Englishman relates voyages to strange lands with stranger inhabitants and customs, in a sharp satire of human irrationality)
Rip Haywire and the Curse of Tangaroa! (Dan Thompson, Graphic Novel - Based on the Rip Haywire comic strip, action-hero Rip and his mostly-trusty crew set out in search of a cursed treasure)
Rip Haywire Blows UP! (Dan Thompson, YA? Comics - A collection of the Rip Haywire daily strips, starring a square-jawed hero who never met an explosion he didn't like)

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The Curse of the Masking-Tape Mummy
(A Basic Instructions collection, Volume 3)
Scott Meyer
Don't Eat Any Bugs Productions
Fiction, Comics
****+

DESCRIPTION: In the third collection of Basic Instructions comics, Scott Meyer explains how to plan the perfect crime, tell a riveting story, prepare for the apocalypse, and more. This volume also includes an exclusive Rocket Hat adventure by guest artist Michael Mayne, and excerpts from the failed children's picture-book adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by the Mullet-Haired Boss.

REVIEW: Amusing, insightful, and disturbingly reminiscent of situations I've been in, Basic Instructions remains one of my favorite comic strips. As for the bonus material, Rocket Hat's adventure was fun, but I admit that the FaLiLV jokes were lost on me, as it wasn't my kind of movie. (Or book.) Very enjoyable overall, offering some good laughs when I needed them.

You might also enjoy:
Predictably Irrational (Dan Ariely, Nonfiction - A study explaining the well-known fact of human irrationality and its less-well-known costs)
Frequently Asked Questions: An Unshelved collection (Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum, Comics - The staff of a public library deals with the often-clueless public and recommends many real-world books)
Thank God for Culture Clash: A Candorville Collection (Darrin Bell, Comics - A sharp strip that skewers politics, media, social trends and more)
Duh! The Stupid History of the Human Race (Bob Fenster, Nonfiction - Dumb moments in history, stupid laws, botched quotes, and more, plus a discussion about why we're so often stupid and what to do about it)
Hey, Idiot!: Chronicles of Human Stupidity (Leland Gregory, Nonfiction - Stupid humans in truth and urban legend)
Welcome to Jesusland! (Formerly the United States of America) ("Landover Baptist Church," Fiction - From the popular satirical website, articles pointing out the hilarious hypocricies of the ultraconservative American right)
All My Friends Are Dead and All My Friends Are Still Dead (Avery Monsen and Jory John, Fiction - Picture books about people who can't seem to make friends)
The Darwin Awards (Wendy Northcut, Nonfiction - Stories of humans who selflessly remove themselves from the gene pool to prevent their stupidity from spreading to future generations)
The Pearls Before Swine collections (Stephan Pastis, Comics - A danged funny comic strip unafraid to poke fun at morons)
Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: A Brewster Rockit Collection (Tim Rickard, Comics - Clueless hero captain Brewster Rockit and his dysfunctional crewmates protect humanity amid inanity on the orbital station R. U. Sirius)
Create Your Own Conspiracy Theory (Charles Senescall, Fiction - How to start a profitable conspiracy theory in your spare time)
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race (Jon Stewart et al., editors, Nonfiction - A handy guide for aliens visiting post-human Earth)
Gulliver's Travels (Jonathan Swift, Fiction - An 18th-century Englishman relates voyages to strange lands with stranger inhabitants and customs, in a sharp satire of human irrationality)
Rip Haywire and the Curse of Tangaroa! (Dan Thompson, Graphic Novel - Based on the Rip Haywire comic strip, action-hero Rip and his mostly-trusty crew set out in search of a cursed treasure)
Rip Haywire Blows UP! (Dan Thompson, YA? Comics - A collection of the Rip Haywire daily strips, starring a square-jawed hero who never met an explosion he didn't like)

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Off to Be the Wizard
(The Magic 2.0 series, Book 1)
Scott Meyer
Rocket Hat Industries
Fiction, Sci-Fi
****+

DESCRIPTION: When twenty-something computer geek Martin stumbles across a data file that controls reality, he decides he'll play it smart, and just change a few things here and there in his life. Nothing fancy. Still, he figures he might as well have an escape plan: an emergency exit route to a time and place where his new, near-magical abilities won't get him prosecuted or burned at the stake. There's a nice, stable slice of time in medieval England that seems perfect, where a modern man could make a nice little life for himself if need be. But surely he won't need it. It's just his own life he's tweaking, after all. Nobody will ever notice.
He arrives in medieval England with little but his smartphone and the clothes on his back, escaping a pair of U.S. Treasury agents and a slew of cops. Martin figures he'll dazzle the natives and play wizard until things cool off at home... but he's not the first geek to have discovered reality's programming and fled into history, and they don't take kindly to newcomers blundering into their territory. He'll have to learn the ropes fast, because in a world of hacker wizards, revenge can be deadly.

REVIEW: This fun little outing, written by the creator of one of my favorite comic strips (Basic Instructions), reads like Douglas Adams Lite. It never takes itself too seriously, yet manages to craft an interesting, occasionally nuanced tale of hackers running amok through the programming of time, space, and reality. While some of the humor is geared for the computer geek crowd, it's plenty amusing for those of us with only passing familiarity with programming culture. I gave this book an extra half- mark for honoring the late, great Commodore, the best computer system nobody remembers, and for overall whimsy. Despite a few shaky bits, it's a delightful little romp from start to finish.

You might also enjoy:
The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide (Douglas Adams, Fiction - A hapless human hitches a ride off of Earth moments before its destruction)
Sky Coyote (Kage Baker, Fiction - "The Company" uses immortal cyborgs to manipulate human history for future profit)
Galaxy Quest (Terry Bisson, Fiction - The washed-up cast of a cheesy old sci-fi series meets aliens who think it was all real)
The Practice Effect (David Brin, Fiction - A 21st-century physicist finds himself stranded in a strange, violent world with peculiar physical laws)
A Bad Spell in Yurt (C. Dale Brittain, Fiction - A barely-competent wizard takes a job with a small kingdom, only to discover an elusive evil force inhabiting his new home)
Bad Unicorn (Platte F. Clarke, YA Fiction - A pudgy middle-school boy is the last blood descendant of a powerful wizard, meaning the fate of three worlds is in his hands)
The Wiz Biz books (Rich Cook, Fiction - A Silicon Valley programmer, pulled into a magical world, discovers that spells and computer code aren't that different)
The Artemis Fowl series (Eoin Colfer, YA Fiction - A modern boy genius pits his criminal wits against the potent, technologically advanced undergound Fairy nation)
The Dragon and the George (George R. Dickson, Fiction - Seeking his missing wife, a man finds himself in a medieval world, trapped in a dragon's body)
King: The Graphic Novel (Joshua Hale Fialkov, Fiction - The illustrated adventure of the last man alive in a darkly humorous post-apocalyptic, monster-filled Los Angeles)
The Tales of Jig Dragonslayer (Jim C. Hines, YA Fiction - Jig, a hapless and cowardly goblin run, inadvertently becomes a hero)
Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin (Diana Wynne Jones, YA Fiction - A magical world is forced to put on "tours" for offworld visitors, recreating standard epic fantasy journeys)
The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (Diana Wynne Jones, Fiction - A tongue-in-cheek guide to epic fantasy)
The Divide (Elizabeth Kay, YA Fiction - A sickly boy accidentally falls into a world where magic is real and humans are myths)
The Accidental Sorcerer (K. E. Mills, Fiction - A lowly third-level mage, disgraced in his homeland, discovers untapped powers in the service of an ambitious king)
A Fate Worse than Dragons (John Moore, Fiction - A princess and her beloved knight scheme for a way to him to earn her hand in marriage, plans that go terribly awry)
Heroics for Beginners and The Unhandsome Prince (John Moore, Fiction - Humorous fantasy that mocks genre stereotypes)
The Red Dwarf books (Grant Naylor, Fiction - A Liverpudlian loser aboard a Space Corps mining ship becomes the last human alive after a radiation leak traps him in stasis for three million years)
Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made (Stephan Pastis, YA Fiction - A grade-schooler is a legendary detective in his own overimaginative mind)
The Color of Magic (Terry Pratchett, Fiction - A magicless wizard must act as a guide for Discworld's first tourist)
Small Gods (Terry Pratchett, Fiction - An unpromising novice becomes the reluctant prophet for a god whose church has run amok in His name)
The Wee Free Men (Terry Pratchett, YA Fiction - In a backwater of Discworld, young would-be witch Tiffany Aching faces an otherworldly threat)
The Android's Dream (John Scalzi, Fiction - The fate of Earth rests on finding a rare breed of sheep for an alien coronation ceremony)
Island in the Sea of Time (S. M. Stirling, Fiction - A strange phenomenon sends 1998 Nantucket Island and a Coast Guard vessel back to the Bronze Age)
The Bartimaeus books (Jonathan Stroud, YA Fiction - In an alternate-modern world, an ambitious apprentice summons a smart-aleck djinni for revenge)
Just One Damned Thing After Another (Jodi Taylor, Fiction - A historian joins a research team secretly using time travel to observe history, only to find someone else exploiting it)
The Time Machine (H. G. Wells, Fiction - A 19th-century man travels 800,000 years forward to the twilight of humanity)
The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes (Wade Albert White, YA Fiction - A 13-year-old orphan becomes part of a Rightful Heir quest that could save or destroy her magical world)
Time Travel Dinosaur (Matt Youngmark, Fiction - A choose-a-path adventure hurls you through multiple timestreams, fighting interdimensional time goblins, mad scientists, and yourself)
Forever After (Roger Zelazny, creator, Fiction - After defeating the evil wizard, heroes must return magical artifacts to their original hiding places or risk unleashing chaos)

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Spell or High Water
(The Magic 2.0 series, Book 2)
Scott Meyer
47North
Fiction, Sci-Fi
****

DESCRIPTION: A few months ago, Martin was an ordinary man living an ordinary life as an ordinary data entry wage slave. Now, he's essentially a wizard in medieval England, immortal and impervious to most physical damage. After discovering a hidden computer file that controls reality, he wound up traveling back in time, meeting a group of other hackers who made the same discovery and, like him, bungled things bad enough to have to flee in time to avoid federal investigation. It's a decent life, save the odd attempted coup/murder by other "wizards". Martin has friends, a certain amount of prestige and respect, and what amounts to immortality and magical powers straight out of a video game. Not bad for a no-name data entry guy from the 21st century.
Martin and his friend Phillip, as representatives of the Medieval England wizard enclave, are summoned by their old friend Gwen to the colony of Atlantis, where most female programmers-turned-wizards go after getting tired of the sexism of history and the constant awkward passes of their male colleagues. Here, the sorceress leader (Brit the Elder, creator of the magic-built city of Atlantis and chronologically-older version of Brit the Younger, who resents living in the shadow of her own future self) convenes a summit to standardize ethics of wizardry and prevention of power abuse. Martin carries faint hopes of rekindling (or, rather, actually sparking) a relationship with Gwen, with whom he totally bungled things during their brief previous acquaintance, but soon bigger problems emerge. Someone seems to be using the summit as a means to assassinate Brit the Younger - and, if Phillip is right, the presence of Brit the Elder is by no means an assurance that Brit the Younger will survive.
Meanwhile, in the 21st century, Jimmy has spent thirty years plotting a return to Medieval England to confront the former allies who turned on him... and all because he simply tried to kill them for not following his psychotic scheme to remake medieval England in his own image. They thought they'd rendered him helpless when they stripped him of access to his powers - and any technology more advanced than an incandescent bulb - and returned him to his own time, but they didn't reckon on his most powerful gift: endless, unrelenting patience.

REVIEW: Like the first book in the series, Spell or High Water is a fun romp, playing with genre tropes and nerd culture without alienating those of us who don't make a living typing code. Martin's a fun yet fallable hero, nice enough to root for even as one snickers when his enthusiasm outstrips his brain. Phillip finds a new romance interest and an unlikely ally in his personal crusade to prove free will even in the face of a computer program that seems to predetermine reality: Brit the Younger, who stares (seemingly-irrefutable) proof of predtermination in the face every time she sees Brit the Elder. New allies and rivals come into play from across the wizard community, relationships sometimes complicated by the time travel inherent in their occupation. (A pair of 19th-century-dwelling magicians get off on the wrong foot with Martin and Phillip after citing an encounter in their own time - several centuries in the future from both Atlantean time and medieval England.) Meanwhile, Jimmy from Book 1 forms a partnership of necessity with Treasury agents Miller and Murphy, who watched Martin disappear - literally - while being interrogated over mysterious deposits in his bank account. It all makes for a fun and reasonably interesting, if occasionally scattered, plot, full of temporal paradoxes and programmer/wizard weirdness and the consequences of turning sexism on its ear (the ladies of Atlantis have created a society in which men do all the traditional "women's work" and serve as eye candy while doing so). Roy, the newcomer whom Martin is training at the start of the book (and who found the reality data-file much earlier, temporally, than other wizards even knew it could exist), feels like an afterthought after a fair bit of page count is devoted to him, and the Jimmy subplot's resolution seems a bit awkward unless it's setting up something for Book 3. Overall, though, it retains the whimsey of the first book, and I fully plan on reading the third as soon as possible.

You might also enjoy:
The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide (Douglas Adams, Fiction - A hapless human hitches a ride off of Earth moments before its destruction)
Sky Coyote (Kage Baker, Fiction - "The Company" uses immortal cyborgs to manipulate human history for future profit)
Galaxy Quest (Terry Bisson, Fiction - The washed-up cast of a cheesy old sci-fi series meets aliens who think it was all real)
The Practice Effect (David Brin, Fiction - A 21st-century physicist finds himself stranded in a strange, violent world with peculiar physical laws)
A Bad Spell in Yurt (C. Dale Brittain, Fiction - A barely-competent wizard takes a job with a small kingdom, only to discover an elusive evil force inhabiting his new home)
Bad Unicorn (Platte F. Clarke, YA Fiction - A pudgy middle-school boy is the last blood descendant of a powerful wizard, meaning the fate of three worlds is in his hands)
The Wiz Biz books (Rich Cook, Fiction - A Silicon Valley programmer, pulled into a magical world, discovers that spells and computer code aren't that different)
The Artemis Fowl series (Eoin Colfer, YA Fiction - A modern boy genius pits his criminal wits against the potent, technologically advanced undergound Fairy nation)
The Dragon and the George (George R. Dickson, Fiction - Seeking his missing wife, a man finds himself in a medieval world, trapped in a dragon's body)
King: The Graphic Novel (Joshua Hale Fialkov, Fiction - The illustrated adventure of the last man alive in a darkly humorous post-apocalyptic, monster-filled Los Angeles)
The Tales of Jig Dragonslayer (Jim C. Hines, YA Fiction - Jig, a hapless and cowardly goblin run, inadvertently becomes a hero)
Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin (Diana Wynne Jones, YA Fiction - A magical world is forced to put on "tours" for offworld visitors, recreating standard epic fantasy journeys)
The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (Diana Wynne Jones, Fiction - A tongue-in-cheek guide to epic fantasy)
The Divide (Elizabeth Kay, YA Fiction - A sickly boy accidentally falls into a world where magic is real and humans are myths)
The Accidental Sorcerer (K. E. Mills, Fiction - A lowly third-level mage, disgraced in his homeland, discovers untapped powers in the service of an ambitious king)
A Fate Worse than Dragons (John Moore, Fiction - A princess and her beloved knight scheme for a way to him to earn her hand in marriage, plans that go terribly awry)
Heroics for Beginners and The Unhandsome Prince (John Moore, Fiction - Humorous fantasy that mocks genre stereotypes)
The Red Dwarf books (Grant Naylor, Fiction - A Liverpudlian loser aboard a Space Corps mining ship becomes the last human alive after a radiation leak traps him in stasis for three million years)
Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made (Stephan Pastis, YA Fiction - A grade-schooler is a legendary detective in his own overimaginative mind)
The Color of Magic (Terry Pratchett, Fiction - A magicless wizard must act as a guide for Discworld's first tourist)
Small Gods (Terry Pratchett, Fiction - An unpromising novice becomes the reluctant prophet for a god whose church has run amok in His name)
The Wee Free Men (Terry Pratchett, YA Fiction - In a backwater of Discworld, young would-be witch Tiffany Aching faces an otherworldly threat)
The Android's Dream (John Scalzi, Fiction - The fate of Earth rests on finding a rare breed of sheep for an alien coronation ceremony)
Island in the Sea of Time (S. M. Stirling, Fiction - A strange phenomenon sends 1998 Nantucket Island and a Coast Guard vessel back to the Bronze Age)
The Bartimaeus books (Jonathan Stroud, YA Fiction - In an alternate-modern world, an ambitious apprentice summons a smart-aleck djinni for revenge)
Just One Damned Thing After Another (Jodi Taylor, Fiction - A historian joins a research team secretly using time travel to observe history, only to find someone else exploiting it)
The Time Machine (H. G. Wells, Fiction - A 19th-century man travels 800,000 years forward to the twilight of humanity)
The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes (Wade Albert White, YA Fiction - A 13-year-old orphan becomes part of a Rightful Heir quest that could save or destroy her magical world)
Time Travel Dinosaur (Matt Youngmark, Fiction - A choose-a-path adventure hurls you through multiple timestreams, fighting interdimensional time goblins, mad scientists, and yourself)
Forever After (Roger Zelazny, creator, Fiction - After defeating the evil wizard, heroes must return magical artifacts to their original hiding places or risk unleashing chaos)

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An Unwelcome Quest
(The Magic 2.0 series, Book 3)
Scott Meyer
47North
Fiction, Sci-Fi
****

DESCRIPTION: Thanks to their computer skills and a hidden data file that controls reality, various programmers, engineers, and hackers have made themselves "wizards," time-traveling to various places in history where their skills will be more appreciated and (and less likely to draw national or international law enforcement on their heads.) But that doesn't mean they've lost touch with their original decades; the wizards in Medieval England, for instance, have a weekly movie night. Usually, they're reasonably uneventful, if occasionally traumatizing (as when showing a geek from the 1980's what Hollywood later did with the Star Wars prequels or the fourth Indiana Jones film) - until the night five of their number inexplicably vanish. As Martin, Gwen, Roy, and the Brits (Elder and Younger) race to find them, their friends find themselves trapped in a video game created by an old rival, the first (and, until Jimmy, only) programmer/wizard to ever earn banishment for his crimes: sadistic, mentally unstable Todd.

REVIEW: Amazon had a bundle deal on the whole trilogy, so Book 3 was in queue when I was finished with Book 2 - and, with other plans for the day not panning out, I succumbed to a reading binge. This book maintains the fun nerd-culture/genre-tweaking air of the first titles, placing the wizards at the mercy of a man who has spent decades plotting suitable revenge. Gamers in particular will enjoy Meyer's take on modern role-playing games as seen from the inside. The characters remain interesting and fun, growing in their own ways as they make their ways through Todd's adventure. It moves along decently, with a climax that leaves things open for more books and is somewhat ambiguous on one or two notes. It makes for an enjoyable, light sci-fi adventure.

You might also enjoy:
The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide (Douglas Adams, Fiction - A hapless human hitches a ride off of Earth moments before its destruction)
Killobyte (Piers Anthony, Fiction - A hacker traps two players in a virtual-reality game)
Sky Coyote (Kage Baker, Fiction - "The Company" uses immortal cyborgs to manipulate human history for future profit)
Galaxy Quest (Terry Bisson, Fiction - The washed-up cast of a cheesy old sci-fi series meets aliens who think it was all real)
The Practice Effect (David Brin, Fiction - A 21st-century physicist finds himself stranded in a strange, violent world with peculiar physical laws)
A Bad Spell in Yurt (C. Dale Brittain, Fiction - A barely-competent wizard takes a job with a small kingdom, only to discover an elusive evil force inhabiting his new home)
Bad Unicorn (Platte F. Clarke, YA Fiction - A pudgy middle-school boy is the last blood descendant of a powerful wizard, meaning the fate of three worlds is in his hands)
The Wiz Biz books (Rich Cook, Fiction - A Silicon Valley programmer, pulled into a magical world, discovers that spells and computer code aren't that different)
The Artemis Fowl series (Eoin Colfer, YA Fiction - A modern boy genius pits his criminal wits against the potent, technologically advanced undergound Fairy nation)
The Dragon and the George (George R. Dickson, Fiction - Seeking his missing wife, a man finds himself in a medieval world, trapped in a dragon's body)
King: The Graphic Novel (Joshua Hale Fialkov, Fiction - The illustrated adventure of the last man alive in a darkly humorous post-apocalyptic, monster-filled Los Angeles)
God Game (Andrew M. Greeley, Fiction - A man plays a computer game that seems bound to an alternate reality)
The Tales of Jig Dragonslayer (Jim C. Hines, YA Fiction - Jig, a hapless and cowardly goblin run, inadvertently becomes a hero)
Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin (Diana Wynne Jones, YA Fiction - A magical world is forced to put on "tours" for offworld visitors, recreating standard epic fantasy journeys)
The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (Diana Wynne Jones, Fiction - A tongue-in-cheek guide to epic fantasy)
The Divide (Elizabeth Kay, YA Fiction - A sickly boy accidentally falls into a world where magic is real and humans are myths)
Caverns of Socrates (Dennis L. McKiernan, Fiction - The AI in charge of a revolutionary virtual-reality role playing game develops an unstable mind of its own)
The Accidental Sorcerer (K. E. Mills, Fiction - A lowly third-level mage, disgraced in his homeland, discovers untapped powers in the service of an ambitious king)
A Fate Worse than Dragons (John Moore, Fiction - A princess and her beloved knight scheme for a way to him to earn her hand in marriage, plans that go terribly awry)
Heroics for Beginners and The Unhandsome Prince (John Moore, Fiction - Humorous fantasy that mocks genre stereotypes)
The Red Dwarf books (Grant Naylor, Fiction - A Liverpudlian loser aboard a Space Corps mining ship becomes the last human alive after a radiation leak traps him in stasis for three million years)
Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made (Stephan Pastis, YA Fiction - A grade-schooler is a legendary detective in his own overimaginative mind)
The Color of Magic (Terry Pratchett, Fiction - A magicless wizard must act as a guide for Discworld's first tourist)
Small Gods (Terry Pratchett, Fiction - An unpromising novice becomes the reluctant prophet for a god whose church has run amok in His name)
The Wee Free Men (Terry Pratchett, YA Fiction - In a backwater of Discworld, young would-be witch Tiffany Aching faces an otherworldly threat)
The Android's Dream (John Scalzi, Fiction - The fate of Earth rests on finding a rare breed of sheep for an alien coronation ceremony)
Island in the Sea of Time (S. M. Stirling, Fiction - A strange phenomenon sends 1998 Nantucket Island and a Coast Guard vessel back to the Bronze Age)
The Bartimaeus books (Jonathan Stroud, YA Fiction - In an alternate-modern world, an ambitious apprentice summons a smart-aleck djinni for revenge)
Just One Damned Thing After Another (Jodi Taylor, Fiction - A historian joins a research team secretly using time travel to observe history, only to find someone else exploiting it)
The Time Machine (H. G. Wells, Fiction - A 19th-century man travels 800,000 years forward to the twilight of humanity)
The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes (Wade Albert White, YA Fiction - A 13-year-old orphan becomes part of a Rightful Heir quest that could save or destroy her magical world)
Time Travel Dinosaur (Matt Youngmark, Fiction - A choose-a-path adventure hurls you through multiple timestreams, fighting interdimensional time goblins, mad scientists, and yourself)
Forever After (Roger Zelazny, creator, Fiction - After defeating the evil wizard, heroes must return magical artifacts to their original hiding places or risk unleashing chaos)

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