Hey! Haven't done one of these in a while! Last time I reviewed a book was with Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted just as an excuse to orgasm about one of my favorite authors. Now, I'm using it as an excuse to orgasm about one of my favorite critics in general.
As many readers have figured out by reading many of my reviews, I'm a rather big fan of video game critic Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw. For those of you unaware, Yahtzee is the creator of Zero Punctuation, a weekly video series that consists of rapid-fire reviews that focus almost entirely on the negative aspects of games, and practically nothing else. Not one single nit is left unpicked in his scathing reviews. However, unlike most contrarian reviewers such as *facepalm* Armond White, Yahtzee gets away with it by making some legitimate points, bringing to light certain flaws that wouldn't be brought up in mainstream video game reviews, and by simply just being so god d*mn entertaining. Even if you don't agree with his reviews, it's just hard to resist laughing hysterically at his excellent comedic timing, clever wit, and excellent use of imagery and bracingly dark humor.
Now, he's trying his hand at the literary scene with his first ever published novel, Mogworld. Just think about how hard it is for a critic such as Yahtzee to create his own artistic work. Most would find it incredibly easy for critics, especially since they're so apparently omnipotent in the tropes, cliches, and merits of art, but think of how nerve-wracking it must be to have the "judge" become the "judged". The critic would have to use every bit of his critical skill to apply it to his/her own work, and the slightest misstep will have him critically eviscerated since critics will undoubtedly be extra harsh on other critics' works. And while Yahtzee reviews games rather than books, that doesn't really make him immune to this statement. There is a major difference between creating a work of fiction, and criticizing/analyzing a work of fiction.
But, in the long run, Mogworld is a huge success, and a fantastic debut to what looks to be a promising literary career for Yahtzee. He's used his knowledge of video games to make a novel that perfectly satirizes video game fantasy-lore and culture, while providing some refreshingly original and interesting characters, a fully-developed mythology, all wrapped up in Yahtzee's trademark humor. Any gamer who has wasted hours, days, weeks, months, possibly even years of World of Warcraft, should feel right at home with Mogworld's excellent satire.
Huh, that last paragraph sounded like what should've been the Final Verdict. Let's balance that out by gobbing on about the plot.
So, we begin with Jim, an up-and-coming mage in a mage college in the magical land of Mogworld, a place full of heroes, knights, dragons, dwarves, and elves, which should sound familiar if you've played any game ever made ever. The mage school is attacked by a competing warrior-school and Jim, in the heat of battle, is killed. More than 60 years later, he wakes up back in his own body, which has now rotted and decayed due to decades of being buried and realizes he's now an Undead. Turns out he and a hundreds of other deceased, have been resurrected by the necromancer Lord Dreadgrave, quite possibly the most ridiculously cliche'd fantasy "villain" you can possibly conjure up.
Jim, now back in the real world, sees that something has gone horribly wrong with Mogworld. Turns out, an event that citizens call the Infusion has granted immortality to all people in the entire world. No one is allowed to die, or reproduce for that matter, and whenever someone "dies", they are quickly resurrected to the nearest church. On top of all that (not gay) a mysterious disease called the Syndrome has inflicted itself upon many of the most attractive adventurers, putting them in a near-catatonic, mentally-handicapped state. It's easy to understand why Jim, who wasn't socially fond of people to begin with, wouldn't want to be a part of this madness, so he goes on a heroic, noble quest to...properly find a way to die, once and for all.
Right off the bat, Jim is not your average protagonist. Just like Yahtzee himself, Jim is cynical, mean-spirited, and has no care in the world for doing the right thing. However. also like Yahtzee, he's still immensely like-able due to his wit, charm, intelligence, and humor. He's joined by an undead woman named Meryll, who is able to sew together Jim's body parts back together when they fall off, and is highly distinguishable for being uncannily cheery and optimistic, and an undead priest named Thaddeus who pretty much just insults everyone throughout 99% of the adventure.
It also helps that Yahtzee has created a very well-developed and greatly-realized environment and mythology for them to inhabit. Poking fun at fantasy cliches while still putting interesting and quirky spins on common fantasy tropes. Everything from the feminine bodies of elves, the stereotypical villain names, and everything else in between, is satirized, but never in an aggressive, hateful manner, and instead, striking a balance of still being relatively insightful and, of course, hilarious.
The novel also has one knock-out of a twist that is revealed somewhat a third of the way through the book, and keeps developing as it progresses, which I found to be really ingenious...if it weren't for the fact that it is given away in the back cover and the Amazon.com synopsis. My advice is to get into the book clean. Do not look up ANYTHING ELSE on it, do not look at the Amazon synopsis, do not even peek at the final pages of the book, and just experience it for yourself.
And I must say, for a guy who is debuting with his first ever novel, Yahtzee writes like he's a professional. He finds a great way to please fans of his Zero Punctuation reviews with his signature caustic wit and dialogue, and translate it into a fictional format. It should be interesting to see how his literary skills evolve as time progresses.
There is literally only one majorly bad thing I can say about this book, and it is as I said before, the twist is given away in the marketing. And while it definitely doesn't detract from the enjoyment you can get reading it, you certainly won't be surprised when the thing is revealed. So follow my advice, go into it clean, and the experience should be that much richer.
Final Verdict: Regardless of the last paragraph, Mogworld is definitely worth checking out, especially if you're a gamer, and especially if you've played World of Warcraft once in your life. Well written, original, hilarious, and just a downright blast to read, it's more than well worth your time.
That is all.
See ya next time. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to wank to Zero Punctuation some more. Gotta