Fantasy is often considered a geek genres. But what happens when fantasy books are also written by nerds for nerds?
Off To Be the Wizard and NPCs are two fantasy books with completely different stories, motifs and narrative style. Both explore the genres from a more geeky perspective and the result is funny and very enjoyable.
When Martin arrives in ye olde times by simply changing some parameters in a file he access with his phone, he thinks to be the only modern man in the place. He also thinks it would be easy to pretend to be a wizard, people in the time will be prone to believe him after all. What he doesn’t think is that maybe he wasn’t the only one to develop such grandiose plan; not until he meets Philip at least.
Watch as Martin is trained into the fine art of making magic by changing some strings of code in a computer file, fail miserably with girls and defeat the occasional villain.
When the usual band of adventurers come into Grumph’s tavern, no one pays them real attention. Adventurers are always an annoyance and it’s better to see them leave. Except that they depart in the most definitive of ways, dying. And while the players around the table are busy making other playable character, four friends who watched them die decide to take their place. Better not to risk the wrath of a touchy king with a soft spot to kill everyone who displease him. Better claim to be adventurers, even without training. Dangers, demons and an infinite dungeon await.
- Both have strong narrative, although different ones: Scott Meyer’s book doesn’t have a fast pace and Martin’s training makes up a huge chunk of the book. Only after that we see the conflict arise. It is given all the place it needs, however.
NPCs theme is becoming an adventurer, and everything that happens helps the characters achieving their new status. There is more conflict, more battles and more there certainly are more things going on.
- In both the reality and the world where the story takes place are separated and yet intertwined.
- In both there is a training of some sort, the characters are asked to gain skills. However the protagonists will do so in completely different ways: Martin won’t face the uncertainties of the adventurers, as they are without any real guide in their journey (except, maybe, for Thistle as the leader of the group).
- The world building is good in both games, but deeper in Scoot Meyer’s book. It may be the development of the magical system, or the fact that in Drew Hayes doesn’t really go deep into describing the setting. Spell, Sword and Stealth is the classic allegory of D&D, the elements of the game are given as known facts and the medieval-fantasy like setting is another typical element of the genres. I dare say in NPCs we see more of the characters’ conflict, though.
- Characters. Of course, they’re totally different books! Yes, but they’re approached in a completely different way. In NPCs we see more internal conflict, along with the events, because the four protagonists have to understand something about themselves. Martin, on the other hand, doesn’t face this struggle. It is true that in both books there’s no choice: you have to go out of your world and meet your new life. However, I had expected Martin to be a little more preoccupied by the fact that he’s not going to see his loved ones for the rest of his life.
- Off to be the wizard is definitely the sassy of the two. Full of witty remarks and jokes on the geek world, it is both an elogy and a light-hearted, ironic view.
They are both great reads. Not only they make happy the geek and nerd in all of us, but they’re also fantastic modern fantasy books. The magic system in Scott Meyer’s book is well developed and interesting, more so because it has its source in program code.
In NPCs there is what I consider a wonderful narrative strategy: the in-game world affects in some way our reality, which is absolutely great. Braking the fourth wall always wins my favour.
Veterans of the genres will appreciate the books, and newbies as well, although there are some references (in Off To Be The Wizard) and details left unsaid (in NPCs) that may effect the reading experience if you’re not familiar with the geek/neerd stereotype.