Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) The world’s most popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game. Tens of millions of players have stepped into the shoes of fighters and wizards, dwarves and koalamancers to battle the forces of evil.
Nobody ever asked the forces of evil how they felt about it.
John Golden has been asked to extract a fairy from the computers of a finance company, where it’s sitting on some vital data. Inside, he finds a depressed Dark Lord and a portal to a realm of fantasy. But when he steps through, he finds himself cast as the villain of the piece, with an army of adventurers ready to thwart his evil schemes. John hasn’t *got* any evil schemes, but he realizes he’d better come up with some fast. Unless he can change the story, he’ll be stuck in Mazaroth as a final boss…permanently.
Thoughts: When I first read John Golden: Freelance Debugger, I knew that there was no way that I wouldn’t end up continuing with this series of novellas. The are, to be blunt, hilarious and fun and very creative, with the titular character John Golden being someone whose job it is to clear fairies out of computer systems in a seamless melding of sci-fi and urban fantasy.
This time, John’s tasked with removing a faerie in such a way that it’s more like rehoming it than outright forcing it away. This would be a tricky enough task on its own, but John and Sarah find themselves in the odd predicament of having to do so in a way that makes relative sense within the storyline of the popular MMORPG, Heroes of Mazaroth (think World of Warcraft), since the faerie in question is also a boss battle within the game. Creative solution abound, plus the added amusement of watching Sarah pretend that she doesn’t completely love the game despite what she claims. (Gamers in denial… There ought to be a support group for that.)
The fairy, the Dark Lord Anaxomander, is one that you can’t help but love. Locked in the role of a boss in the game, Anaxomander is tired of constantly dying and respawning and not actually getting anywhere with his life or plans, and so escapes out a back door into a new system, setting up the new lair which causes the problems that John is called in to deal with in the first place. He’s a slave to stereotypes, talking about the decorative benefit of lava and dried blood in his dark dungeon of darkness (did I mention that he’s a Dark Lord?), his depression coming across in comical terms rather than serious ones.
As before, the story shines because of the dual perspective. John as the primary protagonist and the main narrator of the story, and Sarah providing snark and commentary as the story goes on. Sarah is, in many ways, the mental commentary of a somewhat snarky reader, saying what many of us are thinking without having to rely on John to awkwardly nitpick his own actions. She’s in a perfect position to do this, essentially being a spirit in a laptop who is always along for the ride and to help John with his work, and honestly, a good percentage of the reason these novellas have been so enjoyable for me is because of her comments.
Wexler’s writing is sharp, his characters a treat to read, and the humour is right on the ball. Twice now I’ve read John Golden novellas and been left wanting more, and it’s pretty much a guarantee at this point that I will continue with this series until Wexler stops writing it. They’re excellent stories to revitalize the reading spirit, light and full of geeky laughter. Definitely read these novellas when — not if — you can!
(Received for review from the publisher.)