So you may have guessed from the title, or from the amount of time it’s taken since I last blogged a book, but this is not 900-page literary work of fiction translated from the Japanese. It is, in fact, the first novel by webcomic author Scott Meyer, who does Basic Instructions.
There are varieties of webcomics. Some are mostly boobs, or crude jokes (OK, lots of them are). Some are arty and mysterious. Some re-use the same images every day. Some are “minimalist” in their artwork. Basic Instructions sits at the same image/minimalist end of that spectrum, in that a lot of the images are re-used, and, with all due respect, you wouldn’t mistake any of them for Rembrandts. The thing about doing comics this way is that it means if you want people to read, the words have to be pretty good. Basic Instructions schtick is a couple of parts geeky pop-culture references, a healthy dollop of socio-workplace observation and the occasional spoonful of comedy violence.
So you’ll probably have guessed that Off to Be the Wizard contains boobs, crude jokes and mysterious arty stuff. No, no, I’m just fooling. It contains some geeky pop-culture references, a healthy dollop of socio-workplace observation and a spoonful or two of comedy violence. Just in medieval England. Kind of. Look, it makes sense – kind of – when you read it. It borrows a bit (well, quite a lot) from The Matrix, but replaces all of the pseudo-metaphysical nonsense with a Tom Holt/Terry Pratchett/Douglas Adams style sense of humour. I’m operating a machine-gun catapult in my glass house here, given this, but it could probably have done with a proper edit – some of the pacing felt a bit off, somehow (you can tell I’m not a proper editor from that), but overall it was a good fun read.