An Unwelcome Quest by Scott Meyer
The blurb geeks:
Ever since Martin Banks and his fellow computer geeks discovered that reality is just a computer program to be happily hacked, they’ve been jaunting back and forth through time, posing as medieval wizards and having the epic adventures that other nerds can only dream of having. But even in their wildest fantasies, they never expected to end up at the mercy of the former apprentice whom they sent to prison for gross misuse of magic and all-around evil behavior.
Who knew that the vengeful Todd would escape, then conjure a computer game packed with wolves, wenches, wastelands, and assorted harrowing hazards—and trap his hapless former friends inside it? Stripped of their magic powers, the would-be wizards must brave terrifying dangers, technical glitches, and one another’s company if they want to see medieval England—and their favorite sci-fi movies on VHS—ever again. Can our heroes survive this magical mystery torture? Or will it only lead them and their pointy hats into more peril?
In case it isn’t clear from the blurb, this is a humor book. It’s mostly mildly amusing, but there were a few places that made me laugh out loud.
Pretty much the whole of this book takes place in a computer role playing game set up as a form of revenge on the main characters by someone they banished in the original back story. This allows the author to point out some gamey things about computer RPGs (e.g. predictable enemies, inflexible conversation trees) and adds some variety to the premise of the series (as Atlantis and time travel did in the second book).
There was also at least one really cool subversion by the protagonists of the systems set up by the antagonist. Not only was it extremely clever, but it showed that the author thought up the trap, thought up a way out of the trap and then thought up a way to repurpose the trap into something useful – it was very impressive.
This is probably pretty similar to the previous books (maybe less so the first one because we followed Martin’s point of view as he discovered the nature of reality) but there didn’t really seem to be a main character, just a group of protagonists with some major and some minor players. It didn’t really cause a problem because for the majority of the book the characters traveled together in groups so there were only a couple of points of view.
Something that I noticed in the first two books was that it’s hard to tell a lot of the characters apart because they’re all pretty similar, have generic names and the author doesn’t spend too much time describing them in a way that distinguishes them from each other. Of the half-dozen male characters one of them is asian, one is black and one is old – which should differentiate them – but they tend to have group conversations and only be referred to by name, so I still couldn’t tell you what name goes with which person. This is still a problem in this book but less so because the characters were in two smaller groups so everyone’s identity and personality kept being reiterated.
For some (presumably publishing related) reason books tend to come in trilogies, so I just assumed this would be the last book in the series, however it didn’t read like the last book in the series. Another thing that made me think this would be the last book is that the author has started a new series, but I guess maybe he’ll juggle them.