by Tom Ingram
I’ve been a fan of Yahtzee’s Zero Punctuation videos since the days when he was still using popular songs over the credits. They’re hilarious, of course, but especially in his later videos he’s shown himself to be an insightful critic. Yahtzee’s first novel, Mogworld, came out a short while ago, and it’s a must-have for any Zero Punctuation fan.
The main characters are Jim, Meryl, and Thaddeus, a trio of nobody undead minions in Mogworld. They wake up from their eternal slumber to find out that somebody turned off death, royally screwing up the world, and heroes everywhere have started to act strange. They stand perfectly still in the same pose for hours on end. They speak in incomprehensible gibberish and fight using the same wooden motions over and over again.
On seeing mysterious angelic beings destroying an evil overlord’s castle, Jim sets out on a quest to get himself deleted by them. Meryl tags along, trying to convince him to cheer up and become a hero, and Thaddeus wants to convert them both from their heathen ways. Jim is written in that cheerfully sociopathic way that is either annoying or endearing, depending on how you look at it.
The premise of Mogworld is that the NPCs in a World of Warcraft-style game grow self-awareness, and we’re shown the world of the game from their perspective, with all the twisted commentary on gaming and real life that implies. This is all on the back cover.
However, the book itself takes an unforgivably long time to get to the point. It’s slow-moving, particularly in the middle. More than once, I lost sight of who was doing what and why I should care because I was bored. The characterization is thin and the interesting minor characters are never explored. There’s very little action of any sort, and when it does happen the flaccid main characters are unable to do anything about it.
I’m not worried about being too harsh here, for obvious reasons. I really did enjoy Mogworld, because Yahtzee’s famous wit is worth a read even if the story itself is somewhat lacking. It’s an original premise for a novel, and there are glimpses here and there of unpolished brilliance. Mogworld is a first novel, but it’s a promising one.
What it reminds me of more than anything else is the early Discworld books (and I’m sure Yahtzee would be overjoyed to hear it). Showing the madcap actions of genre-savvy characters in a parody of a fantasy setting is good. What remains is to squeeze this setting into an interesting plot and inject some humanity into the characters. Otherwise it’s nothing more than a modern Xanth book.
So, for Yahtzee fans and gamers in general, Mogworld is still a must read. But I’m not excited about it. I want to see whatever comes next from Yahtzee.
You can find Mogworld online at McNally Robinson.