Double Feature – John Golden: Freelance Debugger & Heroes of Mazaroth, by Django Wexler

Changing up the review style just a bit today! I’m going to talk about both these novellas here, as my last review before the LonCon 3 tornado lands. Spoilers: I loved them both!

Freelance Debugger

Format: ebook (KIndle) | Publisher: Ragnarok Publications | Publication date: February 3rd 2014 | My rating: 5/5

John Golden is a debugger: he goes inside the computer systems of his corporate clients to exterminate the gremlins, sprites, and other fairies that take up residence. But when he gets a frantic call from Serpentine Systems, a top-of-the-line anti-fairy security company, John finds out he’s on much more than a simple smurf-punting expedition.

With the help of his sarcastic little sister Sarah (currently incarnated in the form of a Dell Inspiron) and a paranoid system administrator, John tackles Serpentine’s fairy problem. But the rabbit hole goes deeper than he thinks, and with the security of all of company’s clients in danger, there’s more at stake this time than John’s paycheck!

This all sounded very new and interesting, and it did not disappoint me. I tore through this story in no time at all, and enjoyed every bit of it – but sometimes with stories like this, though they tend to be frivolous fun while you’re reading them, they don’t last very long in the mind afterward. Not so with John Golden. The whole ‘techno fantasy noir’ premise is awesome enough all by itself, but what I really enjoyed here was the character building that somehow manages to still get done despite that breakneck pace I mentioned. John Golden himself would be more than interesting enough to carry this story on his own, but in fact we have a pair of characters in centre stage (sort of…). Obviously there’s John, a gifted individual known as a ‘debugger’ – basically an exterminator of various faerie ‘bugs’ who have a habit of infecting, destroying or just playing good old-fashioned havoc with computer systems. It’s a twist on traditional fae critters that I can’t help enjoying, and John is less of a proverbial gun-toting hero and enough of an occasionally bumbling nerd (although he *is* good at what he does, the old ‘nobody’s perfect’ rule of thumb seems to be firmly in effect) to earn my approval. Nerds rule! Which brings us to the second of our leading duo…

Sarah Golden is as sharp and sassy as she is incorporeal, being a sort of AI version of John’s sister who ‘lives’ inside a computer. She’s every bit as much of a geek as her brother, which we learn as the story (or stories, really – see Heroes of Mazaroth) goes on – but she appears to be the real brains of the two, and owns it marvellously. Wexler doesn’t slow down the story here to give us a great deal of information about what actually happened to Sarah, though we do get enough to keep us interested, and hopefully those tidbits won’t end up left on the side of the plate should he continue writing these stories. Beyond simply the inclusion of Sarah as a character, however, it’s the way in which her presence tends to be made known that earns points from me. As John’s stories are written in a sort of case-file manner, we get Sarah’s input largely in the form of annotations, neatly numbered and full of the aforementioned sass. It does, very occasionally, threaten to disrupt the story’s flow – but the amusing similarity to Terry Pratchett’s writing style saves it in that regard. What can I say? I like to laugh, and who doesn’t love Pratchettness?

 

Heroes of Mazaroth

Format: ebook (ARC) | Publication date: August 11th 2014 | My rating: 4/5

…And the laughter continues with Golden’s second outing. Here’s the synopsis:

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.

Yes, it says koalamancers. Yes, they’re as amusing as they sound.

With a lot of the setup work having been done previously, this story pretty much also hits the ground running, and if the first one was delightfully geeky then the second cranks the delightful geekery up to eleven. Anyone who’s ever played a MMORPG (pronounced muh-mor-peh-guh, according to Sarah, which fills my Learn Something New quota there) should enjoy this one – or even if you haven’t, which is more the case for me personally (don’t judge me), this is still a greatly entertaining entry to what I hope will be a longer series. The only reason it lacks that fifth star here is that, especially in comparison to the first novella, I felt it lacked a little of that swift pace that impressed me before. There’s more information on the subject matter to include, presumably for the benefit of anyone not intimately familiar with MMORPGs (which, admittedly, I can appreciate…), and it inevitably slows the story down somewhat. Especially given the adherence to the Sarah Golden footnotes that I mentioned previously.

That said, it’s a cracking good read all the same. I enjoyed this story as much as the last, and should there be more to come, I will definitely be in line to get my hands on it! Anyone who hasn’t read these yet is certainly missing out. If that’s you, get on that.

 

 

 

 

One thought on “Double Feature – John Golden: Freelance Debugger & Heroes of Mazaroth, by Django Wexler

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *