Tales From the Mad Monk

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Category: Book Reviews

Sometimes A Story Is About Making The World Better

Sometimes A Story Is About Making the World Better

I’m a freelancer and have been reading and watching fantasy for more than forty years, so when I read that the protagonist of Rachel Aaron’s Minimum Wage Magic was a freelance mage, I was tickled.

I had previously read Aaron’s Eli Monpress stories and her Heartstriker Series so I was confident I’d love Minimum Wage Magic and I bought it on the spot.

I was not disappointed.

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42 is More Important than That

42 is More Important than That

When I mention to people that my favorite number is 42, I am generally met with some sort of Hitchhiker reference, and that’s…fine. Tribes need their cultural touchstones, and I am a Hitchhiker fan, so it would be churlish of me to take offense at that recognition.

And yet, for me, 42 is much more important than a mere cultural touchstone.

The Absurdity of Human Conduct

One of the hallmarks of Douglas Adams’ work is commentary on the absurdity of human action.

To illustrate that point, I’ll merely point out that immediately before the destruction of Earth, Arthur Dent was lying in the mud in front of a bulldozer trying to protect his house from destruction. He was talked out of it by a friend who wanted to go for a pint, and who talked the demolition manager into lying in the mud instead.

Absurd.

What followed was the destruction of the planet, the escape of Dent and his friend by dint of an electronic thumb and with the cooperation of some cooks who liked to piss off their bosses.

Absurd.

And remember, the entire narrative thread resulting in 42 involves humankind building an enormous computer, pouring data into it, and letting it cook for millions of years without ever giving it a proper question.

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Prydain is Better for your Kids than Narnia

Like many of us who read fantasy as adults, I got my start on Narnia. My first-grade teacher read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to the class. It was wonderful. Wardrobes with new worlds hidden in them, talking animals, magic, and a classic confrontation between good and evil where evil wins—what more could you ask for?

I devoured the rest of the books, and while I thought it was weird that they skipped through different characters and different periods, the fact that they were Christian allegory went entirely over my head.

Then I re-read them in junior high and picked up on the fact that they weren’t just an allegory for Christianity, they were an allegory for a particularly loathsome form of Christianity that prioritized obedience to authority and punishment for wrongdoing over being a decent person. I was discomfited.

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Our World is Shitty. Read About a Better One.

If you haven’t read the Halcyone Space series by LJ Cohen, you’ve made a horrible mistake and you should probably fix that ASAP. It’s YA Space Opera set in a dystopic future that’s much better than the stormy present.

The universe of Halcyone Space can be pretty miserable. Earth has suffered a climate catastrophe that has driven millions into permanent refugee camps where they exist as a permanent underclass. The government of the galaxy is incompetent, corrupt, and utterly uninterested in serving the people.

It’s got problems, but it’s a tremendously immersive world that feels like it still exists when it’s offscreen. Oh, and it’s the setting for a hell of a story.

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