Monday, January 10, 2005

Moore: Heroics for Beginners—Six New Entries to the Invisible Library


The invisible library is
a collection of books that only appear in other books. Within the library's catalog you will find imaginary books, pseudobiblia, artifictions, fabled tomes, libris phantastica, and all manner of books unwritten, unread, unpublished, and unfound.

John Moore has given us not one, but six new entries to this library with Heroics for Beginners, a delightful romping spoof suitable for a quick afternoon's reading. The Handbook of Practical Heroics, like "Robert Taylor's" other five practical handbooks (covering fly-fishing, gardening, antique refinishing, and—my favorites—Dragon Slaying [with Holly Lisle], followed by burn and wound dressing) is part of a medieval "...for Dummies" genre. Its advice is brief, to-the-point and imminently practical.
When a wise old sage tells you not to let a magical talisman fall into the wrong hands, take him seriously. Do not laugh it off until the object is stolen and the Forces of Evil are unleashed.

Kevin Timberline, Prince of Rassendas, has a problem. Actually, he has several problems, including finding an acceptable nickname, unlike his father, King Eric, Not Eric the Good, But the Other One. But he loves Princess Rebecca of Deserae, whose hand has been promised to Prince Logan, providing he retrieves the Ancient Artifact (model seven, and brand-new) stolen by Lord Voltmeter (He Who Must Be Named). Inspired by the handbook given to him by Princess Rebecca's father (who thought it was the fly-fishing guide), Kevin decides on a preemptive crusade to storm Lord Voltmeter's Fortress of Doom, and earn the princess' hand for himself.
...the sunshine fell upon a shelf stacked with circular black objects. Kevin moved in for a closer look, then picked one up. It was a coffee mug, cheap black ceramic with the words FORTRESS OF DOOM painted in large red letters. Underneath was the slogan ENSLAVE THE PLANET. And then he understood where he was.
   He was in the Fortress of Doom gift shop.

This book succeeds in spoofing a genre with light touches of laughter. Voltmeter's nickname is the only Harry Potter reference. But there's an Evil Assistant whose costume is a running gag. There's a chain-mail bra that turns out to have been a Pretty Good Idea, even if the fur thong briefs were not. And there's an old seeress whose prophesy on Kevin's heroics is ominous—and too bad that he didn't get some tips on the stock market while he had the chance!

You'll like the way Moore has written a real sword-and-sorcery story within the parody, and how the humor actually makes sense in the context of the tale. It made me want to get Moore's other novel, Slay and Rescue, which is a similar spoof of fairy tales.


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