Okay, ladies and gents, it’s not often that this happens, but I come to you absolutely SMITTEN by my favorite new find. It’s a book called The Scriptlings, by indie authors Sorin Suciu.
Okay, so here’s a measure of how good this book is: I can think of no other way to begin this book review than by comparing it to Terry Pratchett. It’s exactly that flavor of insouciant, laugh-out-loud fantasy. It’s definitely not Pratchett—it’s slightly more “Americanized” (odd, because it’s set in Canada) with a bit more violence, a bit more almost-profanity (again, odd in Canada) and a whole lot more sex. It’s like Pratchett if Pratchett was American instead of British.
I found this book thanks to the authors contacting me through my book review line. I must admit, I had been considering removing my book review line. Most books I get through that line feel like a chore to read—they’re not bad, necessarily, but they’re not great. I will tell you unequivocally—I though this book was great with a capital GREAT. Now, I say that with some caveats. It’s a nerd’s book. It has lots of in-jokes from contemporary pop culture and fantasy, and more than a few computer geek/programmer jokes. Those are what this book is all about—if that’s not your cup of tea, you might not enjoy it as heartily as I did.
The premise of the book is that, in modern day, Magicians live among us. Magicians take apprentices from time to time, and these apprentices are called Scriptlings (hence, the title). Magic is dependent on code, similar to computer code, but it can only be rendered in dead languages (Latin, Sumerian, etc.). Over the last little while, magic has been slowly seeping out of the world, resulting in a decline in the number of Magicians out there. The brand-new Scriptling Buggeroff (more on that in a moment) is caught up in a plot to reverse this decline and restore balance to the world, all while contending with his own magical education.
(By the way, it’s a testament to the skill of Suciu that I was able to write this section without needing to refer back to the book once. Very unusual in my book review posts).
BUGGEROFF: I suppose I should let you know right off the bat that, in the Scriptlings universe, Magicians choose dirty words for their “magic names.” Such is the case with Buggeroff, a brand new Scriptling apprenticed to Master Loo (see below). Buggeroff is brought quite unwillingly into the world of Magicians and magic, and while simultaneously beginning his magical education under Master Loo, he is caught up in the plots of Merkin and Master Sewer to restore the balance of magic to the world. Awkward, bumbling and yet intensely brilliant with magic due to his prior knowledge of computer programming, Buggeroff is a charming protagonist who had me laughing my ass off from his first appearance on the page.
MERKIN: As the book’s second paragraph states, “If you know what a merkin is, then shame on you. if you don’t then, suffice it to say, it is a nasty word.” Merkin is a young Scriptling apprenticed to Master Dung. She leaves his employ for reasons I will not reveal here (spoilers, after all) and becomes the apprentice of Master Sewer instead. Merkin is an exceptionally brilliant young Scriptling whose command of magic often rivals or even surpasses her masters. She has a dark history to run from, one that is tantalizingly fed to the reader piece by piece as the story progress. At once prideful (and therefore fallible), hypersexual, and possessed of a certain naivety about the world, Merkin is a fantastic female character who I thoroughly enjoyed journeying with. My one complaint is that she is the only female human character in this cast of five. But no matter. Feminism aside, the book is a fantastic read and Merkin provides enough excellent character for multiple women. She is certainly the best character in the book in terms of entertainment value, backstory and development, and plot agency.
MASTER LOO: Master Loo is the old, doddering, frighteningly forgetful master who brings Buggeroff into his Scriptlingship (as stated before, quite unwillingly and unpleasantly). Far from a tyrannical or overbearing master, however, we really get the sense that he only did it as an odd experiment to see what would happen. That feeling is further developed through the course of the rest of the book. Master Loo is as entertaining as any other member of the cast, very smart (when he can keep his mind on the matter at hand) and a wonderful mentor figure to Buggeroff.
MASTER SEWER: Master Sewer is a former Scriptling of Master Dung’s, and therefore is only too willing to help Merkin once she escapes from under his dominion. Master Sewer is incredibly attracted to Merkin, though he tries his damnedest to restrain himself due to their Master/Scriptling relationship. Though a powerful Magician in his own right, he finds himself constantly surprised at the tenacity and brilliance of the younger Merkin as he attempts to instruct her in all things Magical.
MASTER DUNG: A terrible, smelly, ugly and cruel old man, Master Dung makes life miserable for all of his Scriptlings. He is forcibly left by Merkin early on in the story, and becomes obsessed with revenge when she joins forces with Master Sewer afterwards. Pursuing his quest for vengeance across the rest of the novel, Master Dung schemes, connives, and subjugates the will of semi-intelligent helper entities to get what he wants.
PROS AND CONS: This is a tough section. There is nothing about this book that I can easily consider a “con,” other than the minor point of only a single female major character. So instead, I guess we’d better just go over the Pros.
PRO: Hilarious. This is every bit as hilarious as some Discworld novels, complete with footnotes that link together quite nicely in the Kindle version of the book that I received. I haven’t laughed out loud this often and this hard since…well, since the last Pratchett novel I read.
PRO: Magic System. Suciu’s magic system is intensely intriguing, and will be even more so to anyone with even the vaguest smattering of programming or general computer knowledge (as I have).
PRO: Great characters who only slightly slide into stereotypical archetypes. Each has their own quirks, vices and differences in manner and appearance that make them appealing to a reader. Again, very Pratchett-like.
OVERALL RATING: 5 out of 5 STARS
Seriously. Go buy this book. Currently it’s only available in paperback, but I don’t believe that you’ll regret paying for a paperback. The author has notified me that it’s coming out on Kindle in the near future (I believe he said in the next month).