The Wiz Biz - Rick Cook

I like the idea of computer science as a source for sci-fi. Vernor Vinge does this well - A Fire Upon The Deep has a galaxy structured like a Venn diagram of complexity classes. Galaxy-wide communication has the air of Usenet, one of the major species is basically a symmetric multiprocessing wolf pack, and the whole book is an exercise in computer security made sci-fi.

The Wiz Biz is nothing so subtle. It's cheap-ass fantasy where the conceit is that a programmer from our world ('Wiz') is brought over to another world by wizards, in order to help win a magical war. His magical abilities are non-existent, but his ability to bring structure to spells (creating a spell compiler etc.) causes a revolution. For some reason, the main character reminds me of Rincewind - a weak and unconfident wizard type who believes magic should be systematic and structured. Only this universe is rather more sympathetic to this view than the Discworld is.

It reads a bit like computer programmer amateur wish-fulfilment fantasy. The descriptions are of the 'adjectives make good descriptions' school. It's pretty light on metaphor or simile. The fantasy world is really very generic. The plot is straightforward (or rather two plots - this was originally two books in a series, which have been glued together). It even has an awfully cheesy cover. There's surprisingly little to recommend it. On the other hand, it doesn't take itself seriously, and is almost dumb fun.

Posted 2009-06-07.