That’s all I kept thinking during the first half or so of this book. To be clear, my thinking the main character was a jackass in no way hindered my enjoyment of the story. In fact, I’m fairly certain the book encouraged that opinion.
See, one day Martin is sitting at home being lazy, hacking websites just for the fun of it (he sees himself as a benevolent hacker, because he doesn’t cause any harm–he just likes doing it) when he comes across this file hidden deep in the code of a random website. That file, as it turns out, is essentially proof that the world Martin lives in (and by extension, the world we live in as well) is a very cunningly put together computer program. If you alter things in the file, you alter them “in the real world” as well. So what does Martin do with this discovery? Well, mostly he uses it to commit bank fraud by repeatedly changing the decimal place in his bank account by multiple digits, buys a ton of new stuff for his apartment, and then gets caught by the Treasury Department in the space of about a week.
In a way, it was nice reading about such an idiotic, id-driven character. It was like he was a dumb little kid playing around. But worse! Because he often identified the very things that he shouldn’t do, AND THEN DID THEM ANYWAY.
But all of that is just prologue, because when Martin’s dumb actions catch up to him, he does something a bit predictable, but still cool. He decides to travel back in time to a point where his newfound control over “life” can be disguised as wizardry, and he can live it up, be all important, get all the chicks, and so on and so forth. Oh, and also not go to jail.
Because he is a jackass, things go about as well as you might expect. And then they take a turn . . .
I really enjoyed this book, especially after the reveal a third of the way through that SPOILER Martin isn’t a special snowflake. He isn’t the first person to think of doing this (he’s not even the 50th), but that literally everyone who has ever discovered the file had the same exact idea: to travel back in time and be a wizard (nearly to a one, most of them also almost went to jail in their own times). There is in fact a whole community of time-traveling wizards who’ve set up shop that Martin must be initiated into before they’ll let him practice as a “wizard” in Medieval England END SPOILER. The “magic” itself is actually computer programming, so the book ends up feeling exactly like a technology focused sci-fi book went on a date with a swords and sorcery fantasy epic and they got frisky with each other.
This is a funny, nerdbait type of book. I loved all the secondary characters, especially Phillip, and I liked seeing Martin epic fail every five seconds before finally catching a clue (and I was glad that he finally grew up by the end and started acting like an adult). This book also strikes the perfect tone between having fun with the concept, and lampooning the type of man who would inevitably get caught up in this situation, were it actually real (mostly socially awkward men in their twenties and thirties).
I actually listened to the audio version of this book, and I highly recommend it. Luke Daniels does a great job (his voice for Phillip is one reason I ended up loving that character so much). These types of books (tongue in cheek, nerdy, adventure-type books) work really well on audio anyway, and this was a really well produced recording.
I will definitely be checking out the next two books in the series in the future, when I’m looking for something fun and entertaining, and with that special nerd flavor.