Scott Meyer has a long list of titles including — but certainly not limited to — former DJ, writer for video games, comedian, ghost bell hop at the Tower of Terror, opening act for Weird Al Yankovic, office manager and creator of the “Basic Instructions” (2003-present) webcomic. Somewhere in the chaos, Meyer was able to publish three books in a sci-fi fantasy series, “Magic 2.0.” Each book is over 350 pages long, and all of them were released in the short span of a year. “An Unwelcome Quest,” (2015) the third installment of the series, was published on Feb. 10.
The series starts with protagonist Martin Banks, a nerd with computer programming skills who discovers that his entire reality is just an incredibly sophisticated computer program that he can manipulate at will. His height, weight, age, account balance and location in time and space are just different variables in a line of code attached to his name. He slowly begins to alter his life through the program, but after a series of impulse purchases and magical incremental increases in his bank account balance, the CIA gets suspicious. To escape police questioning and detainment, Martin uses the program to transport himself to the Middle Ages with the plan of using the program to do “magic” and pose as a wizard. When he arrives, however, he discovers an advanced society of “time travelers,” people who found the program and traveled back in time with the same idea as Martin.
In “An Unwelcome Quest,” Martin’s fellow time travelers are kidnapped by someone from their past and trapped in a poorly designed video game. They have been completely cut off from the time travel program and are at the mercy of Todd — an awkward, dull and childish villain who has been planning his vengeance on the team since they sent him to prison for misuse of the program.
Meyer certainly knows how to create a good villain. Throughout the series, Todd has been mentioned and used as an example of a wizard/time traveler who was too dangerous to be allowed access to the program. Meyer remained vague throughout the first two books, leaving the reader with an insatiable curiosity as to what heinous acts Todd may have committed to earn him such a stained reputation. Meyer delivers a villain who the reader has no option but to hate and pity at the same time — not because of some tragic backstory, but because of his sincere immaturity and stupidity.
“An Unwelcome Quest,” in classic Scott Meyer style, is not terribly well-written but is nevertheless engaging, action-packed and witty. The banter between characters keeps the story interesting despite the overwhelming number of action scenes, which can sometimes become repetitive. The book plays out like a film, as Meyer spends little time on plot points that fail to progress the story.
In spite of this fast-paced method of storytelling, Meyer strongly develops the supporting characters. With Martin finally taking a step out of the spotlight – a stark but welcome change from the first two books in the series – minor characters are explored in greater depth and the relationships between characters become more complex and more realistic. Newer characters grow and develop through their interpersonal interactions. Ron, for example, is an engineer who discovered the program in the ’60s and struggles with the 21st century standard of political correctness to which the others hold him. He is constantly put in close contact with Brit, a young woman from 2012 who discovered the program and traveled back in time to build Atlantis as a utopia for women seeking refuge in a patriarchal past. Understandably, the two clash in the most entertaining of ways.
Even with its daunting length of 432 pages, “An Unwelcome Quest” is a light, easy read and one that, in the right crowds, could be insanely popular. The campy tone of the series, along with the hundreds of references to different aspects of “geek” culture, make the book (and the entire series) something that is heavily targeted toward a specific audience. “An Unwelcome Quest” certainly has a charm that incites a laugh-out-loud response, but probably only for readers attuned to the specific references made and to the specific subculture in which the series exists. This is a book for anyone who has ever dreamed about starring in their own video game or performing magic through code.