Thursday, September 19, 2013

Review - Everygnome's Guide to Paratechnology by Joseph J. Bailey

Short review: A humorous book giving farcical tips on how to be a better gnomish paratechnologist and avoid blowing yourself up. Or blow yourself up with style.

An essential guide
To paratechnology
A bit silly too

Disclosure: I received this book as a review copy. Some people think this may bias a reviewer so I am making sure to put this information up front. I don't think it biases my reviews, but I'll let others be the judge of that.

Full review: Everygnome's Guide to Paratechnology is an incredibly silly book. This isn't a pejorative statement. Featuring discussions about how not to blow yourself up while experimenting, how to select what incredibly esoteric branch of inquiry to follow, including the development of hovering tool boxes, lintless shirts, anti-plaque dental force fields, and polymorphic, polychromatic, self-applying tattoos, as well as tips on proper beard and mustache care, Everygnome's Guide to Paratechnology is clearly meant to be a completely, gloriously, unreservedly silly book. And this book hits directly on the funny bone, resulting in an always absurd and frequently hilarious work.

The book is very similar in subject matter, tone, and format to Bailey's other book Mulogo's Treatise on Wizardry, consisting of a series of short, pithy pieces of advice for gnomish paratechnologists, who might best be described as diminutive mad scientists with access to magic, on topics ranging from "Making the Perfect Laboratory" to "Shiny Is Better" to the "Proper Disposition of Minions". Each mini-chapter is one or two pages long and written in a staccato style with short, punchy sentences laying out snippets of somewhat misguided advice, complete with frequent footnotes that serve to make the twisted advice even more twisted, and funnier.

Everygnome's Guide to Paratechnology is somewhat longer than Mulogo's Guide to Wizardry, and that is somewhat unfortunate because that means that the jokes wear thin before the end of the volume. There are only so many ways one can warn the reader against lab mishaps and give advice concerning odd beard grooming habits and devices before what were once funny lines become just a little repetitive. The book also suffers somewhat because the fictional author "Spreesprocket Goldulley" is not nearly as well drawn as the cowardly and somewhat duplicitous wizard Mulogo. Further, there is no equivalent to the character of Mulogo's assistant Ludaceous, whose somewhat contentious relationship with the egotistical Mulogo drove a large chunk of the humor found in the footnotes of the book. Without these two personalities to focus on, the book feels directionless at times.

Even so, this is a delightfully absurd book filled with piles of hilariously insane suggestions and comically obsessive interest in bizarre and probably completely impractical inventions. The final section of the book turns slightly away from this humorous tone and provides a glossary that outlines what appears to be an interesting fantasy setting, suitable for use as the backdrop for some interesting fantasy novels or for use in a role-playing campaign, making the book more interesting than it would have been if it were just a collection of farcical advice.

The final product is a book that aims to be funny that is, in fact, consistently funny that also packages some interesting world-building on the side. Excepting the minor caveat that the book runs just a little bit longer than the jokes stay fresh, this is a delightfully silly and enjoyable look into the comical side of a fantasy world.

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