03 October 2016

Books: Another Day, Another Dungeon by Greg Costikyan (1990)

“Do you ever get the feeling that we don’t know what’s going on?” said Sidney on page 196 of this fantasy parody novel. And it was here that I had to say yes, because Another Day, Another Dungeon spends little time explaining anything and as I plowed through this book, I got the uneasy feeling that I missed something. I felt, in some ways, this first book in a two-part series (and the debut novel by the author) was missing something. Like this was really the second book in a trilogy and somehow the first book got lost. One of the reasons I never got into Japanese animated films was because I always got lost very quickly in the narrative. I would try to watch them, especially when Sci Fi Channel aired them on Saturday mornings in the late 1990s, but ten minutes into a film I felt I missed about 50 minutes of the story.

This book is a satire of most well-known fantasy novels, but more specifically fantasy role-playing games as well. This may have been my problem because I never got into role playing games, and while I understand their basic structure, I felt lost. And writer Greg Costikyan is a game designer who worked for Simulations Publications, Inc. which published board wargames and became part of TSR, the legendary company that released Dungeons & Dragons onto the world. 

The novel features many twisted caricatures on the familiar fantasy trope, which are often caricatures themselves, such as the bookish wizard, the brutish barbarian, the greedy rogue, etc. The plot seems fairly straightforward at first, but even its straightforwardness appears to be a jab at the often paper-thin plots holding together similar fantasy novels and games. The main character literally goes "adventuring" because it is expected of him after finishing his wizarding degree. The other characters join him out of typical motivations of greed or because they have nothing better to do.

And that’s about it. Again, Costikyan spends little time creating individual characters with their own distinct voices, so it’s difficult at times to differentiate between them.  It’s a clever conceit, I guess, to write a book that pokes fun at role playing games by a guy who helped create role playing games, but ultimately this parody is no Robert Asprin, Craig Shaw Gardner or even early Piers Anthony. And it’s certainly no Terry Pratchett. 

On a final note, the only reason I read this book was I found it at a used bookstore for .50. It had been a while since I read parody fantasy novel so I thought I would give it try. I searched high and low to find book two and obtained it last year at Powell’s Books in Portland when I was there filming Something Like Summer. Now I’m not sure I want to read the second book.

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