“Off to See the Wizard” by Clay Johnson

“Off to See the Wizard” is just as madcap and zany as the blurb promises. Also coarse, vulgar, gruesome, and laugh-out-loud funny. In a brilliant display of polyphony, it’s presented as the post facto justifications of a magical party for the disastrous outcome of their failed quest, with each character possessing a distinct (and hilarious) voice. Their statements are intercut to resemble something like a dialogue between the characters, heightening the tension and the comic effect, and foreshadowing is sprinkled in liberally throughout the work, at first making the action a trifle difficult to follow but allowing everything to come together at the end.

I definitely recommend this for lovers of comic fantasy/sci fi a la Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams, although the characters are less sympathetic and the action is more quease-inducing (zombies AGAIN! What is this current obsession with the rotting flesh of the undead?!?) than that of those authors. There are literally rivers of blood and feces, and the characters are to an elf self-centered, one-dimension, and foolish. So, so foolish. However, this doesn’t stop the laughs from coming thick and fast, and it makes an irreverent change from the solemnity of high fantasy, heroism of sword and sorcery, and emotional intensity of paranormal romance, all of which it sends up with gleeful abandon. Use it as a palate cleanser between more “serious” works. Only not literally, unless you like the taste of gore.

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