Battle of the Linguist Mages

Scotto Moore. Tordotcom, $28.99 (448p) ISBN 978-1-250-76772-1

Moore (Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You) takes readers on a roller coaster of weird in this wildly entertaining gonzo adventure. For the past eight years, Isobel Bailie has dominated the leaderboards of Sparkle Dungeon, a popular series of medieval rave-themed VR games. Her expertise and skill, especially with the game’s voice-based spell-casting system, earns her a job with Sparkle Dungeon’s PR firm as a senior marketing specialist. But her real assignment is to master “power morphemes,” a sequence of linguistic units capable of accomplishing a vast array of magical feats. That’s just the tip of an increasingly impossible iceberg, as Isobel learns that a conceptual thunderstorm is poised to destroy reality and winds up caught between a ruthless cabal of powerful people and a group of spell-casting anarchists, each with a conflicting plan to save the world. Moore’s tale, adapted from several of his earlier plays, is audacious, ambitious, and metatextual, packed with such wild concepts as sentient punctuation marks, musical weapons, and multilayered reality. While the story sprawls at times, Moore never loses sight of his characters’ humanity or the underlying sense of adventure and humor. Readers will love it as much for the outlandish ideas as for the narrative complexity and sense of fun. (Jan.)