cover image You


Austin Grossman. Little, Brown/Mulholland, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-316-19853-0

Unsure of how his "life had failed to come together," Russell Marsh gets hired on as an "entry-level game designer" for Black Arts Studios in this second novel (after Soon I Will Be Invincible) from video game design consultant Grossman . But when co-founder Darren Ackerman suddenly resigns from his post and takes most of the "senior design and programming staff" with him, Russell is handed the lead design post for Realms of Gold VII. As he navigates between his own creative anxieties of how to design "the ultimate game" and making sure he doesn't "turn the hallowed Black Arts name into a joke," a bug appears in the memory of the WAFFLE software, the system "that powered Black Arts games first, to critical success" and begins "messing with" Russell's game. To unravel the mystery of the "Mournblade bug" Darren will have to comb through the fictional ages of the Realms of Gold franchise and his own past. Readers interested in software and game design will find some reward in Russell's reflections about life as a game designer, but these reflections, along with Russell's tangential back-story and surreal visits from characters of the gaming world saturate the plot, turning a neat science-fiction short story into a haphazard novel. (Apr.)