Wizard’s Bane

Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 16, 2012

Wizard’s Bane by Rick Cook

Seven people attended this discussion at the Milwood Library. Our topic was Rick Cook’s first novel, Wizard’s Bane, which was originally published in 1989. The story concerns a computer programmer, nicknamed “The Wiz”, who is magically whisked away from his world into a fantasy world of witches, elves , trolls, and the rest. This new world is decidedly low-tech with nary a computer to be found, but eventually he finds ways to put his expertise to good use in the fantasy land. All of us started the book, and five finished it.

All five who finished the book enjoyed it a great deal. They called it a “fun romp” and “great popcorn.” Several in the group with technical backgrounds appreciated the computer humor that permeated the book.  The Wizard’s work process seemed familiar to anyone who knows a software engineer.  One person observed that the programming content in the book was presented as principles and thought processes, which helps keep the material from seeming dated. Another person was impressed by the psychological depth of the portrayal of “The Wiz” when he first gets to his new world and starts to wonder if he has a purpose there.

A few of us said that the book took too long to get going. One person gave up after reading one chapter. Another read about half of the book, encountered nothing of interest, and gave up. Even one person who generally liked the book felt that the first half  was “too much traipsing though the woods.”

Several in the group noted that the computer language “The Wiz” uses in the book is essentially the real-world programming language Forth, which had a small but devoted following at the time the book was written. We had a bit of discussion about Forth, why and when it was used, and why it’s not as popular today.

After the meeting, several of us had a nice dinner together at Mimi’s Cafe.

— A. T. Campbell, III