Book Title: Legendarium – The Wrath of Bob
Publication Date: July 10, 2019
Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Three years after the events of the first “Legendarium” novel, Bob from Cleveland decides to mount an attack on books he thinks should be banned so he can “protect” children from them. Recruiting a key ally to his cause, these books incur the wrath of Bob, igniting another attack on the Legendarium! (After all, this is a sequel.)
Elsewhere, Bombo Dawson is reveling in his life as a successful self-published author whose star continues to rise. Married to his erstwhile wife Carol, they talk about his partner in world-saving from the previous novel, Alistair Foley. Foley is the complete opposite of Bombo. He can’t write a story to save his life, though he thinks he’s a great writer himself. He’s someone who finds something to hate about every book he’s ever read and tells the world about it in his scathing book reviews. Described as “the world’s greatest Goodreads troll”, the two of them are nevertheless recruited to save the Legendarium once more.
The Legendarium is a metaphysical library, housing all the stories in the known universe ever published. To save it, they must jump into different pieces of literature and make sure the story stays on track and reaches its intended ending. In the wings, the villainous mome wraiths, living shadows that can absorb your soul, try to push the story off its track, If they succeed, they will devour each piece of literature they attack and obliterate the story from the universe’s collective memory forever. The severe consequences of their failure will cause irrevocable changes to world history for the worse! No pressure. Can Bombo and Alistair save the world as we know it one more time?
I love the concept of the Legendarium. There are endless stories that can be told about this concept and the first novel deftly explored this idea. This sequel increases the stakes even more considerably than the first one if you can imagine that. All new classic (and not-so-classic) stories are explored here, from high fantasy to western romance, Russian literature and even beloved classics you’ve heard of but might not have read (because “they’re boring”, as Alistair states). It sets the stage for an exciting and unpredictable novel where nothing will go the way you would think and you will never guess the ending, which is the most surprising of all.
With each individual novel they enter in order to save it from the mome wraiths, we also learn the importance of that novel and why they’re attacked by Bob. In this way, we come to understand how its publication, themes, and ideas impacted and changed the world for the better.
Now, you might think that the world is doomed with this not-so-dynamic duo. You might even be right. However, the fact that they are complete opposites of one another, from their tastes in reading to their ability to write, might make them enemies. Well, they don’t always get along and that’s just one part of the fun. But between the two of them, they are the chosen champions of the Legendarium, they do their best to fight for what’s right and they are desperately needed. Together, they are comedy gold, like Laurel and Hardy, but without the purposeful intention of trying to solicit a laugh.
One of the details I enjoyed here is that the humor is derived from their personalities, their intelligence (or lack thereof) and how they stumble from one misadventure into the next. It’s not sophomoric or physical humor, like slipping-on-banana-peels or sit-on-a-whoopee-cushion kind of funny. Instead, it’s more astute, intelligent, thoughtful and character-based, maximizing its variety of literary settings and deriving its situational humor from that. This quote is one of many examples of how funny it is:
“A Door? Why not? Bombo scowled. “If I go through this door and I end up in some friggin’ Star Trek Wars or Battlescar Galaxius or some nerd-porn world with Caonan the Fallopian Tube I will just start killing people. Please be a donut store… please be a donut store… No space opera! No whammies!”
The sparkling dialogue from all the characters here, especially from Alistair, Carol, and Bombo, made me laugh just as much as the madcap situations they find themselves caught up in. The self-awareness of their guides inside of each novel they try to save also made me crack up hysterically. These are distinctive and unforgettable characters with the foibles and quirkiness of real people filled to the brim with personality.
I also appreciated the role Carol plays here as Bombo’s sharp, dutiful and capable wife, as she gets plenty to do here alongside her male peers. Farawyn the warrior shield-maiden is a great new addition to this sequel. She’s a fierce and intimidating new character whose function in the novel is welcomed. She makes for a great comic foil here while also being battle-bred and more resourceful than Bombo and Alistair combined. Although, that’s not hard to accomplish when you compare her to them. Yet, Farawyn does it with gusto and a style to back up her convictions with action, kicking tail and taking names.
Much humor is also derived from the omniscient narrator as he sees all and shares his observations, witticisms and sarcasm with us, the readers, as the story is told. This is not a shy narrator, but rather a sly one who’s in on the joke and winks at the reader often. This narrator is also not afraid to make fun of its leads or the story itself as it unwinds. It pokes fun at the various tropes of fiction while also making sure the novel defies predictability. You will NOT find adherence to conventional, stereotypical storytelling here. Take a look at this excerpt to see what I mean:
“Now you may ask, gentle reader, why haven’t the mome wraiths attacked en masse to destroy both Carol and the story, and through it, the entire convention of the novel as an art form? … That is normally what happens. But you forget that this is a Russian story. It plays by other rules. There must be an overthrowing of expectations. Hope must be lost. Cabbages must be eaten. There must be misery and suffering. Did you not anticipate this?”
This novel is irreverent and clever, satirizing anything and everything from popular culture and classic literature. From Star Trek to wrestling to Russian literature to western romances, EVERYTHING of Green Gables, Twitter shaming, Goodreads trolls, book reviewing, falling in love within ten minutes of meeting someone and so much more. No subject is too serious for the authors to poke fun at it. There are also plenty of cameos by authors of literature and popular culture here. They’re flawlessly integrated into this novel as they help Bombo and Alistair out.
EVERYTHING of Green Gables, you might ask? Well, read this passage:
“Meanwhile, the Guardian Dog of Green Gables was asleep under a big willow tree as the Fox of Green Gables crept through the tall grass toward the duck of Green Gables, and the Ticks of Green Gables crawled silently up Alistair’s pants legs.”
Nothing is spared and everything is fair game for being ruthlessly and humorously poked and prodded. There’s no place for political correctness here. However, if you enjoy sacred cows being deflated left and right in the funniest way possible, this novel deserves to be read by you. I think you will find it uproariously funny like I did.
(By the way, the irony is not lost on me that this is a book review about a novel that has sections in it that skewer online book reviewing practices.)
This novel works on two levels. On one level, you will find a novel with a linear narrative and a compelling story to tell. On another level, you have a meta-commentary on storytelling, as the omniscient narrator recognizes the bonkers premise and just rolls with it with plenty of self-referential moments.
For example, did you know that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote a sequel trilogy to “The Lord of the Rings”? You didn’t? Well, this novel explains why you don’t remember it ever existing and why. There is another section of the novel that tilts at windmills and goes on some tangents as it focuses on one character and his adventure. However, I think it’s designed that way to mimic the style of the specific novel it is lampooning. So, while the authors satirize that novel. they also take the time to engage in some character work, throw some humor in there and explore how despicable and devious the mome wraiths can be. These examples and more are part of the brilliance of this novel.
(By the way, if you want some extra meta-commentary connected to this novel, check out the short story “Songs of Silverglade” written by “Alistair Foley” and published on Amazon here. Please be warned, all its reviews are one-star and it’s only 14 pages long. But “Songs of Silverglade” is mentioned in this novel as Alistair’s “literary love and labor”, giving it an additional level of realism. You could also check out “Bombo Dawson’s” Twitter feed here for another layer of real-world immersion, further blurring the line between fiction and reality.)
While you could read this novel without having read the first book without any problems following the story, the additional context you get from the original makes this sequel a deeper experience. The audiobook version of the first “Legendarium” novel (available here) is particularly excellent. But all the pertinent information you need from the “Legendarium” novel and Bombo’s appearance in Michael Bunker’s “Hugh Howey Must Die!” is shared here and integrated seamlessly into the story.
If I was Alistair Foley the Goodreads troll, I would give this novel a one-star review, just because he gives all the books he reads a one-star review. However, since I am NOT Alistair Foley (thank goodness) and because I was really delighted by this novel, I will give this book a five-star rating. This sequel has it all: excellent tongue-in-cheek humor, brilliant satire, many laugh out loud moments and intelligent storytelling. Overall, its theme about the importance and enjoyment of storytelling in our lives and in our culture is a very poignant and stirring one, especially for me.
Whether you take pleasure in quixotic experiences, visiting Green Gables, fighting evil monsters, meeting giant-sized legends or dwelling in the misery and suffering of Russian literature (as one of our characters describes it), our heroes do all of this and more, taking the reader on a fun roller-coaster ride. With this kind of high-quality storytelling, I would welcome many more misadventures of Bombo and Alistair from the authors.
If you found this review to be helpful to you, please click here to go to the review on Amazon. Then navigate to the bottom of this review and click on the “helpful” button.