The Book of Joe [Amazon link], the fifth entry in the Forgotten Ruin series, offers us a trip through a mythic underworld, some serious Rangering how-to, and giggling legionnaires. You’ve got to check this out.
When we left off in Lay the Hate, Talker had jumped into the swirling maelstrom of water known as the Mouth of Madness to save Sergeant Joe. And in the Ruin, nothing is really named metaphorically. Now, we get to see the consequences of that decision work themselves out. Talker didn’t exactly cover himself in glory in book 4, but I admit his poor decisions were in a sense a rite of passage. Talker even going so far as to run off with a stripper, instead of just marrying a couple like his buddy Tanner. Maybe that smooth talking Rakshasa that tried to sell him a bill of goods about the djinn guarding the tower of the medusa was his equivalent of buying that Camaro at 23% interest.
Now that Talker has been initiated into the mysteries, so to speak, he must begin his journey in earnest. And like so many before him, he will need to delve into the underworld to do it. I think it is fair to say that the Hero’s Journey most often associated with Joseph Campbell is a bit overdone in fiction, but in this D&D inspired book this concept has a venerable weight of history behind it.
If you want to know more about the topic, I recommend Mr. Wargaming’s video on Dungeon Design and You, which is about the mythic resonance of the dungeons part of Dungeons and Dragons.
There was a period of time, perhaps most prominently in the 1980s, when a serious attempt was made to make dungeons realistic. People wrote detailed ecologies of their dungeons, and wanted setting supplements to be founts of sociology and anthropology. I think people even put kitchens and bathrooms in their dungeons in sufficient numbers.
All of this is a mistake, as explained so well by Philotomy’s Musings. The dungeon is a mythic underworld. As you leave the surface and delve deeper into the dungeon, you leave the realm of humanity and law, and approach that of monsters and chaos. Especially as you go further in, natural laws are less and less applicable to what goes on. To even ask “where’s the bathroom?” is to show a fundamental understanding of what this place is, and what it represents.
To brave the depths of the underworld and to return alive, is to embody the triumph of good over evil, law over chaos, and humanity over monsters. The special genius of the Forgotten Ruin series is to blend this ancient mode of storytelling with the science of killing and mayhem that was developed in the last quarter of the twentieth century.
In my review of the Galaxy’s Edge side story Dark Operator, I noted that book is something like a how-to for being a Green Beret. I wouldn’t suggest that a work of fiction could possibly substitute for the kind of training that Special Forces undergo, but it does give a flavor of what it is like. In a similar way, The Book of Joe is like a manual of Rangering, rendered into a sequence of marvelous adventures.
After reading The Book of Joe, I felt like I wanted to take a group of Scouts and teach them land nav with a compass, like I learned in the last millennium. If you were trying to create the world’s best commercial for recruiting the quietly competent servants of empire, it would look a lot like this.
However, this is also just a fun book, and I have to imagine that if you gave a lost detachment of Roman Legionnaires the tools of MACV-SOG, they probably would giggle, no matter how many times you told them not to. There are also some bits that link up to the Book of Skelos, the lost history of the Ruin that we saw in the epilogue of book 3, and some hints of exciting things to come in the Land of Black Sleep.
I can’t wait to see what comes next, which is the whole point of this kind of a book.
I received a review copy from the authors. The Book of Joe is available in ebook form from Amazon.
Galaxy’s Edge season 1:
Legionnaire: Galaxy's Edge #1 Book Review
Galactic Outlaws: Galaxy's Edge #2 Book Review
Kill Team: Galaxy's Edge #3 Book Review
Attack of Shadows: Galaxy's Edge #4 Book Review
Sword of the Legion: Galaxy's Edge #5 Book Review
Tin Man: Galaxy's Edge Book Review
Prisoners of Darkness: Galaxy's Edge #6 Book Review
Imperator: Galaxy's Edge Book Review
Turning Point: Galaxy's Edge #7 Book Review
Message for the Dead: Galaxy's Edge #8 Book Review
Retribution: Galaxy’s Edge #9 Book Review
Galaxy’s Edge season 2:
Tyrus Rechs: Contracts & Terminations:
Requiem for Medusa: Tyrus Rechs: Contracts & Terminations Book 1 Review
Order of the Centurion
Order of the Centurion #1 Book Review
Iron Wolves: Order of the Centurion #2 Book Review
Stryker’s War: Order of the Centurion #3 Book Review
Through the Nether: Order of the Centurion #4 Book Review
The Reservist: Order of the Centurion #5 Book Review