lucky wander boy by d. b. weiss

Book Review by Adam Gugliciello

Lucky Wander Boy, a novel by D.B. Weiss is a strong first novel and one that has left me looking forward eagerly to his next outing. The book itself is a strange journey into the psyche of the video game culture of the past, and to the zeitgeist of the 1980ís video entertainment industry. The story is focused on one man - which is perhaps semi-autobiographical - Adam Pennyman, a failed graphics artist-come-web publisher and author. The protagonist is a casualty of the endless adolescence inspired in gamers by this long renaissance of the early 80ís and much of the plot is centered on his newly awakened and eventually all-consuming love of/obsession with a fictional video game known as ĎLucky Wander Boyí, a game which is described and re-described to us during the course of the book through the eyes of nostalgia and ancient affection in great detail.

One of the most compelling pieces of the work is the examination of video games that we know and love like Donkey Kong, Frogger, with an eye for their psychological and archetypical significance in excerpts from the protagonistís own writing project, "The Catalog of Obsolete Entertainment". These are thought provoking, compelling, and provide insight into the gamer's mentality from a height often unachievable by those who hold their game pads and joysticks. This, and constant parallels between life and video gaming as well as invocation of the childlike wonder and magic that was present, as so many children of the 80ís pushed a black cartridge into their Atari 2600 and entered a magical world served to engross gamer and non-gamer alike.

The book, while rich with astute psychology and very much possessing a gamerís perspective, suffers in places from a muddiness to the storyline where Weiss seems to drift aimlessly. This is perhaps intentional, to offer the feeling of the protagonistís return to adolescence, but is sometimes jarring. The metaphors for life extracted from these video games do leave the reader feeling that the author is really reaching to advance his literary agenda. Further, the surreal imagery associated with the game Lucky Wander Boy, touted as the ultimate Zen video game, is sometimes clownishly surreal and intentionally and frustratingly obtuse.

In end, the book was extremely enjoyable, despite its relatively minor and occasional short comings. The ending is extremely ambitious and leaves the reader hungry for more; fishing in his pocket for that last quarter. But like so many of us have experienced countless times, the counter runs out and leaves you needing to start from the beginning again with what is sure to become a favorite.

You can order the book at the book's homepage (!)


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Last updated: Tuesday, February 13, 2007 06:36 PM