Synopsis: Magic 2.0 is a comic science-fiction/fantasy series of books written by Scott Meyer. The series so far consists of five novels, the first being Off To Be the Wizard. The series follows Martin Banks, a programmer from 2012, who uses a computer file that allows him to alter reality to time travel to medieval England where he joins a community of other computer programmers posing as wizards.
My history with this series goes back to hearing Book Roast talk about reading the first book nearly a year ago. At the time I searched my libraries and none of them had a copy, so it stayed on my Goodreads To-Read shelf, perhaps to be forgotten. But I finally got my chance when I saw Scribd had the first 3 books on audio, which I read in August, and I got the latest two books on Audible, which I finished up this weekend.
The main thing I’ll say about this series is each book should be judged on its own. While I these books can’t be read out of order, they read more like a procedural TV show/family sitcom. Throughout a season there are underlying plots, but each episode follows it own story. Same with Magic 2.0 books. So given that, it only makes sense to talk about these book individually first.
Off To Be the Wizard
This is the first book and I’d say the best book in the series. This first book is the one I’m most comfortable recommending to the broadest group of people. It has all the makings of a great story. The main character makes a great discovery, he goes through a training montage to get ready to fight the major villain, Jimmy aka Merlin, who is up to no good hacking his way into making Middle Earth a reality. It introduces a great band of characters in the other “wizards” from different points of modern time (from the ’80s to late 2010s’). It’s chock full of nerdy, pop culture humor and it ends on a slight cliffhanger to push you to pick up the rest of the series. I gave this one 5/5
Spell or High Water
This time Martin and the band of misfit wizards find themselves going to Atlantis and trying to solve a time-paradox mystery (and introduces some new major characters). There’s also a subplot that picks up the cliffhanger thread from the first. This one has the same great humor as the first, but this one could turn some readers away with its plot. I personally love trying to untangle time-paradoxes and I like the irony of some characters knowing what’s going on but not telling. But if that’s not your thing and you’re easily frustrated in a drama that could easily be solved if everyone cooperated, I wouldn’t suggest this one. There are also a lot more female characters in this one, with not the greatest characterizations all the time. But that didn’t grate on my nerves like it could for some.
An Unwelcome Quest
This time an unfriendly wizard puts Martin and the gang through a manufactured “quest.” This one is so fun. It plays on the tropes of old-school adventure/quest games and movies where if the hero completes certain challenges he’ll fulfill a prophecy. But really this vengeful wizard just wants to torture the guys with tedious and dangerous tasks. This one really helps develop the personalities of the secondary wizards we’ve met.
Fight and Flight
This fourth book is what I consider the weakest of the series. It follows Martin and the gang after one of the wizards accidentally introduces seemingly indestructible dragons to Arthurian England. The plot is where this one really suffers. More than any of the others, it’s very “sitcom”-esque in that it has a very simple conflict that is easily solved. The only reason this book manages to be as long as it is is by separating the group into several groups, seemingly just to pad out the story. I can see this being a more successful story if it was a short story/novella instead of a full addition to the series.
Out of Spite, Out of Mind
This book follows Martin and the gang as they try to solve a problem that threatens the computer program and thus all their lives. This is one of the weaker books in the series, but I definitely still enjoyed it. I went into this book thinking it was the last, because a sixth book isn’t listed on Goodreads, but it ends on another cliffhanger (I’ve since researched and found the next book will be out next year). I like the story of this one, enjoy the characters and humor as always, but I didn’t like the logic of the ending. This is another one of those loopy/time-paradox crazy stories like the second, so again if those storylines frustrate you, beware.
This is a PERFECT series for audio. They are quick and fun listens for a light weekend read. Narrator Luke Daniels brings such a unique personality to each of the characters and times/sets up the jokes so well that I couldn’t imagine ever reading these books in physical form. And author Scott Meyer now has a partnership with Audible, which has exclusive publishing rights for the future books. Out of Spite, Out of Mind is an Audible exclusive until December, and the sixth book (so far unnamed, as far as I can tell) will be too when it comes out next year.
As far as my overall thoughts go, I would recommend everyone at least pick up the first in the series. It’s a fun take on the wizard trope with a modern twist. After that, it really depends on you. I think the first three books tell a good story on their own, without needing to continue with the full series. You can just read the first without continuing at all, especially if you think the particular brand of nerdy-dude humor will start to get old (it definitely doesn’t go away in later books. Or, like me, you can stick with the series, through its lower points, to see what antics the gang will get itself up to in the future. I’m wary of this series losing steam and being stretched out too long, especially with the down turn of the last two books, but I’m along for the ride for now. Only time will tell, and I’ll update you all when it does.