When I refer to a Fantasy Kitchen Sink, does everyone know what I am talking about?
For those who fear the gravimetric horror of TVTropes, it refers to a setting where everything can exist, even if they have wildly different origins: aliens, gods, wizards, vampires, management consultants, hillbillies, etc., etc. Anything and everything is thrown together, and mixed thoroughly. And Brian Wilkerson has done just that, in his Journey to Chaos series: he has taken everything that he likes (with a strong lean toward Japanese anime and video games), thrown it into a giant blender, and hit ‘liquify’, resulting in a jumbled but delicious mess.
Um. I feel my metaphor is getting away from me, so let’s move on.
So. Eric is a young loser with no confidence, no friends, and little future. His boss has assigned him an impossible task, to be completed by tomorrow morning. Alone in his apartment, he sadly asks someone for help…which is his first mistake, because he is not actually alone. He has been targeted by the Trickster god, Tasio, and his request for help allows the Trickster to “help” him. Next thing Eric knows, he’s lost his job and his crush is dating someone else. The Trickster suggests that he needs a higher grade of help and, feeling that he has nothing further to lose, Eric agrees.
Next thing he knows, he’s been transported to the magical world of Tariatla (and made younger, for some reason) where he must learn a new way to survive and make a living. He becomes a mercenary and a mage, and goes on many adventures in this magical world with his new companions. But Tasio has not finished with Eric yet. Eric was called to this world for a reason, to be the Trickster’s Chosen in a fight between Chaos and Order that is only just beginning.
And so you might ask me, why do I like this book? Is the writing good? To which I respond: eh. Not really. Wilkerson’s writing isn’t exactly bad, mind you. In fact, for a young, self-published author, it’s not bad at all. There are certain pacing problems, especially in the first book; and there are places where the anime-inspired antics just don’t translate to written prose very well. For all that, it is certainly readable, and the two books after the first show improvement as well. But perfect it isn’t. And that’s ok.
So then, does it have a unique plot? Again, not really. There is no single element that I can point to and say, “this hasn’t been done before.” Furthermore, a great number of things have been inspired by other works, or are call-outs to other series, or have been all but stolen outright. (By the way, anyone else play Radiata Stories? Hm, why do I ask? No reason.) By the by, I am completely fine with this; I don’t insist on everything being new and different to be interesting. If you follow me. But I would be hard pressed to look at this work and call it “original”.
So why do I like Journey to Chaos, then? In a word: because it is fun. It is a lot of fun. The narrative does not take itself too seriously, and even as the plot gets darker (and my, does it ever), there are a lot of moments that exist just to show how ludicrously fun the world can be. A big part of this is Tasio: he is the paramount trickster, born from Chaos, and he can literally appear at any moment to take the solemnity out of any occasion. In fact, mentioning his name three times will automatically summon him, usually to the summoner’s distress. I’ve…taken certain precautions to keep him out of here, but…I’d better stop mentioning him, just in case.
So yeah, problems of pace and tone aside, it is a really fun read, that I especially recommend to those who, like myself,
suffered from Chuunibou have enjoyed a lot of anime and video games. Though catching all the references isn’t really necessary to fully enjoy the story. I think.
Brian Wilkerson has released three books out of a projected five: A Mage’s Power, Looming Shadow, and Mana Mutation Menace. The fourth book, Clerics at War, is projected for sometime this year. (Based on previous evidence, I suspect a December release date.) Give them a try sometime, I think you’ll enjoy the story. And support independent authors. Because freedom.
Next time: Actually, you know what? Forget it. I’m not telling. You can just be surprised. And I can change my mind if I want. (Nevertheless, expect me to go with a webcomic. Or two.)