The Campfire Chats, Questland by Carrie Vaughn: A Book Review

June 22, 2021 00:11:53
The Campfire Chats, Questland by Carrie Vaughn: A Book Review
The Campfire Chats
The Campfire Chats, Questland by Carrie Vaughn: A Book Review

Jun 22 2021 | 00:11:53


Show Notes

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The Book


Carrie Vaughn

Taking a stab at doing video for The Campfire Chats Podcast. Today is a review of Carrie Vaughn's Questland. Read My full review below:

I recently finished reading Questland by Carrie Vaughn. Questland is a book that is not afraid to ask how Moby Dick and Pokemon are symbolic of rampant capitalism. This amazingly fun book will be released on June 22, 2021. Questland comes from the same love of geek culture that books such as Ready Player One do, the main difference being the world of Questland is not nearly as dark, very real and not so mixed up in complicated geek culture references it becomes overwhelming at times.


At the heart of the book is a D&D adventure brought to life by the amazing advances of technology. This conflicts very well with people trying to “live” the medieval life having to interact with modern day mercenaries on a mission to retake an Island which has been lost. We follow Dr Addie Cox, a literature professor who is brought in on a mission to retake the Island of Mirabilis, a live D&D game island, not un-similar to Westworld. The only reason Addie is brought in is her ex-boyfriend, Dom, may be at the heart of the island's take over, and the rich Elon Musk like financier wants his property back. Addie has to team with a group of former soldiers now mercenaries while dodging deady puzzles and traps, and absorbing the mystifying world of Mirabilis. Mirabilis has it all, from unicorns,to dragons, to self-sufficient villages, to complex puzzles, it truly is a larper's dream world.


One of the things I loved about this book was how easy it was to read. Most nights I didn't want to put the book down. Not only was it fun and engaging but it was downright addicting. At the end of the book I knew I wanted more. All I can hope is that Carrie Vaughn is not done with Dr Addie Cox's Story and that we will get more in this world in the future.


With that said I want to get into my spoilery fun review of this book. So if it wasn't clear from the sentence before: Spoilers Ahead!


I cannot say enough about the character of Dr Addie Cox. She was so well written and that is in part because she was extremely flawed, but in a normal human way. To start out she had a very compelling and sadly modern backstory. She was the survivor of a school shooting in her teenage years, a shooting that took the lives of her bestfriend and boyfriend. Both of which died in front of her before the shooter took their own life. This has left her with trauma which shapes who she is. I enjoyed this backstory as it is all to real in our modern world to have people who survive mass shootings but it is not something that has been explored very much in pop culture, the only other example I can think of is American Horror Story which actually tried to humanize the shooter by having a haunted house be a source for his shooting. This is one of the few pieces of media I have encountered with the victim being a main character and it is done very, very well.


I also love that Addie is a geek. She truly loves what is being attempted with Mirabilis, and oftentimes that gets her and the group in trouble. She treats it like D&D Game, looking for hidden puzzles, great creatures, and of course loot. Though treating it like a game does not only get her in trouble, at times it saves her as well. The thing about Mirabilis is it is a game, it's just a game that has gone wrong, and went from being set to the difficulty of I'm here for the story to hard mode.


One of the hardest things I found about Addie's character is her relationship with her ex, Dom. Though he is not outwardly abusive, of course maybe he is as he has Addie kidnaped, there is a level of abuse with him. I find it hard as he built some of the areas of Mirabilis for Addie, and when she first meets up with him she falls back under the spell of the familiar. That does break, but I found this section of the book uncomfortable, though I think that is intentional


Though the merc's are "main characters" they seem secondary. Their characters are not nearly as fleshed out, but yet they are fun characters. At times they fill out D&D archetypes, which I doubt wasn't intentional. I am interested if a second book happens in this series to see how these characters are used.


Finally, the most interesting group of secondary characters are the engineers on Mirabilis. They are split into 3 factions, with each being led by one of the heads of the project. Before the Island was locked down they knew what they were working on could have now public uses, and could be used by governments. This was actually how the Island would pay for itself, though contracts to sell some of their items, like drones with tasers attached. What is most interesting about this group is the paranoia and infighting that has been driven into their minds by the company's founder. This book without a doubt explores the issues around toxic corporate culture, and how rich tech types may not be the heroes we think they are.

I truly recommend picking up a copy of Questland at your favorite local bookstore, and maybe you can find out how Moby Dick and Pokemon are related?

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