Battle of the Linguist Mages
By Scotto Moore
One of the hottest subgenres in SF today is what might be called videogame fiction. These books can be thought of as the children of Ready Player One (though there were earlier standard-bearers) and are addressed to a gamer culture that now drives a big chunk of the entertainment industry.
Battle of the Linguist Mages is videogame fiction taken to a weird extreme. Isobel Bailie is at the top of the leader boards of a popular virtual-reality game called Sparkle Dungeon. There’s more to Sparkle Dungeon than rainbows and glitter though, and as the novel kicks off the company that makes the game gets Isobel involved in a real-world plan to exploit morphemes: words that have magical power based on how they are articulated. Also worth noting: punctuation marks are aliens that have escaped into our brains from another dimension.
All of this has the effect, common to most videogame fiction, of erasing the line between the real and virtual worlds. Unfortunately it also requires a lot of exposition, and for all its flights of whimsy Battle of the Linguist Mages comes in feeling heavier than it should. Videogame fiction is a light genre and you don’t want to spend this much time reading the rule books.