Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Lame-Assed Doppelganger

The Lame-Assed Doppelganger
by Gary Jonas
Recommended Ages: 15+

This book wastes no time setting up a killer premise: Lazy, self-centered wizard Brett Masters, who has never lived up to his wizardly father's expectations, comes back from a vacation in Fiji to find that he's been replaced by a more acceptable copy of himself. The other Brett claims that he's the real one and that the Brett we've grown to, well, put up with for the past three books is the doppelganger, doomed to dissolve into sand when he's outlived his reason for being.

Understandably, our Brett isn't happy about this. It can't be fun to discover that the band you've been playing gigs with for the past year has recorded a hit album with the other you just in the last month. Or that the house you lived in was sold. Or that all your friends like the other you better. It's almost enough to make you question whether you're the real you.

The one thing that keeps Brett (Mark 1) pretty sure he's the real deal is that pulling this kind of stunt – replacing his real son with a duplicate who does what he's told – is just the sort of dick move he's learned to expect from his father. The tough part is getting his friends, to whom he hasn't been very nice, to help him when his doppelganger is the best version of him. Nevertheless, Brett survives a series of magical and non-magical attacks and proves that he's grown a lot as a wizard, even if he doesn't give a BLEEP about magic. But finally, it all comes down to a magical trial where, for the prize of getting to go on living as Brett Masters ... well, let's just drop a Highlander quote ("There can be only one") and let your imagination do the rest.

Even after making some progress during his first three adventures, Brett still has a lot of growing to do. He has to work hard, not only to survive, but to earn the reader's sympathy. Amazingly, he manages to do this, achieving the astonishing goal of bringing a four-book character arc to a satisfying conclusion. Adding to the fun are pop culture and pop music references, a touch of satire on millennial cluelessness, culturally subversive and sexually juvenile humor, some knock-out magic-assisted fights and a simmering sense of danger. Adult and Occult Content Advisories are in force. Read at your own risk. But don't sweat the risk too much. It's a trifling but enjoyable literary confection that maybe, once or twice, touches a deeper chord. Maybe it's that magic guitar pick that Brett plays with.

This is the fourth and (I believe) last book in the "Half-Assed Wizard" series. Yes, I read all of them, and I won't say "in spite of the atrocious cover art" because I read them on Kindle and never saw the covers until I was putting my reviews together. Truly wince-worthy, they are; completely unlike how I pictured Brett Masters and (in this book) his doppelganger. But anyway, Gary Jonas seems to put out a lot of titles really fast, and some of them are packaged better than others – such as the Jonathan Shade books whose 12 titles include Anubis Nights, Wizard's Nocturne, and Club Eternity (to choose three at random) and his 2002 debut novel, One Way Ticket to Midnight.

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