Bimbos of the Death Sun (Sharyn McCrumb 1988)

bimbos

This is a very interesting novel, and one that I kind of stumbled across by accident while browsing online. By coincidence it dealt with Dungeons and Dragons and conventions, something which I have always been interested in, so  I bought it without delay. The book is at its core a mystery, but that is only part of the book’s identity. It’s also a commentary on the tabletop roleplaying game fandom, which was at its peak at the time at which the book was written. The book follows Dr. James Owen Mega, known by his alias Jay Omega who is the guest of honour at a convention alongside renowned fantasy author Appin Dungannon. All seems to be going well until Dungannon is killed between appearances, and Jay Omega is drawn into the mystery as the investigation into Dungannon’s murder begins.

In essence, the book is as much a social commentary as it is a murder mystery. The various nerdy characters are all funny, though they all feel rather stereotypical at times, feeling almost like they are a pop culture representation of nerds as they were seen in the eighties rather than actual real life people. Even Dungannon, whom was probably my favourite character until his death, was a stereotypical portrayal of the mean fantasy/sci-fi author who hates his fans. As much as I liked Dungannon he was such a huge dick that when he kicked the bucket all I could really say was good riddance. I only felt sorry for his fans since they would never see the end of his series, but as a person I felt little sympathy for Dungannon. As a protagonist, I loved Jay Omega. He was witty, smart but in a very socially saavy way. He solves the crime mostly through his knowledge of the people around him, and the culture of RPG nerds as a whole. He doesn’t use any fancy criminal techniques, and uses clever mind games instead and as a result I quite like him.

The plot was a bit strange in terms of pacing. Considering the fact that Dungannon’s death is the central incident to the story it takes an awful long time before it actually happens. The book isn’t too long but his death doesn’t happen until around the novel’s halfway mark. Until then I couldn’t help but consider everything up until then meaningless filler. This kind of spoiled the novel a little bit, since I feel the inciting incident should happen reasonably early into the plot, no later than a quarter of the way through regardless of the book’s length. Since Dungannon’s death happened so late the investigation itself feels somewhat rushed as well, especially the climax.

However there is one thing I can say for this, the climax was very clever despite feeling a bit rushed. It revolves around a Dungeons and Dragons game, which they use with the intention of luring out the killer. What the killer doesn’t know is that the game is staged so that one of the NPCs, a character of Dungannon’s whom the killer is obsessed with, is killed. The killer, being the character’s biggest fan, becomes increasingly frantic as it becomes apparent that his favourite character can’t be saved. The use of the D&D game to lure out the killer was a clever method of reconciling the D&D elements of the book with the murder mystery and to be honest it made the book an entertaining read despite my gripes with the pacing.

Overall, the book is still great to read, even though I can’t help but feel that the author could have killed off Dungannon sooner so that there could have been more time devoted to the murder mystery aspect of the plot. Until the climax it almost felt like it had been thrown in as an afterthought, but once the climax happened my dread washed away. This is a neat little book, and though it isn’t perfect it is still worth a read for anyone who is a fan of tabletop RPGs and murder mysteries.

SCORE: 4/5

IN A WORD: CLEVER

 

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