Release date: 15 July 2014
Rating: ★★★★★★★★ – 8/10
The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice (YouSpace #3) blurb:
A happy workforce, it is said, is a productive workforce.
Try telling that to an army of belligerent goblins. Or the Big Bad Wolf. Or a professional dragon slayer. Who is looking after their well-being? Who gives a damn about their intolerable working conditions, lack of adequate health insurance and terrible coffee in the canteen?
Thankfully, with access to an astonishingly diverse workforce and limitless natural resources, maximising revenue and improving operating profit has never been an issue for the one they call ‘the Wizard’. Until now.
Because a perfectly good business model – based on sound fiscal planning, entrepreneurial flair and only one or two of the infinite parallel worlds that make up our universe – is about to be disrupted by a young man not entirely aware of what’s going on.
There’s also a slight risk that the fabric of reality will be torn to shreds. You really do have to be awfully careful with these things.
I saw this book in a book shop (surprise, surprise…), and as someone who works in a human resources/financial/ICT/corporate services section of a large organisation thought to myself – that looks pretty funny.
It is safe to say that I was not disappointed.
Tom Holt has a Terry Pratchett-esque witty style of writing – and this is praise that I do not hand out lightly. I experienced entire chapters where I was in hysterics, literally LOL-ing, which generally ends in me choking for air and then in a coughing fit.
Now, I did not read these books in numerical order. In fact, I read book 3 (this one), then 4, 2 and finally 1. It really doesn’t matter that much, as with the Discworld novels, and you can definitely understand what is happening without the lengthy back story of what YouSpace is.
Essentially, this story is a fantasy novel written by an experienced Chief Operating Officer – or at least someone who has read Business Management for Dummies*. It reminds me of how a bunch of HR and finance nerds (you’ll notice I am deliberately staying away from IT in this example) would congregate in order to play a game of Dungeons and Dragons. This is the book that has you philosophising about whether Red Riding Hood can claim a laundry allowance for her uniform; is there a Memorandum of Understanding with a schedule of payments between the dwarves and the elves; or, if an adventurer takes an arrow to the knee is he entitled to worker’s compensation?
Florizel is the mainest of all the recurring characters throughout this story. He is the one lost and wayward soul among the strange occurrings of this odd little world – and he is also the last one to figure out what is going on. I also really like Buttercup and Turquine. And the old man and his nephew who eats everything in sight, plus more that he seems to pull out of a Mary Poppins-esque number of pockets.
The story is good, but it might feel a bit like wading through mud if you aren’t familiar with the organisational jargon and rhetoric that is used in it. Economic models, forecasting, infrastructure, integrated transport systems, advanced interrogation techniques. It also goes on to discuss several scientific theories (as you would when discussing multiple universe theory), that I honestly have zero understanding of, but they sound fancy.
I did really enjoy this book – it’s probably my favourite of the four Tom Holt novels I have read. I think it’s also the least science-y of them, so that probably also explains my reasoning.
* No, I am not entirely sure if this book exists; however, surely given the vast range of ‘for Dummies’ books there is something like it published out there in our universe. And if not, then there definitely would be one in an alternate universe.