Book Nook: The Chowderhead Crusades, by JJ Walsh

Ready Player One is one of my favorite books. I tell people it is not one of the best written, but it is one of my favorites. It sits in my wheelhouse.

So, when I saw Patton Oswalt, one of my favorite comedian/actors tweet that he did the audible reading for a book hailed as “Ready Player One for comic book nerds”, I thought…okay, wheelhouse me galore.

The Chowderhead Crusades is written by JJ Walsh and is set in the not-too-distant future. The setup is basically the same as Ready Player One. The world has collapsed, and for largely believable reasons–technology put everyone out of work. The setup of this book could be prophecy, not sci-fi. Then, at Comic-Con 2036, a futurist entity appears and sets the world on a goose chase for a prize “with the power to change the world.” To solve this quest, one must possess vast knowledge…of comic books. Or, scriptures, as they come to be known as. Again, I’m on board here. Comics taught a lot of kids right and wrong. This book explores the reasons of morality in doing so.

Fast forward a couple decades, and the challenge is still unsolved. A thing of legend. And I chose legend there on purpose. Because in reading this one, I realized books like this and Ready Player One are the new knight’s tales. Whereas in the latter’s stories, morality was defined by those who had the power of the sword, but chose to do right, the modern version is those who possess the power of knowledge. Whether it be 80s trivia in RP1 or comics in TCC.

Which leads us to Clayton Clayborn, the orphaned child of two chowderheads, as those seeking the quest answers came to be known as. Stuck in a quasi work camp on a Martian space freighter, Clayton and cohorts become the central characters when they make headway in the challenge, and draw the attention of the big bad guy also seeking such power.

A series of “prove you know this stuff” challenges ensue, a few escapes, superpowers, “prove you are truly good on the inside” and convenient coincidences later, and you have an action-adventure.

Did I enjoy this book. Heck yes (channeling my best Eric Koenig voice). Yes, there is nothing groundbreaking here coming after Ready Player One. But says you have to break ground. We learned you can rehash the same stories in a multitude of ways and still enjoy them from…comic books.

So yeah, I would recommend this to anyone who grew up on comics, or for anyone who enjoyed Ready Player One, or just wants to listen to the guy who gave us Koenig, Remy, M.O.D.O.K. and Garth Blundin. Don’t fall into one of those camps? Then, yeah, you can probably move along.

Unless of course we do continue toward a dystopian future. Then consider this a guide book and required reading. FLN!

Excelsior!

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