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Wednesday, September 14, 2022

The Book Of Zog by Alec Hutson (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

 



AUTHOR INFORMATION: Alec Hutson was born in the north-eastern part of the United States and from an early age was inculcated with a love of reading fantasy. He was the Spirit Award winner for Carleton College at the 2002 Ultimate Frisbee College National Championships. He has watched the sun set over the dead city of Bagan and rise over the living ruins of Angkor Wat. He grew up in a geodesic dome and a bookstore, and currently lives in Shanghai, China.
 

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: What were the Great Old Ones like before they were old?

In the shadow of cosmic horrors, newly-birthed entity Zogrusz must come to understand his true nature, learn how to wield his dreadful powers, and search for meaning in the mad spaces between the stars. Hopefully, he’ll make some friends along the way.

Also, there’s a cat.

A Lovecraftian cozy fantasy.
 

FORMAT/INFO: The Book Of Zog is 229 pages long divided over thirteen chapters with a an epilogue. Narration is in the third person via Zogrusz solely. This book is a standalone but can be the start of a new series.
 
September 8th, 2022 marked the e-book publication of The Book Of Zog and it was self-published by the author. Cover art is by Armand Cabrera and design by Christian Bentulan.
  
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: This is a fascinating new fantasy story from an author whom I consider to be one of the three best epic fantasy authors currently writing. The first thing that drew me to this book was the description “Lovecraftian Cozy Fantasy”, now that’s a fun oxymoron that I couldn’t wait to see how it would hold up.

The book begins with Zogrusz’s birth is one of the darkest corners of the universe. Zogrusz doesn’t quite know who or what he is. But he sees several sleeping Great Ones who don’t acknowledge him or his cries for knowledge. Forced to take a journey to find out his identity, he comes across several planets, which leave him cold & hungry. Finally he finds a lush planet teeming with life and its herein where he might find the answers to all off the mysteries. But first he must find out who he truly is? Monster or merely a mundane entity.

Thus begins The Book Of Zog which introduces us to Zogrusz an Eldritch Horror who might just be different and wants to explore sentient life without wanting to destroy everything. Zog as a narrator is a fascinating entity who is brimming with curiosity and enthusiasm that is infectious. We get to read how he interacts with the denizens of the planet and causes much progress in a wild way.

What I found fascinating was how the author presented Zogrusz who will being entirely inhuman still shared some fascinating humane qualities. Besides Zogrusz, we also get to meet some other fascinating characters who are funny and intriguing. One cat in particular is sure to become a fan favourite. Zogrusz is an alien but he’s not vicious and his explorations of self are the kind that draw the readers in and make us root for him.

This book being a cozy fantasy definitely stays true to its roots, and then the author brilliantly introduces some high fantasy and science fantasy concepts within the story. I loved how this book plays to the same potential that The Shadows Of Dust showcased and in fact that there’s a small but significant clue that these two standalones might be inhabiting the same universe.

The story moves at a brisk pace as we get time skips (this is explained properly within the story) and the plot scope expands from cozy to high fantasy quite effortlessly. The author introduces some fascinating Lovecraftian as well as Celestial concepts. I enjoyed what the author was exploring over here and there’s a solid vein of science fantasy that gets showcased as well. Lastly the comic tone is kept pretty evenly throughout the story. It isn’t the slapstick type but more of understated kind (a La PG Wodehouse) and this works terrifically.

Overall this is a unique book and hence I didn’t have much complaints as I read it in a single afternoon. It was charming, the stakes while high didn’t stress me out and Zorgusz as a character was a complete delight. Objectively one can make the argument that there’s a lot of background explanation about the universe that’s missing. There are quite a few mysteries introduced and the author purposely never explains them. So this might be an issue for some.

CONCLUSION: The Book Of Zog is a cozy, pleasant story about an eldritch horror who doesn’t know what it is and tries to be nice to the inhabitants of the planet it lives on. I don’t know about you but for me, this story provided the same mental exhilaration as a cup of warm chocolate milk. The Book Of Zog is an inexplicable mix of high fantasy, science fantasy & Lovecraftian horror and it’s topped off with a solid dollop of charm. Jump in and find out why The Book Of Zog is the future evolution of the cozy fantasy genre.

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