Lucky Wander Boy Book Review

Giant List archive, April 6, 2003

I received a promotional copy of D.B. Weiss's Lucky Wander Boy, a novel about someone who decides to create a compendium of every golden age video game. The hilarity of including someone who has attempted to do just this—via the Giant List—in the marketing campaign for this book has not been lost on me.

Weiss's protagonist, Adam Pennyman, goes about the task in a much more over the top way, writing faux intellectual essays about Donkey Kong and Microsurgeon, before becoming obsessed with the fictional coin-op Lucky Wander Boy. I have to say "fictional" because the video game references are deep and obscure enough, and the feeling of performing an archaeological dig into ones own childhood memories is so accurate, that the Lucky Wander Boy game blends right into 8-bit history. Making Lucky Wander Boy be of Japanese origin only enhances the charade, as there's little information about many great games developed in Japan: Zaxxon, Ms. Pac-Man, Mr. Do, BurgerTime.

There's more to the novel than video game nostalgia, of course. Adam spends his days in what's become the stereotypical Generation X workplace, somehow never doing anything, but keeping his job anyway. As this mixes with his growing Lucky Wander Boy fanaticism, the novel could be subtitled "Adam Pennyman is a Mess." But you almost want to forgive him for that, as you would anyone who pins the exact end of the Golden Age on the release of Double Dragon. What can I say, but "I wish I had written this."