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Book review - Lizzie Stark: Leaving Mundania

Last week I was on a vacation. Since I usually have a crowded schedule, I don't get to read as much as I used to in my student days, and I usually compensate for that on my holidays. Last year I did some reading of Steven Erikson's books. This year though, there was one (recently published) book that caught my eye. It's Leaving Mundania: Inside the Transformative World of Live Action Role-Playing Games by an American journalist Lizzie Stark. So, I got it... Or at least the digital, Kindle version of it.

Book cover

Obviously, it's a non-fiction book about larp. It's not my first non-fiction larp book - I've read several Knudepunkt/Knutepunkt/Knutpunkt/Solmukohta books, the article collection from Czech Odraz conference etc. But this book was different.

It's hard to point a finger and say "this book is about this" or "this book is about that" considering larp. There's a whole lot of content in it, including:

  • Description of several different larps and larp scenes (around New Jersey area and Nordic larp)
  • Stories of people from those scenes, and their lives in which larp plays an integral part
  • Stuff like military simulations which are, in a way, similar to larp (and have some interesting gear, such as sewer smell generators etc)
  • Organizing the author's first larp
  • Different ways that larps are run
  • Experiences from different larp scenes

All of it is presented from a viewpoint that's rather neutral, but deep, descriptive, analytic, emphatic, and interesting at the same time. It's detailed enough for experienced larpers to learn something new from, and clear enough for people who haven't been on a single larp to understand what's it all about.

If I had to call the book something, it would be: insightful. It has a bit of everything for everyone. Personally, I found most of the book fascinating and it made me feel like a part of those larp scenes. Like I played those games, and like I met all these people. I could relate to some of the stuff through Croatian larps, and what happened on them throughout the years. The book is very educational, and it's an eye-opener of what larp actually is, what it means and which forms it can take for various groups, various people and various perspectives.

The author, Lizzie Stark

The author doesn't self-identify as a larper. She went there with the purpose to write about larp, and managed to come out with deeper understanding of larp than most larpers have. She also gave some talks on the Nordic scene, and writes about larp on her blog. Well researched, the book is a true documentary, perhaps the most complete one that exists about larp in its all forms... Written in a fun way. And though nothing in it matches precisely anything on Croatian larp scene, the contents of this book are quire insightful and valuable to the players, organizers and third parties here as well.

The only downside is, the book is too short. Well, not really too short. I just wish it were longer, or that it covered more larp scenes than it did. I practically swallowed the book in a day of intensive reading, but then again I'm a fast reader. It's an excellent book about larp, and I recommend it to all larpers, or as a gift to those interested about larp.

You can get Leaving Mundania on Amazon: (US link) (European link). You can also get a free sample on the author's blog.

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