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Minireview: The Computer Is Your Friend

The Computer Is Your Friend is an anthology of five Paranoia short stories, forming an intro of sorts for the new Paranoia novels from Ultraviolet Books. Three of the stories are direct prequels for the novels, while two are stand-alones.

“Rule Zero” features Troubleshooters who stumble upon something mysterious (and deadly) while chasing after a helpbot and trying to assassinate each other. It ties in with the book Stay Alert, where a helpbot is also found in a critical role. “Hay Fever” tells the story of how Clarence-Y (from Traitor Hangout) found his pet mouse (or the other way around). “Data Exhaust” provides backstory on a certain coup at the Department of Threat Obfuscation, paving the way for the book Reality Optional. The other two stories are “Market Research”, where a “totally random” and “voluntary” market research survey slowly reveals a bigger conspiracy, and “Action Request”, where we learn the wisdom in never, ever requesting a Troubleshooter team to “fix your problems”.

I liked all of the stories, quite a bit. All of them work nicely as stand-alones, and the novel tie-ins expand on the stories without intruding on them. As a bonus, they aren’t quite by-the-book typical Paranoia tales (i.e. Troubleshooters shooting at each other, framed as a mission). Of course, that happens too, but the main plots mostly involve other groups with varying motives.

It’s a quick read, with a low page count – but as a nice bonus, the book is now available for free (just follow the book title link above). It’s a bundle of various ebook formats, with no DRM, so… there’s really no reason not to pick this up if you have an e-reader and want some light humorous summer reading. These tales should work nicely as an intro into Paranoia, even for people who have no idea of what the game is about.

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