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Minireview: Traitor Hangout, by WJ MacGuffin

Traitor Hangout, by “WJ MacGuffin”, the pen name of a certain Paranoia designer/writer, is part of the roll-out of new Paranoia fiction from Ultraviolet Books. It leans more on the “zany” side that the other books, somewhat mimicking the “Zap” style of gameplay in the new Paranoia edition. Since that style isn’t my favorite, I wasn’t really expecting much of this book to be honest… but I must say I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s an extremely fun book, and isn’t at all as much “zap” as I had feared.

The story features Efficiency auditor Clarence-Y, a “mandate nerd” who can cite any of The Computers mandates word by word, but is quite lost in the wild world of human interaction. While generally well-meaning, Clarence-Y is hopelessly naive and actually believes that the Computer has everyone’s best interests at heart. Normally, such blue-eyed optimism would lead to a very short career and a possible end run as reactor shielding… but somehow, Clarence is doing fine. Maybe it has something to do with his one treasonous act, the sheltering of a small lab mouse (named “Ignatius”) which he feeds with food scraps and carries under his coat.

In any case, in the name of Alpha Complex security Clarence is recruited to impersonate a notorious traitor, “Superstar Pirate”. An obvious suicide mission which nobody expects him to survive, making his survival all the more remarkable. Not to mention that he gets caught up in more and more conspiracies while doing his “job”, forcing him to infiltrate a number of additional secret societies armed with… nothing much. It should be impossible, but somehow Clarence, oblivious of danger, survives. And then things get messy.

It’s a fun and well-written situational comedy, with Clarence acting as the naive foil to all sorts of crazy stuff. Sure, people get incinerated, terminated and killed in various other ways – but it’s still a lighthearted romp.

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