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Literature / Joe's World

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Joe's World is the overall title for two comic-fantasy novels written by Eric Flint and Richard Roach.

Long ago, a caveman named Joe created food to keep the humans going. Then, he invented sex to keep the humans occupied. Then, he invented work to keep the population in check. To help organize work, Joe then invented bosses. To help the bosses keep the worse workers in line, Joe invented the police. To help keep the worst ones in line Joe invented priests, and to help priests put the finishing touches on keeping everyone in line, Joe invented God. God, in his turn decided that Joe was a liability to him, and froze Joe in a flash ice age.


Since then, the bosses, police, priests and God himself have fallen short of Joe's expectations. Even mentioning Joe is considered heresy and the common man is downtrodden. Luckily, there is a resistance movement going on, led from the communist libertarian/anarchist nation of Mutt. And now, Joe's about to come back.

The first book, The Philosophical Strangler written by Flint alone, tells the tale of Greyboar, the greatest professional strangler around, and his agent Ignace. The book opens with an account of what was supposed to be a routine royal strangulation; the crown prince of Sundjhab wants his uncle, the king, dead. The job goes smoothly until Greyboar declares the king his guru, and strangles him as a matter of professional ethics. Naturally, Greyboar then has to strangle the prince for hiring him to strangle his own guru.


After a Time Skip, the story picks up with Ignace and Greyboar back in New Sphinctr, the capital of Sphinctria, a kingdom on the continent of Grotum, after a Noodle Incident in Prygg, among other things. What follows is a number of separate stories relating to the general story.

The second book, Forward the Mage, written by Flint and Roach, has two separate storylines. One focuses on the artist/mercenary Benvenuti Sfondrati-Piccolomini and Greyboar's sister Gwendolyn, and the other on the wizard Zulkeh and his dwarven apprentice Shelyid. The book is set mostly during the Time Skip of the first book, providing some background on the first one and shedding light on the Noodle Incident.

The series subverts, lampshades or just generally plays for laughs most of the tropes it uses.


Provides examples of

  • Achievements in Ignorance: Wolfgang Laebmauntsforscynneweëld
  • All for Nothing: Etienne Avare's decades-long attempt at finding a worthy heir who will preserve his vast fortune; when he finally thinks he's found one and dies, the money is almost immediately lost to vicious infighting and lawyer fees.
  • A God Am I: God himself, according to Hildegard.
  • Amazonian Beauty: Gwendolyn
  • And Show It to You: The only weapons, outside of garrottes, Greyboar uses are ones extracted from hapless bodyguards.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Pink Slips, The Rap Sheets, The Switches, The Boots, and whatever artifact God was given.
  • Bad-Guy Bar: The Sign Of The Trough.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Shelyid.
    Greyboar:..we finally know what happened to the Great Wall of Grotum — it pulled a knife on a dwarf!
    • When Shelyid finally loses his temper, it is described, before Hilarity Ensues, with an Overly-Long Gag that ends with Shelyid lost his temper like Dispater, the archduke of hell, lost the keys to paradise and the hope of eternal salvation.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Possibly inverted; Schrodinger's Cat is apparently blind with her Coke-bottle glasses.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Grayboar, in the sense that he's the greatest professional strangler in the world, but is lazy to the point of developing a, yes, personal philosophy out of it. Ignace has to constantly pester and nag him to agree to take on clients.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Schrodinger's Cat. Wolfgang Laebmauntsforscynneweëld. Zulkeh when he goes into theorylalaland.
  • Confusion Fu: The Cat, of whom you can only tell for sure where she is or which way she is moving, but not both at the same time.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Consortium
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Zulkeh, in spite of the fact that his relationship with actual logic fleeting at best, is probably the most powerful wizard on the planet when he puts his blustering and pedantry aside and actually focuses on his work.
  • Death Glare: Greyboar has the Stare. Other names for it include "The Mirror of Mortality", "The Mirror of Imminent Mortality", "Basilisk" or "Time to Reconsider".
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: It's very easy to forget that Greyboar is a mass-murderer and Ignace his willing accomplice.
  • Easy Come, Easy Go: The Queen of Sphinctr's favor and disfavor.
  • Fictional Document: Numerous books are referred to by the characters, often written by some member of the Laebmauntsforscynneweëld clan.
  • Five-Man Band: there is a group called Les Cinq, as well as Les Six and Les Sept, going around.
  • Genius Bruiser: Greyboar has a taste for philosophy. He is also regarded as the most technically adept strangler in history, but not the strongest.
  • Giant Hands of Doom: One of the denizens of the underworld whom the protagonists must battle is a disembodied pair of these.
  • Girl with Psycho Weapon: The Cat.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: At no point in the narrative does anyone have anything good to say about Queen Belladonna.
  • Hanging Judge: The resident magistrate actually thinks that hanging is too good for criminal scum.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Greyboar and Ignace officially engage in this at the end of the first novel, changing from Professional Strangling to Professional Heroing.
  • Human Knot: Greyboar the strangler is renowned for tying enemies into knots, especially their necks, and takes a professional pride in making each knot a different one. He also sometimes non-fatally ties his foster brother and agent, Ignace. (Both his arms and his tongue if sufficiently annoyed.)
  • Hurricane of Puns
  • If It's You, It's OK: Jenny and Angela are lesbians, but happily take Ignace into their relationship, explicitly saying this at one point.
  • I Have Many Names: While Greyboar himself only goes by that name, his grip, like his glare, has plenty of names.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: Etienne Avare has provided Greyboar with steady business throttling these.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Ignace and Gwendolyn end up weeping in each other's arms over how messed up their relationship and lives turned out.
  • In Which a Trope Is Described: the chapter titles of Forward the Mage take this up to eleven.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Zulkeh, extremely heavy on the jerk, but in spite of his behavior, when he learns that his bumbling about in the Joe business has gotten him on the Rap Sheet for the Cruds, the Inquisition, the Black Hand of Goimr, and just about every law enforcement agency on the planet, his primary concern is not with his own safety, but with Shelyid's.
  • La Résistance: One of the many things going on in Joe's World is a socialist revolution.
  • Loophole Abuse: The artist Benvenuti is forced to hand over his portrait of a now-dead nobleman to the man's family without getting paid... so he re-does it so it gruesomely depicts the man's moment of death, with Greyboar's hands around his neck.
  • Long Title: Forward The Mage does this, to the point that several chapters consisted solely of the title.
  • Mega-Corp: The Consortium again.
  • Murder, Inc.: Professional Stranglers' Guild
  • Noodle Incident: Along with the big one mentioned above, events and people are often alluded to and not discussed, a typical example being how a section of the bar in The Trough came to be cursed and thus is never ever used.
  • Offing the Offspring: Etienne Avare, for several generations
    • And once he dies, most of the remaining offspring off each other.
  • Overly-Long Name: The Laebmauntsforscynneweëld clan, and the Sfondrati-Piccolomini clan.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Pretty much everything to do with Schrodinger's Cat. Who Schrodinger is/was, why she's always looking for him, how she got herself out of a sealed stone chamber at the very bottom of a dungeon...
  • Running Gag: Again, mentions of the countless members of the Laebmauntsforscynneweëld clan and their various claims to fame.
  • The Scrooge: Ignace's main motivation apart from drinking ale in The Trough is collecting as much money as possible and storing it under Greyboar's bed (much safer than any bank!), though somewhat to his own bafflement, he develops other interests as the story progresses.
  • Solid Gold Poop: Dwarves' lives get significantly less pleasant when it is discovered that it is trivially easy to transform dwarf excrement into pure gold. (This is another Noodle Incident in the first novel, Ignace mentions that things really suck for the dwarves without ever going into detail.)
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Benvenuti and Gwendolyn insist they are doomed to be this as long as they have their self-assigned duties to complete; narrator Ignace thinks they are both being idiots about the whole thing.
  • Straw Man Political: Ozarine politics, in particular.
  • Take That!: When the protagonists visit the underworld, one chapter is a vicious parody of Dante' Inferno.
  • Tagalong Chronicler: Lampshaded and Played for Laughs. 'Forward the Mage' is ostensibly put together by the Alfredae, chronicling lice who live in the hair of the protagonist Shelyid. They are frequently disdainful of everyone else and extremely snobbish, die quite frequently causing shifts in how they narrate, and complement their own narrative with other sources (which they often think are untrustworthy and biased). They are very much an Unreliable Narrator, but so is everyone else.
  • Three-Way Sex: Ignace ends up in this kind of relationship with Jenny and Angela.
  • Underground Railroad: One exists for the dwarves as they attempt to escape their ongoing persecution.
  • Unreliable Narrator: None of the narrators can be expected to tell the truth without embellishments, omissions, wishful thinking, self-aggrandizement, creative editing, or adjustments of facts to theory. It gets Lampshade Hangings when the same scene is told by two different narrators, in entirely different ways.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Gwendolyn grudgingly lets her brother Grayboar become a Professional Strangler on the condition that he never accepts a contract with a woman as his target. He rigorously abides by this.