I'm looking for what I believe is a trilogy of comic fantasy about a scientist being thrown into another, medieval world. I can't remember the author, the approximate date of publication or even the covers, but I do remember some fairly unique details:

  • The protagonist is an accomplished scientist that gets thrown into a medieval world due to an experiment gone wrong. Bucky Balls are mentioned in the context of said experiment.

  • Arriving in the new world, he meets some kind of dwarfish (not called a dwarf) traveling merchant. He fixes the alcohol distillation setup of this guy and they figure they can profit from the technological knowledge of the scientist.

  • They decide to make a sort of Swiss Army knife as their first product.

  • They fix up an old mill (possibly a watermill) with modern niceties, such as hot water.

  • The scientist creates aluminum, which turns out is known in this world, but a closely guarded secret by the ... high council, wizards league, something like that.

  • The antagonist, the local head wizard, has a kind of stupid monster as a henchman.

  • The antagonist (and only he) can actually hear the narrator of the books as a kind of disembodied voice. They argue, and at least once the narrator ends an argument by saying "and then the henchman clubbed the wizard over the head" or something like that, which then actually happens.

  • A side character is a very nearsighted guard or warrior. He always mislays his sword and cannot find it himself because of his eye condition, but the people like him and help him by saying things like "Hey , I just tripper over your sword right over here, put it away, will you". Later, the scientist makes a primitive one-lens spectacle for him, earning his eternal gratitude.

  • In the second or third book, the scientist's girlfriend follows him into the medieval world.

  • At the end of the final book, the antagonist comes to our world and does very well as head of a corporation.

The whole thing had a very 70s comic fantasy feel. Modern things like smartphones or mobile phones were not mentioned.

I read this in the early 2000s, but I think the books were part of a big box of used books I got from eBay and resold or gave away later.


1 Answer 1


This is the Reluctant Sorcerer trilogy by Simon Hawke.

Front cover of "The Reluctant Sorcerer" (1992) by Simon Hawke. Front cover of "The Inadequate Adept" (1993) by Simon Hawke. Front cover of "The Ambivalent Magician" (1996) by Simon Hawke.

The protagonist, Dr. Marvin Brewster, is an absentminded American professor who lives in London with his fiancée, Dr. Pamela Fairbum, and is employed by a multinational conglomerate.

In the first book, he invents a time machine that uses buckyballs as one of its components.

Externally, the time machine did not appear much different from a helicopter with the rotor blades and tail removed, except for one particular, distinguishing feature. Encircling the entire assembly and the frame, positioned diagonally so that it ran around the top of the bubble and behind the back skids, was a stainless-steel tube three inches in diameter, a torus encircled by loops of superconducting wire, the interior of which was filled with a small amount of a rare substance known by the innocuous name of Buckyballs.

He activates the time machine, planning to travel ten minutes back in time as a test run, but instead lands in medieval fantasy-style realm in a parallel universe, where he meets a leprechaun named Mick O’Fallon, who mistakes him for a sorcerer.

Mick is an armourer but aspires to become an alchemist, and believes that if he can discover the secret behind creating the precious metal known as nickallirium -- AKA aluminium -- he'll finally be granted membership in the Sorcerers Guild.

The way Mick saw it, if he could convince Brewster to take him on as an apprentice, then he would have a sponsor, and that would get him over the first hurdle. Once Brewster accepted him as an apprentice, then perhaps he'd help him learn the secret of the Philosopher's Stone, which Mick was certain Brewster knew. And, in fact, he did. Brewster knew what nickallirium was, you see. He merely knew it by another name. Aluminum.

Mick is particularly impressed by Brewster's Swiss Army Knife and wants Brewster to help him make more of them.

Now, this wasn't one of the cheaper models, but a deluxe one, with two regular knife blades, a screwdriver, a can opener, a bottle opener, a saw, a magnifying glass, a scissors, an awl, a corkscrew, a toothpick, and, of course, tweezers. In other words, the whole shebang. It had red plastic handles with the authentic Swiss cross emblem on one side that marked it as the genuine article. Mick, naturally, took it to be Brewster's crest.

Brewster also suggests making a distillery to speed up Mick's production of wine.

"Well, actually, there's a much easier way," Brewster replied. "You could make a still." "A still what?" asked Mick.
"No, still is what it's called," Brewster explained. He saw Mick's frown and added, "It's short for distillery... an apparatus for brewing. It would greatly speed up the process and allow you to have a greater yield."

One of Mick's friends, a large warrior named Bloody Bob, is nearsighted and keeps losing his swords, so Brewster makes him a visor to improve his vision, for which Bob is extremely grateful.

Worst of all for Bloody Bob was the embarrassment, the sheer mortification, of losing his swords. To a true warrior, nothing was more important than his sword. He ate with it, he slept with it, but he never, ever misplaced it. It was the worst possible sin. And Bob had done it more than once. He couldn't help it. He'd put his sword down somewhere and then be unable to find it again because he couldn't see well enough. The other brigands had learned to be considerate and if they happened upon his missing blade, they'd surreptitiously place it within his reach and then arrange for him to notice it.
("Ooops! Sorry, Bob. Didn't mean to trip over your sword. Didn't see it lying on the floor there, right next to your chair. Nay, on the other side of your chair. Bob.")

The main antagonist, Warrick Morgannan, is the Grand Director of the Sorcerers Guild and has a dim-witted troll familiar named Teddy. He can also sense the narrator as a voice in the ether, and occasionally responds to him.

Well, that last chapter gave your narrator a rather nasty turn. Everyone knows fictional characters are not supposed to be able to detect the presence of the narrator and start talking back to him. (This is against all the rules of good writing, just like "breaking the rule of the fourth wall," which is what happens when an actor breaks character and starts talking to the audience, or when a narrator addresses the reader directly, which is exactly what I’m doing now, so I suppose it serves me right.) Anyway, in all the books I've written, I've never had this kind of experience before, and I don’t mind telling you, I’m not quite sure what to do about it. It's pretty weird. (Not to mention potentially confusing.)

  • Any mention of bucky balls, near-sighted swordsmen or Swiss Army knives?
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 25 at 23:15
  • 2
    Yes, thank you! From 1992 and 1993? Funny, they feel much older... Commented Mar 26 at 8:53
  • @Valorum Do you think Christopher Stasheff has a case?
    – Spencer
    Commented Mar 26 at 12:58

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