Book notes: Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer

Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer book summary review and key ideas.

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Off to Be the Wizard: Magic 2.0, Book 1 by Scott Meyer


“Martin Banks is just a normal guy who has made an abnormal discovery: he can manipulate reality, thanks to reality being nothing more than a computer program. With every use of this ability, though, Martin finds his little “tweaks” have not escaped notice. Rather than face prosecution, he decides instead to travel back in time to the Middle Ages and pose as a wizard.

What could possibly go wrong?

An American hacker in King Arthur’s court, Martin must now train to become a full-fledged master of his powers, discover the truth behind the ancient wizard Merlin…and not, y’know, die or anything.” -Audible

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Opening thoughts:

this book was recommended to me by my friend Lindsey who said this is one of her favorite books of all time. I’m pretty excited to read this actually because it sounds pretty interesting. No idea what it’s about though aside from what I got from the synopsis

Key notes:

Chapter 1: terror

  • Martin Kenneth banks didn’t consider himself a hacker but he would poke around Internet
    • He found a text file that had his name and information. When he edited it, he found it altered real life
  • He started to feel an existential crisis and terror when he discovered this sort of science fiction concept occurring

Chapter 2 

  • Martin was successfully able to increase his bank account balance
    • He reasoned that he wasn’t stealing so it wasn’t wrong

Chapter 3

  • He figured out how to move himself in space and experimented with it. He also download an emulator so he can access the file remotely
  • He figured out how to travel back in time and then met himself 30 seconds prior

Chapter 4

  • He figured out he can teleport to any place in any time in the past. He just needed longitude, latitude, solitude for a secluded spot, and a time
  • He figured out how to keep his battery life and reception good no matter what
    • He reasoned that the file must have existed before the invention of computers by humans
  • He developed a rudimentary app that allows for easy manipulation of his reality
    • The first tab controls his finances
    • The second tab controlled his time and location, in addition to an undo button in case he found himself somewhere or sometime he didn’t want to be
    • The third tab had a few buttons
      • The first button was to make him hover to prove his power
      • The second button took him home automatically
      • The last button was an escape button
  • He decided he wanted to go to the best time to plant during medieval England

Chapter 5

  • He thought he wanted to lay low and continue his normal life, but he ended up quitting his job and starting to buy new things and upgrade his apartment

Chapter 6

  • He got arrested by two federal agents who questioned him and how he got money without making a deposit or earning it a traditional way

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

  • He escaped from the cops to medieval England with his Harry Potter robe and had to figure out his next move

Chapter 9

  • He hitched a ride with a seamstress in her wagon. She was not afraid because she recognized him as a wizard

Chapter 10

  • He had a wizarding contest with Philip, who ended up besting him and sent Martin flying away

Chapter 11

  • Philip revealed that many other people also found the file before he did. They then publicized the same medieval suggestion book Martin found in order to lure more people same time period
  • Philip explained that there were several of them who made sure new people got training so they don’t mess up what they got going on for this time
  • He had to accept and pass the training or else he would be sent back to his own time and cut off from accessing the file

Chapter 12

  • Philip took Martin on as his apprentice. His first command as his master was to think before he acts and talks
  • Phillip said that as a wizard, faith is their most important tool
  • Philip explained that their main job as wizard is to convince people that they are doing important mysterious things all the time
    • The downside to people not knowing what you do is they don’t know what you don’t do and therefore may him asking to do various things for them
    • Basically, he tries to stay away from work and being at home so that people don’t bother him and ruin his freedom
  • Essentially, their job is to look busy, though sometimes it takes more effort than actually being busy

Chapter 13

  • Philip explain that they can’t mess up the timeline because essentially they’ve already done everything
  • Other wizards theorize that there are two explanations to how making changes in the past doesn’t affect the future:
    1. Everything is already pre-programmed in pre-written
    2. The program creates a parallel instance that doesn’t affect your current timeline
  • Philip also said that due to the nature of what they’re doing, a certain amount of chronological pollution was inevitable

Chapter 14

  • Philip said essentially what they do is research, design, and develop new cheat codes for the shell program that they all can use
    • It’s a sort of open source development
  • The thing about being a part of a computer program is that the laws of physics no longer apply
    • They can create and destroy matter
  • Martin passed 2 tests which were to not try and kill Philip, even after Philip explained how and why he might do so

Chapter 15

  • In this world and time, people have gotten used to living with these wizards
    • Essentially, the bullies are afraid of the geeks, or rather oddly dressed people who talk funny like all of them
  • The other wizards warned Martin that he should be aware of the locals, that they don’t like or respect wizards as much as Philip thinks

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

  • The message that religion has over magic or science is that man’s inability to understand is built into the system
    • So if an explanation is confusing or unsatisfying, it strengthens the point
  • Philip believes that a religion is no more inherently evil than science is. It’s all just a matter of who’s using it and how
  • Martin, Philip, and the bishop went to a family’s house to resolve their teenage son’s behavior issues with a fake exorcism

Chapter 18

  • Martin met Jimmy a.k.a. Merlin. He discovered that the reason why Philip doesn’t like him is because he made big changes to the world and took on the persona of Merlin for his own selfish desires
    • Philip admitted he made changes but on a smaller scale
  • Philip explained that there’s always been a war between two sides, conservatives versus liberals
    • Philip side was about not breaking the rules, where is Jimmy’s side was about seeing how many you can break
  • Martin had his first solo flying experience. He later discovered the other wizards placed bets on him

Chapter 19

  • Martin started to get ready for his trial in two days once he completed his training. He just had to get his macros ready for his signature wizard salutation and other things that might be useful

Chapter 20

  • Philip admitted that although he hates Jimmy, he admits he’s probably smarter than Philip, so he has to take him seriously

Chapter 21

  • Pretty much all the wizards were men
    • Most of the women went immediately or eventually to Atlantis because of the stigma about witches in this place and time period
  • Most wizards lived in small clumps but spread out throughout Europe and Russia
  • Good hosts of gatherings allow people to converse until they remember why they like each other, but intervene before they remember why they don’t like each other
  • After Martin showed his salutation at the banquet, Jimmy asked Martin if he would like to come live in Camelot
    • Jimmy said that Martin has showmanship, flair, and originality

Reader’s note: OMG, I half expected this to happen. There are no trials are there?

  • Jimmy explained that the trials were essentially the banquet last night. It was just to demonstrate that he knew what he was doing and make sure he didn’t set off anyone’s bells
    • Since Philip trained him and said he’s OK, he’s in
  • The lie about the trials was just to make sure that the wizard trainee took it seriously
    • They also went up to him to reassure him and make sure that he didn’t become a wizard bent on revenge

Chapter 22

  • Gwen told Martin and some of the other wizards about an entire village being killed. It seemed like someone was trying to make them shorter and turn them into hobbits

Chapter 23

  • Gwen revealed that she was also a wizard with two wands and demonstrated her salutation, which was a bright light that pushed people away
  • Gwen teleported them to the lead church. There, they discussed the mystery of which wizard might be responsible for killing those villagers
    • Martin argued that they had to rule out Philip even though they all trusted him

Chapter 24

  • They saved Tyler from his ghosted state. He explained that Jimmy planned to turn people into hobbits. When Tyler didn’t agree, Jimmy ghosted him
    • Philip and everyone decided they needed to take Jimmy down

Chapter 25

  • Philip told everyone that Gwen actually arrived a month before Philip but she made them swear to secrecy about her identity
    • Nobody knew except Jimmy and Philip, but she was able to live an anonymous life while having the powers of a wizard/witch
  • Jimmy revealed his plan to create mythical creatures out of humans such as elves, hobbits, dwarfs, and orcs

Chapter 26

  • Martin and the others who had smart phones were able to get them out of the orc situation where Jimmy disabled their powers
    • They came up with a plan for Martin to distract Jimmy while Philip and the rest regrouped before taking Jimmy down

Chapter 27

  • Martin had a battle of giants with Jimmy in his grand hall while discussing Jimmy’s twisted worldview of wanting to make the world “better”
    • Jimmy believed they should have fun because nothing they did would affect the future

Chapter 28

  • The wizards stripped Jimmy of all his powers, abilities, and access to any electronic devices
    • They sent him to live in Brazil, a foreign land where he didn’t speak the language and where he would spend the rest of his days sounding like a crazy person without access to electronics
  • Philip was appointed new chairman against his will, but ordered Martin to stay in Camelot to act as his liaison and do most of his duties
  • As Martin and Gwen said their goodbyes and almost shared a kiss, her macro activated and sent him flying

Chapter 29

  • Martin went to visit his parents after the feds left and told them that they probably won’t see him much, but he’ll always be there when they need him
  • And old man in his 60s riding a bike was watching Martin as he left and then biked away
    • Presumably this was Jimmy who had stayed alive and tracked him down in the present time

Closing thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I’m putting this one in my top 5 fiction books as of now. I really enjoyed the character development and story. However, I’d say the best part for me was the world-building. I loved the concept of a coder/hacker coming across a mysterious file that altered reality and proved that they all lived in some sort of computer program or simulation. It really makes you think, kind of like living in the Matrix or something.

I particularly enjoyed it because I work in IT and it’s nice to be able to follow along when they talk about scripts, instances, macros, shell programs, etc. I’m sure others in software development would enjoy it for the same reason.

I also enjoy how the author set up the world to be mostly of other developers who are similar-minded people who went to the same period, which makes for a fun and quirky dynamic with all the nerdy-type people who become powerful wizards in this DND-esque type world.

As with many sci-fi type stories, novels, and movies, I think the author did a good job covering up the loopholes and explaining the science a bit of how time travel and general physics of the world works. For example, how someone can also bring objects to another time as long as it’s close enough on their body, the program will recognize it as part of them. Or that when levitating something, solid objects work best, and not an object comprised of multiple smaller objects.

Overall, a great read! I highly recommend for anyone else interested in this genre of sci-fi, works in IT or enjoys coding, or just likes fun, quirky adventure stories.

One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

With a book like this, it’s kind of hard to select an idea to put into practice. However, there were some good ideas to consider like the “war between two sides” or “religion vs science” that the story briefly touches on.

But if I had to extract and concept I got from the narrative’s progression, it would have to be about trust, leadership, vision, and what led to Jimmy’s downfall:

  • Vision combined with action will move mountains, but the way you get there (with integrity and compassion) is just as important

The reason why Jimmy failed was because he inherently didn’t trust his fellow wizards and his plans were focused on his own ego. It wasn’t about helping others or making the world a better place. That’s why he was taken down and lost in the end.


Martin discovers a computer file that alters reality and proves they live in a computer program. He then uses it to travel to the Middle Ages to become a wizard, until he discovers many others before him has the same idea.

Similar books:


Rating: 4 out of 5.


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