Jim the undead wizard discovers a secret about his fantasy world - it is somehow linked to another world, our own, where it manifests as an online video game. Former farmer and wannabe magician Jim is killed in a raid on the sorcerous academy he attends. He is returned to existence as an undead creature by the Necromancer Dreadgrave. He meets his fellow members of Dreadgrave's corpse army: ridiculously perky Meryl and a priest named Thaddeus. He also meets semi-competent thief Slippery John, who tries to infiltrate the fortress. Initially, Jim makes repeated attempts to die for good; however, he soon discovers that a mysterious group of angels consistently returns him to life.
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Life in Dreadgrave's compound turns out to be pleasant, but Jim's life is interrupted when the angels he sees when he "dies" manifest in the world and begin erasing the fell tower. Jim and his companions escape, although Jim soon regrets his decision to flee what could have been his only opportunity to cease existing. The group takes refuge in a local village, Applewheat, where a local priest and a band of adventurers, including John, attempt to cage and destroy them. The villagers have other ideas, however, having fond memories of Dreadgrave's reign of "terror." During the ensuing struggle, Jim notices one of the angels, which he now calls Deleters, has inhabited one of the adventurers.
Meryl, who is from the same homeland as Jim, suggests that the band return to their native soil, Borrigard, and free it from the occupation of the Pillocks. Jim, though he agrees to accompany her, still just wants to find a way to die for good. They encounter a strange village in which most of the people talk in single, repetitive sentences, perform routines, and occasionally attempt to do impossible things like walking away on the air. Barry, the murderous priest from Applewheat, turns up again, in command of a siege engine and allied with the Deleters. Barry and his army demolish the village, trapping Jim momentarily. The attackers capture Jim briefly, who reveals his party's intended destination before escaping.
Jim finds himself on a boat with Slippery John, who has joined a pirate crew. When Jim reveals that the formerly-possessed adventurer Drylda is being carted around by Meryl and her companions, Slippery John and the pirates insist on trying to track them down. Jim rescues Meryl from the clutches of Barry and his minions. During their flight, Jim is knocked into the nearby ocean and falls into a bizarre netherworld. As this happens, Jim's mind is filled with a strange set of communications which readers will recognize as e-mails and chat logs. Confused, Jim settles to the bottom of the ocean and begins rotting away.
He is eventually saved by Meryl and Slippery John, and taken to the town of Cronenburg. The Syndrome, the name for the result of the Deleter possession and control phenomenon, has become widespread. Meryl has become a revolutionary, overtly seeking to free Borrigrard from occupation. Jim continues to have odd e-mail/chat-log flashes. After opportunistically assigning one of the Syndrome-suffering adventurers a quest, the group is detained by an elf named Mr. Wonderful, who represents a mob-like Adventurer's Guild. Jim and Meryl are sent to the dungeon of capitol city Lolede, which they escape with the aid of the king.
The heroes link up with the Magical Resistance, a group opposing the Syndrome and the Deleters. They reunite with Slippery John and Thaddeus, and set out to find Barry. At the same time, Jim discovers that he can now communicate with the forces he has been hearing in chatlog form. He figures out that these people are responsible for the Syndrome, and that they view his world as a kind of game. The leaders of the Magical Resistance, along with Jim and Meryl, are captured (again, in some cases) by the Wonderful-led Adventurer's Guild, who take the side of the Deleters. However, this time, it turns out that Jim has made a deal with the Guild to give up the Resistance in return for a pardon. These dealings are interrupted when the Lolede castle falls under siege from the Deleters and Barry. The Resistance, the king, and Wonderful join forces out of necessity, on the trip to the castle.
In the castle, the kingdom's army is being destroyed by a Syndrome-fueled adventurer army. Jim escapes the carnage. The town is occupied, and a new religion, based on the worship of one of the otherworldy Deleters, Simon, becomes the law. Another Deleter, Double Bill, makes contact with Jim and Slippery John. Bill reveals the truth - Jim's world is actually an MMO in Beta-testing in our universe. Bill, however, dislikes Simon and his efforts to tamper with the game. Bill, however, has been locked out from the admin access that would allow him to fix the problem. He enlists the aid of Jim, John, Thaddeus, and Meryl to defeat his rival in-world; they are able to do so because their experiences at Dreadgrave's fortress has made them into glitches that the computer system cannot account for. The team is dispatched to Mount Murdercruel to destroy Simon's control systems.
At the mountain, the Dreadgrave survivors face off against the Deleters and their minnions, including Barry and Mr. Wonderful. Jim and his friends ascend the dangerous mountain, finding Meryl in the clutches of Simon. Simon uses his programming powers to purge the world, seemingly destroying everything except Jim, Barry, who he moves to the company intra-net, and the Nexus. As Simon dispatches Barry to influence the company computer systems in his favor, Jim finally manages to use the controls to restore Bill.
As a reward, Jim asks Bill to delete him. He does so, but then uses Jim's data, and that of his friends, to reinsert them into the game's next build. Jim is created in a succession of positions of power, but rejects them as meaningless. Finally, Bill simply places Jim and Meryl in one of the old builds of the magic school where Jim was originally slaughtered. This time, Jim flees the battle, Meryl in tow, and seeks to start a quiet new life elsewhere.
Best part of story, including ending:
The sense of humor which pervades it, sarcastic without being hateful, is the book's main asset.
Best scene in story:
My favorite bit is less a scene and more a recurring bit - whenever people first see Jim's rotting face, they become violently ill. It's pretty funny.
Opinion about the main character:
Jim is a likable, cynical protagonist, lost in a bizarre set of circumstances. His reactions seem very real.