xkcd: volume 0

Breadpig Publishing were kind enough to send me a review copy of xkcd: volume 0, the first-ever collection of strips from Randall Munroe's fantastic, unrepentantly geeky webcomic XKCD: A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.

I've been a fan of XKCD since I happened upon his Help! I'm Trapped in a Universe Factory strip, and Randall was kind enough to write a fictionalized version of me into later toons. We got to meet last summer at a science fiction convention in Springfield, Mass, and hit it off like a house on fire.

So I was delighted to find myself holding an actual book -- cover price $18, portion of profits goes to building schools in Laos through the Room to Read charity -- and turning the pages. Randall once told me that he'd rejected earlier book offers because his older strips were only available at a very low resolution, and it seems like many of these were included on the basis that they're funny and interesting enough to overlook the lower-quality reproductions. The tool-tips -- hidden punchlines that show up if you hover your mouse over the XKCD strips -- are included as small-caps print tucked among the frames, and this is nearly as good as the screen experience.

The book is full of eastereggs; the pages appear to be numbered in ternary. There is a cryptographic puzzle hidden in the margins, along with many small, Sergio-Argones-like doodles and gags. More than anything, xkcd: volume 0 feels like it is a part of the XKCD continuum, a mix of blog, webcomic, doodle and tweet, handsomely presented and long overdue.

xkcd: volume 0