I'm a big fan of Rich Burlew's strip Order of the Stick. It was one of the first strips I started reading regularly and is still one of the first ones I check on update days. I've wanted to read the book 'On the Origins of the PCs' for quite some time now and thanks to Daku, I finally got my shot.
The book it's self is definitely high quality. The paper is the sturdy glossy kind that just oozes class. It's 72 with the equivalent of an entire Order of the Stick comic on each page so on the whole it's not a bad deal for $14. The cover is colorful and inviting which could help bring new readers in. I’d say the book looks better than most collections of syndicated strips you can buy.
The only down side is that the whole book beside the cover is in black and white. Burlew explains this is because it all takes place in the past (and we all know the past is in black and white). While I prefer the full color strips in the present that can be found online, I did get used to the black and white format and by 20 pages or so I didn't even notice anymore.
The art is standard fare for OOTS, which for anyone who hasn't read it out is basically stick figures wielding medieval weaponry. Don't let that turn you off. I'm prepared to say that Burlew is the only artist on the Web who can make stick figures sexy. Basically if you're familiar enough with the strip to want to read the book, you know what things are gonna look like.
What's always kept me interested in OOTS has been the writing. Burlew is one heck of a story teller in his strip. In the book however, he ends up painting himself in a bit of a corner. In the intro to the book Burlew states that he didn't want to put anything in the book that would exclude those readers who only read the strip. I totally respect this attitude as I hate being left out on knowing what's really happening in a strip just because I can't afford the books. On the other hand it leaves people who read the book a little disappointed.
Not disappointed in the story in the book by any means. What is in there is enjoyable. When I read the description on APE games Web site though I expected huge revelations about the characters. What we get those is some minor exposition at best. It's all good though ' I especially enjoyed how Durkon and Roy started working together ' and I'm glad was in there. I just wish there had been more.
While the stories do little too explain why the characters are that way, they do provide an entertaining read and flesh the characters out a little. Burlew's characters are some of the most well rounded and consistently funny available in Web comics. The back story provided in Origins does explain what they did before the strip in a way that fits and supports these characters. It goes to show how much work Burlew has put into crafting these characters.
I think I was expecting more of collection of OOTS strips put together in small book form. What you get instead is small book in the form of OOTS strips. What I mean by that is the book is not a series of joke originally meant to be read one at a time but rather several longer strips that stretch on for pages. These means don't look for their to be a joke in the bottom right corner of each page, often that panel is just set up for what's coming next. The book is still funny though, lots of little jokes are hidden throughout the text along with the main ones you can't miss. OOTS has always had some of the best fourth-wall breaking and that tradition continues. The book does feature a few more D&D jokes per panel then the online version, some of which I honestly didn't get, but I'm sure the book's target audience would.
In conclusion, Origins is a fun book. It's not what I was expecting, but I was still able to enjoy it for what it was. I think most OOTS fans will too. The book is currently in its third printing so it looks like many already have.