by Michael R. Underwood
Ree works as a barista, with hopes of her screenplays getting bought down in LA. She’s a hardcore nerdgirl, which matches the place she works: not only coffeeshop, but also gaming shop and comic shop on top of it. Her boyfriend also just broke up with her.
And then the strange man in the duster rushes in, begging to purchase a certain graphic novel. She sells it to him – a pretty standard novel, at that – and he rushes out of the store. And soon there’s a BOOM.
The BOOM changes everything. Ree falls into a world where your genre defines your abilities, where great nostalgia comes with great power, and what you watch becomes what you can do.
Her mentor leads her as they seek to prevent the next in a wave of suicides. Along the way she battles trolls, bromancers, fake werewolves and fellow geekomancers. Oh, and the Dork Lord of Pwn. She encounters time-displaced chivalry and great betrayal. And in the end, hopefully, maybe, possibly, she might keep her job.
This book kept me chuckling all the way through. Every page holds so many easter eggs! A few did fly over my head, but I was able to catch most. Then again, I worked in comic shops for seven years and have collected comics since before I can remember. My parents saw Star Wars in the theaters thirteen times. I’ve got some pretty find geek cred on my own, and yes, I still didn’t get all the references. This Underwood? He knows his stuff – and more than you could discover on Wikipedia. He knows the slang and how to use it. He’s a resident of Nerdistan, pretty sure. And I mean that in a good way.
If you’re a geek, you’re going to love this book. Multiple references to D&D, Firefly, Star Wars, Star Trek, various manga and anime, X-Men, Batman, Labyrinth, Princess Bride… you get the idea. (My weakness is in the manga and anime references; thus I can’t name you specifics there. Please forgive this poor reviewer.)
The tone of the book revels in snark and fun. Even in the darkest parts where Underwood does a great job conveying danger, there’s a certain humor that never lets up.
His plot is fast and furious. Several times he zigged, and then I expected a zag. Nope. He’d just zig again instead. He knows how to plot a good story, how stories usually go, and he uses that to subvert the reader’s expectations in the most delicious ways.
His magic system is mostly unique; I suspect he lifted a few of the broad notes from Mage: the Ascencion (from White Wolf). I could be wrong on that, but that was the general feel of the system. It worked well for me, though.
His characters stay in character, and I found none of them whiney or annoying. When the worst thing you can say about a character is, “I wish he would have had more screen time,” you know this is a great novel.
Do I have anything bad to say about the book?
The ending feels like set-up for a series. It’s not bad set-up at all. The book, taken as a whole, feels like the pilot of a tv series in all the right ways. It could stand on its own, but it’s begging for more to be told. I’m happy to see a second book in the series comes out this July.
I do fear that if someone is not immersed in geek culture, many of the references, rather than bringing mirth, might bring headache. Then again, the book’s title is geekomancy. It wears what it is right there on the title. If someone’s not a geek and reads this, they’ve got it coming, I suppose.
On the other hand, if you are a geek – pick this up. It is WELL worth your time. If the thought of main characters being introduced by their D&D stats amuses you, this is the book for you.