by Michael R. Underwood
Series: Genrenauts, Episode 1Kindle, 148 pg.
Read: November 18 – 19, 2016
Because he didn’t have enough series/irons in the fire already, here’s a new series from Michael R. Underwood — the man behind the Ree Reyes/Geekomancy series, Shield and Crocus and The Younger Gods (which may be a series or may be a stand alone). This one is sort of familiar territory, but differs enough that it doesn’t feel tired.
So, Leah is trying to make it as a stand-up comic in Baltimore. I didn’t realize that Baltimore was a good place for this, but sure, why not? So, the stand-up isn’t working for her, her day job is as a receptionist and isn’t the basis for a future. So she can’t help but be interested when some mysterious man who seems to appreciate her act approaches her and says:
I’m Dr. Angstrom King, Department of Comparative Literature. I run a narrative immersion laboratory, and I’m looking for new staff. I think you might be an excellent fit.
The reality behind that gobbledygook is tough to explain in a paragraph, but I’ll try — there are several parallel universes to ours (“Earth Prime”), and each of these correlates to a genre in fiction (not just books), so there’s a Science Fiction World, a Romance World, A Horror World, and so on. Each of these universes impacts ours in the narratives we tell each other. And when something goes wrong the World’s narrative, it spills over in our reality. So there’s a group of people like Quantum Leap or Voyagers! who pop in, fix the problem, and pop out once stability to the narrative returns. The people that are aware of these worlds and that travel between are called Genrenauts — catchy, eh?
So, Leah tries it out, traveling to Western World to clean up a sticky situation. While there, she meets some more of King’s team, helps some people out, and get a real baptism by fire into this strange new world. There’s some fun with tropes, character types, a shootout, bad whiskey — pretty much everything you’d want sans a squinty-Eastwood character.
It’s told with a light touch — the debt to Leverage and The Librarians is obvious (and readily acknowledged), with a good dose of action, a hint of a looming catastrophe/conspiracy. There’s a good deal of literary/narrative theory under-girding this whole project — it’s not as frivolous as it may seem.
There’s so much emphasis on the premise of this series, and with the adventure in Western World, that we didn’t get a good introduction to the characters. In addition to Leah, there was King and 2 teammates, some references to a couple of others, 2 people from the Western world. But Leah’s the only one that I could say has more than 1 dimension to them. I’m confident when I say that’ll be taken care of in short order in the future, though. But for now, the team is full of types, not people.
Leah is further on her way to being a fully developed character, primarily a collection of characteristics and tics at the moment — but close. She’s smart, savvy, quick on her feet, a pop culture junkie. Unlike, Ree, Leah’s a professional smart aleck — or aspires to be one, anyway. Not that anyone needs a justification to be quippy and snarky in the face of danger in SF, but it’s nice that she has one. I enjoyed meeting her, and want to get to know her better while watching these collection of characteristics congeal into a character.
I’m giving this 4 Stars, I think it earns a 3 — it’s so pilot episode-y that it’s hard to tell. I really enjoyed it and I’m in for at least a handful of books, so I’ll give it a one-star bump for the premise. I’m eager, really eager, to get the next one.