Genrenauts: The Complete Season One Collection by Michael R. Underwood

Genrenauts: The Complete Season One CollectionGenrenauts: The Complete Season One Collection

by Michael R. Underwood
Series: Genrenauts, #1-6

Kindle Edition, 544 pg.
2016


Parallel to our world are various worlds populated by fictional characters in a wide variety of genres (Western, SF, Romance, etc), and when things go wrong in the stories, things go wrong in our world. For example, broken Romance world stories = higher divorce rates here. In this world, there are a number of teams of story specialists who shift to the other worlds to fix the stories and set things back on course here. Leah Tang — a struggling stand-up comic by night, struggling receptionist by day — is the newest recruit. Join her as she learns the ropes, rights wrongs, struggles with ethics, and gets shot at while cracking jokes.

Originally printed as 6 episodes in 5 novellas, now collected in one season-long omnibus, Genrenauats as become one of my favorite series this year and I’m glad to get one more chance to talk about it with the release of the collection this week.

There’s a great cast of characters here, all of which deserve the reader’s time and focus. For example, I was tempted to not-really-ignore, but relegate Angstrom King to back burner status in my mind. He’s the leader, he points the team in a direction, but the real excitement’s with the rest. This was a mistake on my part — think of him like Capt. Picard. Sure, for the most part he sits around in his ready room with some Earl Gray (hot) — but really, some of the more interesting things that happen in he series are because of his actions. King’s not Jean-Luc, but there’s a similar quality.

I love a good team — fiction, TV, comics, you name it — the interaction, the teamwork, the dynamics, there’s really nothing like it. There’s a great team in these novellas — some of the intra-team camaraderie got pushed aside for a little romance that doesn’t really work for me (but I get why it would for others and appreciate the way Underwood’s tackling it). Overall, it’s built on solid interactions and relationships that have plenty of room to grow and develop over the many seasons that we hopefully get of this.

Each adventure gives Underwood an opportunity to talk about various genres — to talk about the clichés, tropes, archetypes, pluses, minuses, and so on of each genre. And one visit to each won’t be enough to fully explore these. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking Master’s Theses-esque discussion, he jokes about them, plays with them, sometimes turns them upside down while telling his tale.

The collection includes:
The Shootout Solution — We meet Leah Tang, Angstrom King and the rest of his team. We’re also introduced to the concept of Genrenauts, Story Worlds, the effects that they can have on our world — also, we get a pretty decent story in Western World. Not bad for 148 pages. (For more details, you might want to read my original blog post, my blog post about the audiobook)

The Absconded Ambassador — The team goes to Science Fiction World to help out on a DS9-like Space Station. On the verge of a major treaty being finalized and signed, the Terran ambassador has been kidnapped. It’s up to King and co. to rescue the ambassador and keep the shaky alliance from crumbling in her absence. We learn a little more about everyone, and while having a lot of fun with genre conventions. ( my original blog post, my blog post about the audiobook)

The Cupid Reconciliation — The team gets back up to full strength in time to go rescue a Rom-Com gone awry. Underwood really lets things fly when it comes to observations about the genre and playing with conventions while using them for comedic — and narrative — value. Also — a couple of seeds that were planted in the first two novellas are watered enough that you can see season/season-plus story arcs beginning to grow. The series took a big jump in quality here. ( my original blog post)

The Substitute Sleuth — A Police Procedural needs some help, a no-nonsense cop’s off-the wall/out-of-the-box partner takes a bullet and another pair of mismatched detectives needs to come in and close the case. We get some major backstory stuff here, and the season arc is moved along nicely. The detective story itself isn’t my favorite, but what Underwood does with the tropes, themes, conventions, etc. is really good — it is more of a TV detective story than a novel detective story. Think Castle, not Harry Bosch (whoops, thanks Amazon, you ruined that point…). ( my original blog post)

The Failed Fellowship (Part 1 & 2) — This think kicks off with Leah Tang ranting about fantasy fiction and 5 episodes later, she gets to spend 2 episodes in Fantasy World, where a Chosen One with a Magic Artifact story has fallen to pieces. Leah’s in hog heaven, the rest of the team are at the top of their game and Underwood is, too. Rollicking good adventure. Best of the batch in every way. ( my original blog post)

I dig this series, and having all of the novellas in one handy collection is going to make it easier (I hope) for others to discover it — the collection is also a little cheaper than buying all the individual stories, which will also going to make things easier for people to discover it. If you haven’t dipped your toe in this world/these worlds yet, what are you waiting for?

—–

5 Stars

The Absconded Ambassador (Audiobook) by Michael R. Underwood, Mary Robinette Kowal

The Absconded AmbassadorThe Absconded Ambassador

by Michael R. Underwood, Mary Robinette Kowal
(Narrator)
Series: Genrenauts, Episode 2

Unabridged Audiobook, 3 hours and 25 minutes
Macmillan Audio, 2016
Read: April 8, 2016
I really don’t have much more to say about the audiobook that I didn’t say about the original, but I wanted to get something up — so if this seems largely familiar, it is. But not entirely …

Working as a Genrenaut was like being a member of a theater troupe run by a burnt-out hippie who melded Devising with MBA management: the ideas were outlandish and random, but the execution was 100% corporate.

The second episode in Michael R. Underwood’s Genrenauts delivers on the promise of Episode 1, and demonstrates that his special alchemy of Leverage + The Librarians + Quantum Leap + Thursday Next (just my current guess at his secret recipe) has legs — and will hopefully go a long time.

Leah has had about a week to get used to this new reality since her adventure in Western World — a week filled with meetings, reading assignments and trying to wrap her head around things. In the meanwhile, everyone at Genrenauts HQ is trying to prepare for the next breach (in the midst of a spike of 15% over the norm, for your corporate types), probably in Romance World. Which obviously means it’ll be pretty much anywhere else, like say Science Fiction World.

The station of Ahura-3, in the space opera region, to be specific. I’m sure the similarity between the name of the station and a certain Communications Officer is a huge coincidence. Ahura-3 is everything you want in a space station — it’s a melting pot of very-alien-looking/acting aliens, it’s a culture to itself, with strategic location, and very delicate intergalactic politics.

Leah’s excitement about being in “honest-to-goodness, Sally Ride is my homegirl zero-g” space was infectious (especially in this format). But even more fun was the amount of SF references Underwood fit into half of chapter 1 — truly astounding, and didn’t feel forced or overcrowded. He deserves a tip of the cap right there. But the fun’s not limited to the references and allusions — it’s in the alien cultural practices (and appearances), the various factions (human and otherwise), businesses, and just watching the whole Science Fiction World thing at work.

Mary Robinette Kowal did another bang-up job. I’m still not crazy about her voice for King, but I listened to this one using my earbuds instead of my car speakers and she’s much easier to hear with that voice that way, so it doesn’t bother me as much. I liked her alien characters a lot. Shirin and Leah are great (I think I like the audiobook take on Shirin better than the one in my head when reading, actually)

Good way to spend a little time — very entertaining all around.

—–

4 Stars

Reposting: The Absconded Ambassador by Michael R. Underwood

It’s Publication Day for The Absconded Ambassador, so I thought I’d better throw this up again. Go get your hands on it.

The Absconded AmbassadorThe Absconded Ambassador

by Michael R. Underwood
Series: Genrenauts, Episode 2ARC, 159 pg.
Tor.com, 2016
Read: December 31, 2015

Working as a Genrenaut was like being a member of a theater troupe run by a burnt-out hippie who melded Devising with MBA management: the ideas were outlandish and random, but the execution was 100% corporate.

Now this was a way to close out 2015 — the second episode in Michael R. Underwood’s Genrenauts delivers on the promise of Episode 1, and demonstrates that his special alchemy of Leverage + The Librarians + Quantum Leap + Thursday Next (just my current guess at his secret recipe) has legs — and will hopefully go a long time.

Leah has had about a week to get used to this new reality since her adventure in Western World — a week filled with meetings, reading assignments and trying to wrap her head around things. In the meanwhile, everyone at Genrenauts HQ is trying to prepare for the next breach (in the midst of a spike of 15% over the norm, for your corporate types), probably in Romance World. Which obviously means it’ll be pretty much anywhere else, like say Science Fiction World.

The station of Ahura-3, in the space opera region, to be specific. I’m sure the similarity between the name of the station and a certain Communications Officer is a huge coincidence. Ahura-3 is everything you want in a space station — it’s a melting pot of very-alien-looking/acting aliens, it’s a culture to itself, with strategic location, and very delicate intergalactic politics.

Leah’s excitement about being in “honest-to-goodness, Sally Ride is my homegirl zero-g” space was infectious. But even more fun was the amount of SF references Underwood fit into half of chapter 1 — truly astounding, and didn’t feel forced or overcrowded. He deserves a tip of the cap right there. I made it all the way to page 42 without having to Google one of them (I think there was only one other time I had to grab my smart phone). But the fun’s not limited to the references and allusions — it’s in the alien cultural practices (and appearances), the various factions (human and otherwise), businesses, and just watching the whole Science Fiction World thing at work.

One thing that’s been niggling at the back of my mind with these Episodes is what’s to keep Leah from being Ree Reyes 2.0? Underwood seems to be going with keeping Leah from the more Parker/Eliot Spencer-type roles and moving her into the Sophie Devereau/Alec Hardison-type roles. She and Shirin scramble all over the station trying to keep treaty negotiations moving forward. They’re thinking on their feet, using their wits, charm and SF knowledge to keep things under control — Leah’s on-the-job training under Shirin helps the readers acclimate to this world, too. The action-hero needs are served by the rest of the team, Roman and King — whose banter while throwing punches, engaging in dogfights, and so on, kept the fun going (honestly, maybe was a little more fun than the rest).

In Episode 1, I wondered if the pilot nature of the novella kept it from being everything I wanted it to be. The Absconded Ambassador built on that ground work and gave us a solid, fully-formed adventure — everything I hoped it would be. And that’s just in the main story, there’s all this other stuff going on: not only do we have a sense of impending doom — or at least very big crisis — coming to the Multi-Genre-Verse. But now we’ve got some sort of secret within the team (not one that’s going to cause much trouble, I don’t think — but you never know), and (according to the preview for Episode 3) maybe some intra-team conflict. Underwood just nailed here, and Genrenauts is about half-a-novella away from being his most consistently entertaining work.

I won a copy of this in a drawing on the author’s website — which means I got to read it two months early — and I got a very nice autograph on the title page. The downside is, I have to wait longer than I’d have had to wait otherwise between Episodes 2 and 3. I still came out ahead, but not by much.

—–

4 Stars

The Absconded Ambassador by Michael R. Underwood

The Absconded AmbassadorThe Absconded Ambassador

by Michael R. Underwood
Series: Genrenauts, Episode 2

ARC, 159 pg.
Tor.com, 2016
Read: December 31, 2015

Working as a Genrenaut was like being a member of a theater troupe run by a burnt-out hippie who melded Devising with MBA management: the ideas were outlandish and random, but the execution was 100% corporate.

Now this was a way to close out 2015 — the second episode in Michael R. Underwood’s Genrenauts delivers on the promise of Episode 1, and demonstrates that his special alchemy of Leverage + The Librarians + Quantum Leap + Thursday Next (just my current guess at his secret recipe) has legs — and will hopefully go a long time.

Leah has had about a week to get used to this new reality since her adventure in Western World — a week filled with meetings, reading assignments and trying to wrap her head around things. In the meanwhile, everyone at Genrenauts HQ is trying to prepare for the next breach (in the midst of a spike of 15% over the norm, for your corporate types), probably in Romance World. Which obviously means it’ll be pretty much anywhere else, like say Science Fiction World.

The station of Ahura-3, in the space opera region, to be specific. I’m sure the similarity between the name of the station and a certain Communications Officer is a huge coincidence. Ahura-3 is everything you want in a space station — it’s a melting pot of very-alien-looking/acting aliens, it’s a culture to itself, with strategic location, and very delicate intergalactic politics.

Leah’s excitement about being in “honest-to-goodness, Sally Ride is my homegirl zero-g” space was infectious. But even more fun was the amount of SF references Underwood fit into half of chapter 1 — truly astounding, and didn’t feel forced or overcrowded. He deserves a tip of the cap right there. I made it all the way to page 42 without having to Google one of them (I think there was only one other time I had to grab my smart phone). But the fun’s not limited to the references and allusions — it’s in the alien cultural practices (and appearances), the various factions (human and otherwise), businesses, and just watching the whole Science Fiction World thing at work.

One thing that’s been niggling at the back of my mind with these Episodes is what’s to keep Leah from being Ree Reyes 2.0? Underwood seems to be going with keeping Leah from the more Parker/Eliot Spencer-type roles and moving her into the Sophie Devereau/Alec Hardison-type roles. She and Shirin scramble all over the station trying to keep treaty negotiations moving forward. They’re thinking on their feet, using their wits, charm and SF knowledge to keep things under control — Leah’s on-the-job training under Shirin helps the readers acclimate to this world, too. The action-hero needs are served by the rest of the team, Roman and King — whose banter while throwing punches, engaging in dogfights, and so on, kept the fun going (honestly, maybe was a little more fun than the rest).

In Episode 1, I wondered if the pilot nature of the novella kept it from being everything I wanted it to be. The Absconded Ambassador built on that ground work and gave us a solid, fully-formed adventure — everything I hoped it would be. And that’s just in the main story, there’s all this other stuff going on: not only do we have a sense of impending doom — or at least very big crisis — coming to the Multi-Genre-Verse. But now we’ve got some sort of secret within the team (not one that’s going to cause much trouble, I don’t think — but you never know), and (according to the preview for Episode 3) maybe some intra-team conflict. Underwood just nailed here, and Genrenauts is about half-a-novella away from being his most consistently entertaining work.

I won a copy of this in a drawing on the author’s website — which means I got to read it two months early — and I got a very nice autograph on the title page. The downside is, I have to wait longer than I’d have had to wait otherwise between Episodes 2 and 3. I still came out ahead, but not by much.

—–

4 Stars