Geekomancy by Michael R. Underwood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
To me, this book is Buffy meets Ready Player One done well. As I discussed in my RPO review, it was just way too overhyped for me vs what it delivered. This one, on the other hand, seemed to come from a more genuine place and fit in better into the story. Also, I love Buffy while dystopias (which I’ve been reading since middle school are starting to really bum me out). Anyway, this isn’t an RPO trash session, let’s get to this book.
Really quickly about my rating in case you’re new to my ratings or forgot – I go by what the mouseover says for each star. 3/5 is “liked it” while 4/5 is “really liked it”. I feel like I’m more in the first camp than the second one. So it’s not a bad book, just about average for me.
While the whole “first slayer” thing in Buffy was kind of neat, I think it eventually suffered from Whedon, et al trying to hard to explain what should have just remained ineffable. Just let this lady be kick-ass because she’s “chosen” somehow and let’s have fun. Geekomancy accomplishes this through the magic system that Underwood has developed. Why does it exist? Who knows! Why is our character special? Doesn’t matter! Instead he just has a magic system that allows him to have good reasons to have random nerd trivia littering the book. It’s also flexible enough to allow an evolving power set for Ree Reyes.
Ree seems to me to be a pretty well written female-bodied geek in her 20s. (‘course, I’m a dude in his 30s…so what do I know? Maybe her behavior, dialogue, etc are horribly silly and unlikely) She seems to have a good amount of conflict about her place in this new world she’s thrust into and what she should do with her powers – reminds me a bit more of Peter Parker’s Spider-Man than Buffy in that respect. But to me it made things more realistic. She isn’t some perfect do-gooder and she wasn’t raised to be a hero. She also has to live in the real world. Again more like Spidey and Buffy than Batman, Superman, or The Fantastic Four – she’s not set for life. The work she does takes a toll on her civilian life and her ability to pay bills, survive, and have friends.
Plot-wise, I don’t know if this is Mr. Underwood’s first book, but if I go by the ads at the back of the book, it’s either his first or second and I think, based on that, his plot is quite mature. While the nature of the narrative does mean there is some plot armor for some characters, every encounter (and the story as a whole) doesn’t tie up everything neatly and perfectly for Ree. There are negatives to everything she does and she ends the book in a relatively realistic place given what happened. There are stakes and I think you feel like some of the side characters are potentially at risk.
Overall, I think you could hand this book to anyone middle school or older. There isn’t any explicit sexual stuff – although there is mention of burlesque shows. And if profanity turns you off or makes it off limits to minors – there’s a fair amount of that – but it’s mostly of the exclamatory type – “(profanity) I hit my toe!”.
I thought about going to the next book and wavered a lot. The reviews seem to mostly be 5/5 or 1/5. And Miss. Robinette-Kowal did the audible version and really enjoyed it. I even put it on my to-read list. But I ended up taking it off. This book was good enough and I enjoyed reading it, but I have SOOOO many books I want to read, including sequels to books I really liked so I removed it.
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