One for the money, two for the show, three to the genre worlds, four to…….wait a minute.
Before I begin, those of you who have been around this blog for a while, know my review policy. For those of you who don’t, or who haven’t been around long enough, the short and sweet is; I will never give a book or movie five stars. It defeats the purpose of a review. How annoying is it to go into Amazon and see a five star review consisting of OH MY GOD THIS THING IS AWESOME (insert your own choice of spelling here). Conversely, one star reviews amount to the same thing. So, my rating system ranges from 1.5 to 4.5 with 4.5 being the highest I will ever give something.
And now you know.
Pilots are hard. They’re the thing which will get people interested or leave them uninspired. I won’t say make or break because it takes at least three episodes for me to decide if I want to keep going with something.
That being said, Genrenauts: The Shootout Solution was not too shabby for a pilot episode. Michael Underwood is a talented writer. Not many people can take a concept like Genrenauts and bring it to fruition.
Leah Tang just died on stage. Well, not literally. Not yet.
Leah’s stand-up career isn’t going well. But she understands the power of fiction, and when she’s offered employment with the mysterious Genrenauts Foundation, she soon discovers that literally dying on stage is a hazard of the job!
Her first assignment takes her to a Western world. When a cowboy tale slips off its rails, and the outlaws start to win, it’s up to Leah – and the Genrenauts team – to nudge the story back on track and prevent a catastrophe on Earth.
But the story’s hero isn’t interested in winning, and the safety of Earth hangs in the balance…
I came to this series with mixed excitement and trepidation. Genrenauts sounded a really cool idea, but I’ve been burned by cool sounding ideas before. Happily, I was not disappointed. Genrenauts is a fun story with a strong backbone. The characters are well defined and are interesting. As I’ve said, the concept is enjoyable; different worlds all based on story genres. When something goes wrong in the story, there are repercussions felt on earth. I find myself hoping, as the series goes on, the rifts in the genre worlds get bigger and bigger with potentially cataclysmic results for the rest of us poor saps ignorant of the world’s existences.
The framework is familiar, and has a Leverage or even 24 feel, where there is a secret organization funded by shadowy people who may or may not be shady who gathers a team to go out and save the world from a threat to home, hearth, and internet cat videos everywhere. The characters themselves could be plucked from action/adventure/thriller television serials and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. Genrenauts is the fun kind of brain candy you go to favorite television series for. They’re familiar and ridiculously enjoyable.
There are a few things I picked up on whilst reading, however. The quickness by which I was thumbing through the pages was a bit of a bummer. I would have liked to stay in the story a bit longer, gotten more of an immersion in the Western World. Ultimately, of course, this is a novella so it is going to be a quick read, but throughout I found I really wanted to see more of the genre (tropes and all) come to life. There’s so much Michael Underwood can do with these genre worlds, so much he can expand on and poke fun at, it was a shame the Western World wasn’t built up before the story ended.
Michael Underwood has a knack for inclusive characters and pop culture references. It’s refreshing to see an author write strong characters from every walk of life and have no problems with sticking them into a story. There isn’t that sense of ‘token-ism’ or self-consciousness found when many authors try to write out of their comfort zone. In Genrenauts, the characters are fun and well done. Characters are at their best when you can feel right along with them. Leah’s ‘death on stage’ was painful to read. I winced throughout. Bad is an understatement. If I have any criticism, it’s the pop culture references seemed forced at times, the dialogue stilted and trying too hard when it didn’t need to.
Genrenauts is a great story. A fun, quick read when you find yourself with a moment and a need to pass the time. If it were a television show, I’d be tuning in every week to see which world came next and what happened in it. As it is, I’ll have to wait for the next book to get my fix. Something I’m more than happy to do.
Genrenauts: The Shootout Solution is available where books and ebooks are sold.