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Geekomancy by Michael R Underwood
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Geekomancy (edition 2012)

by Michael R Underwood

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10914111,760 (3.41)7
Member:MyBookishWays
Title:Geekomancy
Authors:Michael R Underwood
Info:Pocket Star (2012), Kindle Edition, 284 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
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Geekomancy by Michael R. Underwood

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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
There was something that was just a little too cheesy for me in this one. I had high hopes, but it just didn't hold my attention. Had to let it go. Don't know if I'll ever pick this one up again, but I guess it's not out of the realm of possibility. ( )
  JennyJen | Aug 14, 2014 |
Not bad. Lots of action, plenty of nods to geekdom.

Complete review forthcoming at SporadicReviews.com
( )
  kevbayer | Jun 20, 2014 |
This one is a fun romp through an adventure of a 20-something, filled with magic, mystery, and a large dose of all things geek. ( )
  lgildersleeve | Feb 6, 2014 |
~2.5
I recently had a conversation with a non-native-speaker in which I tried to explain that American phrases are not the sum of their parts, and, in particular, that (a) telling a woman that she "really gets around" does not imply admiration of world travel, and (b) to "put out" doesn't mean "put" plus "out." He complained that speaking with Americans was extremely difficult: they speak fast, use colloquialisms, try to turn every remark into a joke based on some obscure reference or other, and are constantly waiting to throw in The Dreaded Pun. He said he found that the best policy was to smile, nod, and hope that the inexplicable laughter wasn't directed at him. After reading this book, I have gained a new sympathy for his point of view.

Pop culture reference books are always tricky. Gratifying the expectations of those "in the know" while still providing sufficient background for the plebes without explaining--and thereby killing--the joke seems to be about as easy as a drunkard's walk on a tightrope. The best approach I've seen is to keep a clueless character on hand to ask for translations when necessary; for example, in the horror-conventionized Proven Guilty has one guy make all the movie cracks while the others look on in incomprehension. This book, however, is more like Ready Player One: the pop culture is so deeply embedded that ignorant readers are basically just shoved out of the airlock. In this case, even with frequent wikisearches, my bewilderment extended past the pop culture references to incorporate practically the entire plot. Before reading this, I thought I could claim some geek cred. I've seen Princess Bride and Firefly, can spot a Funny Walk at fifty yards, can quote large chunks of LotR (I blame my parents, who nearly named me Eowyn), knew LeVar Burton as Geordie before I saw him on Reading Rainbow (parents again), got started in fanart by trading sketches of Pokemon for cards, and devoured over 100 UF books. Even so, I must have failed out of geekdom without realising it.

So, for the rest of this review, assume that I failed my GSL's and missed every reference and every hilarious joke. Better yet, let's just assume that I have no sense of humour. If you understand geekspeak, move along; this is not the review you're looking for.

The basic plot is rife with potential. Rhiannon "Ree" Reyes is an up-and-coming screenwriter (i.e., currently a barista.) While trying to distract herself from a recent breakup with an insufficiently geeky boyfriend, she encounters a mysterious, lightsaber-wielding, comic-destroying maniac who leads her into a world where artefacts of geekdom are powerful magic weapons. Unfortunately, that's also about the point where the plot peters out for me. I'm a mystery reader by disposition, and this is a world and plot that you just cannot think too hard about or the epic logic fail will bog you down. I read the book on kindle, and I think there were five to ten invasive pop culture references on each tiny kindle page. So that you can judge readability/laughability for yourself, here are some quotes (under the spoilertag): hover for spoiler. Since the narration describes the action in terms of these references, it became increasingly difficult to figure out what was happening without constant trips to Google.

I might still have been able to enjoy the ride if the characters, humour, or worldbuilding had buoyed me along. They didn't. I vaguely liked most of the characters that Ree ran into, from her boss Bryan to her female friends. Ree herself was more problematic. Each of Ree's memories is given in the context of the boyfriend of the moment; she can't think of AP Chem without dwelling on the shoulders of her crush of that time; she can't think of movies without obsessing on Jo the Libertarian; she can't hang out with a guy for an hour before she starts thinking possessively and has to remind herself, "Don't get ahead of yourself, now. Thou shall not trampage, okay?" Apparently the only time her life wasn't bracketed and defined by her current boyfriend was the stereotypical geek girl "phase" in college (ye gods) when she "spent two years dating girls to tragically drama-ridden results." The most entertaining fails were when Ree was written as a pair of walking breasts; e.g. when "Ree dug her toes in to stop herself before running into Eastwood's hand breast-first." (If I were walking in the dark, I'd be worried about my hands, shoulders, or chin.) I loved that Ree was quite badass and never played damsel in distress, but I think Underwood just tried too hard to Think Girl. To be fair, it's not just Ree; the whole book centres on these shallow romantic relationships, as if the only thing that matters is lurve.

In terms of story, I'd call this a grade-A Idiot Plot, and most of the worldbuilding is sketchy and depends almost entirely on allusions to geekdom. More problematically, much of the conflict of the plot involved issues that I don't tend to pair with humour. Don't get me wrong; I'm addicted to Mood Whiplash and the way that (gallows-humour) comedy, when interleaved with tragedy, exponentially heightens the impact of both. However, for me, Geekomancy remained a superficial farce, so I did not appreciate the introduction of "suspense" via teen suicide. My major issue is, as Carol points out in her review, that Underwood himself handles these tragedies carelessly. hover for spoiler There were plenty of cute moments--for example, when Ree started telling herself her story in "Choose Your Own Adventure" terms--but they didn't make up for the rest.

Rather like my acquaintance's experiences in conversing with Americans, many of the individual words made sense; it was just the meaning of the entirety that was a bit of a muddle. If you're not up on the wonderful world of Geek and want a book in which the power of story and belief and routine imbue the world with magic, then I suggest trying A Madness of Angels instead, where the protagonist conjures with housecleaner brands and wards with a London Underground oyster card. If, on the other hand, you speak Geek, give it a try. You may be pleasantly surprised to finally find a book that gets your language. ( )
  page.fault | Sep 21, 2013 |
In my top three of the best books of 2012.

Have you ever have epic brain fart where you were absolutely sure you posted a book review months ago and then you discover, much to your embarrassment, that you didn’t? I guess it works out that I’ve got a new blog now to post it on.

So, maybe that makes up for it a little? Maybe? *sheepish grin*

On with the review!

Geekomancy has succeed where many urban fantasies have failed miserably. It surprised me. Not a small feat when I’ve been reading in this genre for over two decades, and was all but done with the recycled ideas. Honestly, there are only so many blood you can get out of a turnip of a genre that is based on recycling old, sometimes tired tropes from other genres. Yet Underwood came up with an original idea I had never seen before, and he won my heart with his leading lady.

Despite the title, premise and overwhelming amount of geek culture references this book never once jumps the shark into ridiculous. If anything once the layers are peeled back readers will find a very real, relatable human story. It has depth, a compelling plot and vibrant characters who defy the very conventions and tropes that inspired them.

Before I wax poetic about how this story wooed my pants off, let’s talk about how it went a long way toward redeeming the urban fantasy genre for this very jaded fan.

Let’s hear it for a female leads who are complex human beings!

In a sea of one-liner dropping, two dimensional approximations of female empowerment that too many authors in this genre have been trying to pass off as women for decades, a real, complex female lead is a rare find. Not for a lack of looking. I’ve been searching like a one-woman archaeological expedition pickaxe and shovel in hand, digging through this genre for decades trying to find one and have come up empty handed more often than not.

Ree is funny, flawed, relatable and best of all authentically geeky. It never feels forced or affect. She isn’t just a pretty girl in glasses regurgitating famous lines from Star Wars and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In fact, everything about Ree is real and natural. Underwood never has to tell us she is strong, because the story itself runs her through the ringer and she comes through with banners flying.

Geekomancy is a heroes journey with a woman (finally) front and center. Ree faces all the challenges, terror and trials befitting classic heroes, but never once did I feel the story was tailored to her gender. No dumbing down (in fact, quite the opposite for the non-geeky reader), no emphasis on her hair, clothes or makeup. In fact, I’m not even sure she wears any make up, because I was too busy falling in love with her personality.

Despite the strange world and circumstances she’s plunged into Ree handles every situations with a very believeable grain of salt. She’s rational, intelligent and sarcastic as hell. Though, her sarcasm and snarky comments never come off as flippant, but rather as a realistic coping mechanism we all might use when faced with the frightening reality that Trolls or Demons are real. Plus her jokes are actually funny. I laughed out loud more than once.

Sweet baby Jebus, Ree is the kind of heroine I’ve dreamed of reading about. One who I could show to my fourteen year old, extremely geeky, female cousins and say “Look, she’s just like you and she’s a hero, not the hero’s girlfriend.”

All right, I set down my fangirl pom poms for two seconds to actually talk about the story, because it is fantastic.

Underwood created a reality that is just slightly to the left of the one we know. A world where every tiny scrap of geek culture has real tangible power and can be used as weapons in a shadowy war happening right under our noses. There is no nerdy stone left unturned in this story. I went dizzy from listing the movies, tv shows, games, and various other geeky pursuits that were referenced in this novel. Some were even new to me.

Despite all this nerdtastic name dropping, we never get pulled out of the story. Quite the contrary actually. With each new reference the magic of this world unfurls a little more, giving it depth and heart. It’s the kind of world dreamed about as a kid. Where a Magic: The Gather card can save your life. Where you can download the skills of your favorite characters just by watching a few scenes of a movie. Where a true believer could actually become a Jedi knight, and even a nerdy barista can become a hero.

I was very surprised by how deeply this book affected me. It is after all a fun, fictional adventure and wonderful tribute to geek culture, but more than that it is a very real story of a woman coming into her own power. I think that is something that I’ve been yearning to read from the moment I first learned how to read.

I would recommend this book to fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (or anything by Joss Whedon really), Doctor Who, The Dresden Files, and strong female leads.
( )
  EinfachMich | Sep 21, 2013 |
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