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Saturdays in Books

Reviews of speculative fiction, YA, middle grade, and graphic novels, along with stray thoughts, links, and pictures.

Currently reading

The SFWA European Hall of Fame: Sixteen Contemporary Masterpieces of Science Fiction from the Continent
Kathryn Morrow, James K. Morrow
Mr. Real: Code of Shadows: Book 1 (Volume 1) - Carolyn Crane

A manic pixie dream girl uses a magic computer to bring a fictional character to life (wait, what? That doesn't sound right at all. Let's start again).

A peach schnapps drinking super spy is on a mission to save the world by seducing enough women to figure out what his nemesis is up to. Sort of like James Bond, but not above torturing those he fails to seduce, and a lot more directly responsible for their eventual deaths (that sounds even more ridiculous. What's behind door number three?).

A man is drawn to a small Midwestern town where he comes face to face with the demons of his past (oh, that's sounding like something I might read. Especially if he's a vampire. Or a space pirate. Please, please, please be a space pirate) which are a lot harder to defeat than the opponents he faces as an Ultimate Fighting Champion (WHAT THE FUCK?! I'm going back to the first one).

A manic pixie dream girl uses a magic computer to bring a fictional character to life because she's a little drunk and very horny.

Carolyn Crane is a hoot-and-a-half. She takes several silly sounding things and puts them together in a way that is so much fun I’m willing to overlook the many, many flaws. (Except for misspelling WYSIWYG. I would have let that pass as well if she hadn’t defined the acronym in the next sentence.) Plus, listing them would basically be rehashing the review I already wrote for Double Cross. Instead I’ll go with some new things to love.

Her heroine isn’t the sexiest, smartest, strongest, bravest, most bad-ass woman around who somehow has no sense of self worth. She’s actually not very bright. And rather irresponsible. And, well, normal. Sure, she’s got problems, but they don’t seem completely out of whack with who I’m supposed to think she is. She’s sort of like who Penny might be if Big Bang Theory didn’t take place in a universe where women are strictly forbidden from having geeky interests (seriously, ya’ll, they introduced a new character recently IN THE COMIC BOOK STORE and then made sure to have her say that she doesn’t even like comic books – fuck that. And fuck you, guy who recently told me I should be happy because women get to hold doctorates in that show … I could go on at length about this. Best stop now.).

A manic pixie dream girl uses a magic computer to bring a fictional character to life but he isn’t quite on the script she’s expecting.

In Crane’s mad world, a woman can compare her current situation to an episode of Star Trek. A woman can write and illustrate comics. (What kind of crazy, Bizarro World is this? I thought UF heroines only mentioned such things to mock them. The most positive thing I've seen one think in recent memory was that Firefly wasn’t as bad as expected.) A woman can think analytically and understand computer code. And something else great? Each of those is a different woman.

The POV rotates between the three characters, meaning that every so often we get to be in the head of the fictional character where things are really weird. And really fun. A whole book from his perspective would be too campy to finish, but the occasional glimpse is wonderful. The information asymmetry that drives the plot is delightful and there are actually reasons for characters to not share key pieces of information with each other. So the reader gets to enjoy just how much worse the situation is than any of the individual characters imagines, but Crane still throws in a few surprises that none of them could know about.

A manic pixie dream girl uses a magic computer to bring a fictional character to life, what could possibly go wrong?

There are places where this works so well I’m awed. There are places where this works so poorly that I’m embarrassed to have paid for this. There isn’t a genre I’m willing to classify this as. Which is too bad because if I knew what it was I could find more books like it.