Michael R. Underwood – Geekomancy (2012) | Book Review

There seems to be a new trend in modernist urban fantasy to try to squeeze in as many pop cultural references as humanly possible. Some readers seem to get a kick out of reading a book that uses the word “frak” so that they can think to themselves, “I know that reference.” Not really sure why that is appealing, but these sorts of novels seem to be selling pretty well. Michael R. Underwood‘s Geekomancy is definitely that sort of book.

The primary basis for the world is that there is a large underground group of people who are able to channel nerdy pop culture things into temporary magical powers. Ree is a struggling screenwriter working a crummy day job who is drawn into this world when a crazed man wanders into her store, purchases a copy of Grant Morrison’s Animal Man, and runs away. The next time she sees him, he is battling a troll straight out of classic fantasy, and she becomes one of the lucky ones that is actually able to remember the fantastical things she sees instead of going through a convenient amnesia following any supernatural incidents.

Roughly the first half or so of the book is spent introducing Ree and the reader into the world, as well as filling just about every page with a reference of some kind. Eastwood, the teacher who Ree originally meets buying the classic graphic novel, is an unlikable jerk who teaces Ree how to take power from the geeky things she likes; the stronger the user’s connection is, the better the results. The remainder of the half sets up the basic elements of what will become the actual plot, and breaks it up with so much useless dialogue that if the comedy style isn’t to your liking it is hard not to skip ahead pages at a time.

Once things start to get serious and the first of two significant twists comes, the plot becomes a focus of the novel rather than an afterthought. Ree and Eastwood are essentially trying to stop a chain of cosmically connected suicides, a surprisingly heavy idea considering that the book spends the majority of its time as a fluff piece. At the very least, Ree is an extremely likable character who shines when the plot starts to roll, and Underwood is actually a good writer with solid, believable dialogue and prose that does its job without being distracting.

Although this kind of novel will absolutely not age well, it will be enjoyable for some right now. It lacks any kind of real depth and definitely feels like the candy bar equivalent of urban fantasy, but it is still enjoyable if one is able to adequately suspend his or her disbelief and take the book on face value. Appreciated on its own merits, Geekomancy is an enjoyable romp that is easily forgotten when the last page is read. Comparing it to other works of urban fantasy that have managed to be similar entertaining while also accomplishing more in terms of literary significance is a mistake. Geekomancy can only be enjoyed if you simply go along for the ride and appreciate the nostalgia.

Rating: 3 stars (of 5)

What’s Not to Like About the Old Republic?

It has been about six months now since Star Wars: the Old Republic hit the internet, and it seems to be largely responsible for the huge employment cuts that Blizzard, the creators of World of Warcraft, have had to make. Gamers by the tens of thousand (or more) are moving over from World of Warcraft to The Old Republic, not because Warcraft isn’t any good, but because it has basically been the same for years and many gamers just need a change of scenery.

Being that The Old Republic is set more than three thousand years in continuity before any of the films, casual fans of the series who try The Old Republic may be a bit surprised by what it actually is. The most frequent questions are “Do you meet Luke Skywalker? Where’s R2-D2? Can I be Darth Vader?” This requires further reminding that it is 3,000+ years until any of the stuff you’ve seen on screen happens. Even Yoda is more than two thousand years away from being born, and quite a bit more. This is not going to be a Star Wars world you know outside of some familiar place names (Coruscant, Tatooine, Hoth, etc.) but those who just enjoy the world, the various alien species, and the fun of the never ending back and forth between the Republic and the Empire will enjoy the game.

The mechanics are basically the same as World of Warcraft, with almost no variation. You pick a race (Human, Twi’lek, Zabrak, Cyborg, etc) and a class (Jedi Knight, Trooper, Imperial Agent, Bounty Hunter, etc) and go along a major storyline based on your class that features hundreds of side missions around the way to keep you busy and interested. Aside from the questing, there are long-form group adventures called Flashpoints that usually require a group of four, although earlier instances of these require as few as two players. As far as playing AGAINST other people, there are player versus player battles called warzones that usually involve destroying an enemy base or capturing turrets while annihilating each other in teams of eight versus eight.

The gameplay is fun, the graphics are outstanding, the storylines are almost all stellar, and the game continues to get better as more features are added with each patch. If you have never played World of Warcraft or another MMORPG it may take some getting used to, but if you have, you can pretty capably jump right in and enjoy it from the get go. You might not ever run into Princess Leia needing your help, but as far as science fiction MMORPGs go this is pretty much the only option worth your time. Star Wars fans will enjoy it. If you don’t like Star Wars, you won’t. It is as simple as that.