I received an Advanced Review Copy of The Shootout Solution: Genrenauts Episode 1 by Michael R. Underwood, the author of the Ree Reyes Series, Shield And Crocus, and The Younger Gods. I was not in any other way compensated for this review.
Let’s get something out of the way: I hate and love serialized fiction. Good serialized fiction hurts the worst, and therefore gets my hate more than bad serialized fiction, which I just drop after a certain point (Stephen King’s The Plant comes to mind.) Great serialized fiction, (like Claire Monserrrat Jackson’s Blood Ties series) delivers more story per square inch in a single episode than some bloated fantasy Decalogies in their entire ten novel run.
In that sense, Michael R. Underwood’s Genrenauts feels like a strong start to a great series. Snappy dialogue, twisting plot turns, and efficiently written action scenes combine with a strongly realized protagonist that reminds me of a old friend from my art school days, not a cardboard cut-out of the “strong female character” trope.
Leah Tang, flailing comedian turned improvisor extraordinaire is handed the weirdest opportunity of a lifetime, (and rocket ships, and a six shooter) before she gets tossed into an hilariously exciting adventure that shows sometimes the heroes aren’t the only ones who save the day.
Leah gets a surprising bit of breathing room to show off her personality of a decidedly strange world in this quick introduction to the series. If there is a flaw in the serialized fiction format, it’s that this character development comes at the expense of Leah’s team-mates, a few of whom seem to have just as interesting backstories as Leah. This seems especially true for one of the characters backstory which feels like a last minute inclusion to tick a box, instead of part of who the character is. THANKFULLY Michael R.Underwood has promised me via email that each of the teammates gets their own spotlight in Season 1, while some are even getting more stories in an anthology. (YAY)
The first “episode” contains just enough twists to bend my brain, which makes it compelling fiction, and I read it in a single sitting. Don’t worry, it’s not a short story, it clocks in at just under thirty thousand words, so you definitely get your money’s worth from the experience.
This series episode will be quite enjoyable for fans of Quantum Leap, Jim C. Hines’ Magic Ex Libris series, any of the Buffy Whedonverse, or of course fans of Ree Reyes from Geekomancy and Hexomancy. I loved it, personally—but I’m biased towards the deep pop culture references, the meta-story story, and the hint of worse to come. And that’s why I also hated it. Now I have to wait for the next episode to come out.
The Shootout Solution (Genrenauts Episode One) is available for preorder from this page here and will be available to read on November 17, 2015.