Geekomancy has many, many problems, including an extremely superficial world-view reference set and stereotypical characters (which largely come courtesy of the male gaze). By far the most serious offense is its emotional center and core plot concept: a string of teen suicides is occurring and no one knows they are connected. Using teen suicides as the foundation for a glossy, bubble-gum, pop-culture laden urban fantasy negates the seriousness of suicide, the third leading cause of death for youth from 10 to 17, and in the top ten causes of death for everyone over 10 (http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention…). Some authors could use this to create an interesting, thoughtful look at pathos, emotional maturity, and responsibility to people we don’t know. Underwood is not one of them.
Carly and I undertook this as a type of challenge-read. Check out her review for a thoughtful analysis of the references and character. I was stuck on my review, until I read this quote as part of research for Leviathan Wakes:
“Connie Willis told Daniel something once in relation to a different project. She said that in a romantic comedy, you could make fun of everything except the love the two main characters have for each other. Once you start making fun of that, you’ve gutted the story.” (From Scalzi’s Blog.)
Corey went on to discuss authorial “preemptive irony” as taking the position of “Fluffy Bunny” irony, we’re-all-in-on-the-joke or in excessive “Solemnity,” the idea that everything is very serious and “ripe with scientific accuracy and allegorical and psychological meaning.” Geekomancy clearly takes the “Fluffy Bunny” school of storytelling, inviting the reader to be in on the numerous jokes and references, many of which are put there strictly so the audience can feel in the know, and not because they have meaning for the character or story (the Dungeons and Dragons type character stats are a prime example of this).
“But,” I can hear naysayers cry, “but she has angst and reconsiders her involvement at the first suicide scene! But, but she [SPOILER] tries to talk her bosses’ kid out of it in a very emotional speech. [END SPOILER]” No, no; not good enough. No, it doesn’t precisely make fun of suicides, but it does treat them lightly and with moral ambiguity. How lightly? At the first scene she “investigates” she says to herself:
“Note to self: Better passwords so that people can’t snoop through my life when I die.”
“Fuck, this place is depressing. She promised herself a solid evening of goofing off once this was done, which would have to come at some imagined future after laundry, cooking, cleaning and paying bills.”
“Perhaps another pie was in order. Pumpkin. No, maybe apple. Bit by bit, she shook off the feeling of the Moorelys’ house.”
I didn’t notice it much at the time, but I had wondered why I had so much trouble emotionally connecting to Ree. Now that I re-read, I’m pretty certain I know why.
As I mentioned earlier, the emotional juxtaposition between fantasy and reality in dealing with emotional despair/death could be done well (Inspector Glotka the torturer from The Blade Itself comes to mind) but Geekomancy lacks the gravitas to pull it off. I can’t honestly recommend it, and I’d especially avoid it if it’s a trigger issue.