This is my life, Leah thought . . . My amazing, confusing, totally screwed-up life.
Just as Leah is getting to the point that she's starting to feel comfortable, maybe even a little confident, in her new job -- her new life -- things get shook up a little. Mallery, the member of the team whose injury led to Leah's recruitment, is back from her convalescence. That alone will change the team dynamic in the field, and maybe even effect Leah's standing in the team. The fact that they're headed to Romantic-Comedy world, Mallery's specialty, doesn't help Leah's spirits (particularly because she'd like that to be her specialty, too).
Speaking of the various worlds, I don't know if we'd ever been given insight into how life in a Genre World would start to change a person after awhile. Or if we were, it wasn't explained the way it was here. That was just a cool touch.
While Leah continues to be our point-of-view character, our entry into this world, this is really Mallery's book. The rest of the team are there, and contribute but the major non-Leah narrative weight is all carried by Mallery. Which I'm fine with, she seems to be a fun character (maybe a little hard to take in real life, but that could just be her nerves about getting into the field/dealing with a probie) and we need to get to know her, but she's a force of nature.
Mallery beamed, which Leah was realizing was pretty close to the woman's resting face. Some women had resting bitch face, but Mallery glowed. It was impressive. A little annoying, but impressive.
There was something in the "Coming Next" page in the last episode that made me worry about the relationship between these two not getting off on the right foot -- thankfully, it seemed to get off on a decent (if not the right) foot -- but nothing's perfect. The two characters are going to have to fumble a bit to get a strong working relationship.
Don't get me wrong -- King, Roman, and Shirin all had their moments and made their presence felt -- but they were bit players in this one. I did appreciate getting to see Roman's softer side on display, he's a deeper thinker than you might take him for and his efforts to help the "male lead," were borderline sweet.
Straightaway when they get to the world, they come up with a strong candidate for the couple causing the breach -- and the team is wrong, they have to work harder than the last two times to find where the problem is. I appreciated that move -- and didn't realize until then how smooth that step had gone in the previous adventures.
Maybe it's because this particular world so closely resembles our own, but Leah got a bit of insight into how the Genrenauts' activities might seem to one of the people from that world -- and it's not that pretty. The Genrenauts violate the Prime Directive more than Kirk ever did (to put it in genre-terms). And Leah's not so sure that their particular brand of meddling is all that ethical. And I have to admit, she may have a point. Mallery shuts down that kind of thinking/talk -- at least until they're safely back home. I trust that Leah's doubts and questions will be all dealt with in a way that's honest in the near future. Regardless, Leah's ethical qualms add a good dimension to things.
I enjoyed seeing this world through Genrenaut eyes -- the availability of fantastic (and cheap) apartments with amazing views, how easy it is to get a cab, the fact that there's a romantic scene seemingly everywhere in the background -- happy couples everywhere.
. . . Leah walked up to a double-wide window facing the park. The leaves were changing, making for a sea of rich oranges and yellows beside a crystal-clear lake. The view was postcard-perfect. And as a cherry on top, there was a couple rowing a boat in the lake, one carrying a parasol. And Leah could even make out a picnic basket. The energy of the place was contagious. Western world was cheesy and scary. Science Fiction was cheesy and a bit confusing. Rom-Com world was cheesy and delightful.
There's sort of a happy ending montage at the end (or the narrative equivalent of one, anyway) that was just perfect. Once I realized what exactly Underwood was up to there, I couldn't help grinning. I know it's part of the series premise for him to play with, celebrate, comment on genre tropes, clichés, conventions and so on -- but sometimes what he does seems to capture the essence of the particular genre in a way that just feels like he did it better than usual. This is one of those times.
If you've been reading this series already, you're going to really enjoy this. If you haven't started -- go back to Episode 1 and start fresh, you won't be sorry. Underwood has a good thing going here, and it's just getting better. Fun, yet thoughtful; action-packed, but pretty restrained in use of force. A great balancing act that should inspire more to do this.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the author as part of his promotion of the Season One Kickstarter.