Sometimes, you find a published story that incorporates major elements of an idea you had once upon a time and you’re disappointed, because now it’s already “taken.” But other times, you stumble across a story that’s very similar to a vague idea you had back in high school and you’re thrilled, because someone has already put all the work into your half-baked idea and you can just sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labors. Genrenauts is definitely the latter for me, and I had a blast reading this collection of novellas.
On the surface, these stories have much in common with another of my favorite series, The Chronicles of St. Mary’s by Jodi Taylor. But rather than historians traveling back in time, the genrenauts visit other worlds to put stories right and prevent cataclysm on our own planet. Through the eyes of new recruit Leah, we’re immediately immersed into the tropes of the Western genre. Over the course of a few months, we also get to tag along to fix a space opera, rom-com, modern police procedural, and epic high fantasy. As someone who literally has a degree in Popular Fiction, I was suitably impressed by Underwood’s extensive knowledge of genre and all of it’s aspects. Also: each story is both a laugh-out-loud good time and includes edge-of-your-seat conflict.
While Leah’s perspective is great for introducing important elements to the readers, every member of the team of genrenauts gets their time to shine. Sometimes I had a hard time adjusting between perspectives and needed a few moments to realign. However, the diversity on the team and in the story worlds themselves was a refreshing embrace of how much of fiction should be, while being delightfully self-aware at the same time.
(Note for readers that has nothing to do with the rating: The hardcopy version of this collection has significant formatting and editing issues in the second novella that made it very difficult to read at times. This clears up dramatically in the third section, so try to stick it through if possible. The story is worth it.)
Currently reading: Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews