Thursday, February 12, 2015

Book Review: The Transformation of Lawrence Croft

What's this?  Two blog posts in one week?  Have I gone mad?!

No - but I am going to ConDFW this weekend!  And to celebrate, I thought I would post the thematically-appropriate first entry in what will hopefully be a weekly feature: book reviews!  (See, all that about me going to read more wasn't just hot air.)

This is one I picked up at the last local con, from an author named Mark Finn, who absolutely floored me at his reading.  Around here, he's Kind of a Big Deal - and that was before we found out this week that he's been tapped to write for Conan. Seriously, seriously check this out.

The Transformation of Lawrence Croft
by Mark Finn

MagicCon is an ordinary fantasy/science fiction convention. Three days of comic books, anime, and X-Files jokes, which is exactly what Larry Croft and his friends D.J. McGuiness, Fred "The Turk" Terkington, and Burt Vaughn, are looking for. Unfortunately for Larry, a long-forgotten Roman god named Stercutus is primed to make a comeback, and this particular god's sphere of influence really stinks. What follows is a picaresque mash-up of Urban Fantasy and Fandom as worlds collide, friendships are forged, and confusion abounds in a city of secret magic and a sub-culture that Wants To Believe.

The first time I interacted with Mark Finn, we were both on a panel at a local sci-fi/fantasy convention. I was saying something about having gotten into fandom back in the heady days of AOL and dial-up modems and Sailor Moon e-zines.  He looked at me with a pained expression, rubbed his forehead, and said "Kid, you're makin' my tumors throb."

I tell you this because you need to understand one vital fact about this book: it could not have been written by anyone but a world-class geek, someone who has lived and loved the con scene for literally decades... and there truly is no school like the old school.

Yes, there are jokes and stereotypes large and small (and like the con-goers Finn pokes fun at, trending towards large.)  Yes, the four main characters are, with one happy exception, socially regressive nerdbros.  But it's comedy of the "King of the Hill" varietal: a loving, exquisite, self-deprecating send-up of the neighborhood, as only a local could write it. (And to be clear, that's a small n – the Neighborhood here is something else entirely).  It's Clerks nerd-banter with Bill and Ted comradery and Galaxy Quest-level misunderstandings. It's absolutely funny, but the humor doesn't come at the expense of heart.

I'm sure if I looked hard enough, I could find some nits to pick.  There are plenty of characters to keep track of, which was right up my alley, but may give some readers a mental CPU spike.  The group of women introduced near the end veer a little close to the Sex and the City school of cattery for my taste (though the fan-snubbing author-celebrity-vampire Jane Callow is an unvarnished delight). And I might wish that the narrative cast its aspersions with a little less omniscience: I'm okay with someone being a sloppy sadsack disaster - delighted, in fact! - but to me it's better when that's just one character's take, rather than the judgment of the universe at large. (Because then we-the-reader can take a page from the Book of the Dude.)

Regardless: it's no exaggeration to say that this is hands-down the most fun book I've read in at LEAST a year, and I will absolutely recommend it to anyone who has ever rules-lawyered their way out of a critical hit, worn their favorite Star Trek shirt a few too many days in a row, or smelled day-three con-funk and lived to tell the tale.  Don't miss this book - and if you're heading to the con this weekend, don't miss Mark either!

Buy at Barnes & NobleAdd to GoodreadsOrder From Amazon

My favorite bit:

"Okay, oh Wizened Sage, who do gamers not like?" said Burt.

"Well, they can't afford to not like anybody, can they?" muttered Turk.

D.J. peered at the ceiling in concentration.  "Oh, I guess if you had to pick someone they didn't like, it would probably be the cosplayers and, uh, maybe the fanfic writers." The metaphor was falling apart, but as an intellectual riddle, it beat watching the hotel television.

"So, basically," said Burt slowly, "what you're saying is, the difference between a geek and a nerd is anyone who eats more paste than you two?"

"Yeah... hey, fuck you, man!"

No comments:

Post a Comment