Wounded Genrenaut Mallery is back in action in Episode 3, following her injuries in the opening of episode one, The Shootout Solution - and just in time for a trip to Romance World! On Earth Prime, divorce rates are skyrocketing and people are canceling their dating site subscriptions en masse, which can only mean there's trouble in Rom-Com region. Angstrom King and his crew must fix another broken story by finding and reuniting star-crossed lovers led astray.
I'm not normally a big fan of romantic comedies. I don't hate them, mind you, but rom-coms, and usually comedies in general, frankly, are not typically the genre I turn to when in need of entertainment. I'll watch them now and then, but usually only if there's something really appealing beyond the typical meet-cute stuff. And, if you've been following my reviews for any length of time, you'll probably have noticed that romance is not really my read of choice, either.
But, I knew and expected certain things about Michael R. Underwood's journey to Romance World in advance. For one thing, this is the latest episode in his Genrenauts novella series, so skipping it was not an option. I knew there would be some in-story relevance to this episode, and after only a few prior stories I'm already hooked on these characters and want to see how they operate in as many wide-ranging genre worlds as possible. So, despite Romance not being my typical go-to, I was still keen to check it out simply to get another Genrenauts fix.
Turns out, I kinda loved this story. I loved the way the effects of a broken story in Romance World ripple out toward Earth Prime. I loved the way Underwood plays with typical Rom-Com tropes and uses and subverts those tropes with a sly wink-and-a-nudge to craft his action sequences. There's a certain spy element to this story; it's subtle and not lavishly done, but I really appreciated the minor way the Genrenauts team have to sort of espionage their way into matchmaking this world's repair. And I really liked the way the story world responded to their efforts. It's just all around fun, and a classy little story to boot.
Best of all, though, is the character development. This is really the first episode that we've seen Mallery in action, and she's pretty damn cool, and fun to hang with. We also get plenty of character development for Leah Tang, who has been our window into these worlds since King recruited her in the series opener to fill the void while Mallery recuperated. There's a lot of meat to Leah's role here, from worrying about what Mallery's return means for her place on the team, to her moral compass and willingness to question the methods and motives of her fellow Genrenauts.
As with the previous episodes, the bottom line here is on sheer enjoyability. I found myself glued to my Kindle with this one. It's a quick, breezy read, but one that I was quickly captivated by thanks to the cast and the growth in both character and over-arching plot development. And, as usual with this series, by the time I finished this episode, I found myself hankering for another fix and ready to dive into episode 4.
With the Genrenauts series, Underwood has crafted a wonderfully delightful series of novellas using the episodic structure of a TV show to tell his tale. This makes for a perfect bit of binge-reading, one that reminds of me shows I loved as a kid like Quantum Leap and the early seasons of Sliders. Think of it as Netflix for the mind.
Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the author for review. The Cupid Reconciliation releases on May 31, 2016.
In the meantime, Michael R. Underwood is running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the release of Genrenauts: The Complete Season One Collection. Since I'm a fan of this series, backing his campaign was a no-brainer for me. If you'd enjoyed this review or have read the previous installments, I heartily encourage you to check out his Kickstarter for the omnibus and, if possible, chip in. For only $10 you can get the entire Season One collection in your choice of digital format – as released by Tor, each individual episode has cost $2.99. As a collection of six novella-length episodes, you’re saving about half by becoming a backer. Or you can get the book in print, as well, for a little extra. Money well spent, I think.