Review of ‘Attack The Geek’ by Michael R Underwood

Attack the Geek is the third story in the Geekomancy series by Urban Fantasy author Michael R Underwood, and serves as a novella interlude rather than a full length novel. Absolutely rife with pop culture references running the gamut of nerd and geek culture, this fast-paced instalment is the single-session dungeon crawl to the other books’ longer running campaigns. While I feel like Attack the Geek has been hoist by its own pop-culture petard, that didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying the absurdity of nostalgia powered magic.

A side quest novella in the bestselling Geekomancy urban fantasy series—when D&D style adventures go from the tabletop to real life, look out!

Ree Reyes, urban fantasy heroine of Geekomancy, is working her regular barista/drink-slinger shift at Grognard’s when it all goes wrong. Everything.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a geek. I’m a nerd. I’m a dork. I may even occasionally be a dweeb. As culture-specific books go, this is right up my alley. The attack run to my Death Star if you will. I feel fairly confident that I got nearly every single reference in this book, and probably more of them than most people would. That said, when you have more references than you have pages, and more references than you have lines of dialogue, things are getting a little out of hand. This is where the book would have said ‘out of hand like tribbles’ or something. There are nerd culture references literally everywhere in this book. Underwood seems to have set out with the goal of referencing as many things as possible first, and actually writing a compelling story second.

In the same way that a lot of crap gets ticket sales because it hits that nostalgia button on people who don’t know better yet, this shotgun approach to references is going to make it so you get at least some of the nods and callbacks and callouts and references, which might be enough to keep you going in the book. However, the problem with pop culture references is that they only work while the culture is actually popular. I very honestly feel that this book will be utterly incomprehensible to anybody in ten years. There was a Homestarrunner reference for goodness sakes. And not even a direct reference! An indirect oblique reference requiring you to not only know Homestar, but to know the Teen Girl Squad, and a particular (arrow’d!) reference therein. If none of that rang any bells, don’t worry, it’s old. I’m old. And in a few more years (more so with every passing moment) this book will be old.

The story itself is, lets say ‘not bad’ but it loses out on any chance to be good under the sheer weight of the references. I read another review of this book which raises the distinction that so much effort was made to make this a GEEK book, that not enough effort was made to make it a geek BOOK, and that is very true.

One thing is very clear though: Michael R Underwood is either as much of a geek as I am, or he has some very geeky researchers, because the depth and breadth of the references in this book was actually quite impressive. It may have read more like John Cleese in the Cheese Shop for Geeks than an actual story, but don’t let that detract from the impressiveness of shoehorning four or five references per page, every page, into a story that actually has characters and a storyline.

What I would really like in a book is the same concept for a magic system, but toned down a little on the references. Maybe the full-length novels, starting with Geekomancy do this, but unfortunately I’m not sure I want to try just in case. This felt like a natural extension of the general book-based magic system of Jim C Hines’ Libriomancer, which would be a good choice to check out for an Urban Fantasy with a slightly nerdy magic system only without the constant need to generate nerd cred by references as Attack the Geek has.

If you consider yourself to be a nerd of the higher orders, this is a great book to test the actual breadth of your knowledge. I think this book would better serve the purpose of having your fellow nerds read it and count how many references they got to compare with each other than anything else. Definitely do NOT read this book if you are not up on a lot of nerd culture, as you will just be confused all the time, or else gloss over the references, and be left with maybe 20 pages of text.

Dan received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Pocket Star via NetGalley

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Author: Dan Ruffolo

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