The Geek Shall Inherit the Mirth.
So states the inside flap of E. Archer’s highly unusual, wonderfully unique book, Geek Fantasy Novel.
I have never in my life read anything like this book. Within its 310 Roman-numeral-marked pages, there are wishes being granted by crazy evil aunts, a “Choose your own adventure” section, a talking narrator with a crush on one of the characters, exploding rabbits, and many more things that make this a story unlike any other. And in the middle of it all stands the geek in question, Ralph, who really only wants to install a Wi Fi system in the ancient castle of his British relatives but whose curiosity gets the better of him, and so he finds himself in the middle of a world filled with magic.
Growing up, the biggest rule in Ralph’s life was “No making wishes.” Though he wondered about the craziness of this idea, like a good boy he heeded the strange rule, especially after his parents logically explained that the gruesome demise of most of his ancestors was due to some crazy wish-making. But when a letter comes from his aunt in England requesting his computer prowess, he decides to visit against his parents’ recommendation (for they know what kind of strange sorcery lies in wait for Ralph, but more on that later).
Once in England, he works on setting up a wireless computer network for the old castle his relatives live in, all the while getting to know his three cousins, Cecil, Beatrice, and Daphne. Before long, bizarre things begin to occur, things that Ralph can’t avoid, centering around their long-lost Aunt Chessie, and he is pulled into the middle of a long-time family feud which is dripping with the magic of wish-making.
The core of the plot is Ralph following his cousins throughout their three wishes, which are each an adventure in their own right. I found it very interesting how the wishes chose to interpret the words; for example, Cecil’s wish was to be able to help all the little people, so in his wish he takes upon himself the job of freeing enslaved fairies, which are held captive and used for anything from cooks and servants to doilies and bricks in houses. Each of the wishes has a unique quality like this, leading Ralph and his cousins into crazy, different scenarios as they try to fulfill their wishes and make it back home.
This book took me longer than my usual reading time to finish, and one of the reasons was the time it took me to get used to the narrator. I really couldn’t figure out why the voice of the book was so telly, which is generally a no-no when it comes to writing, but as the story went on, it became more and more obvious that there was an external character describing it all, which was later verified by the characters observing him literally in the rafters above the story. Strange stuff, for sure, but it works. All of the madness between these pages really does go together, and I don’t think the book would be half as good without all these weird little parts.
Even though there are all the oddities, at its heart Geek Fantasy Novel is a well-told story where the characters go on rousing adventures and grow up a little as they learn about what they are truly capable of accomplishing.
This book isn’t a typical YA novel in the traditional sense, so if that is what you want, you might not enjoy it. But if you want something silly, fun and a little different, this is the book for you.
Geek Fantasy Novel released on April 1st, 2011.
[The Lytherus @ BEA series covers reviews of material acquired during Book Expo America, interviews, and guest blog posts. ]