Jul 27, 2014

[Books] It's All Geek To Me

Riptide Publishing appears to be one of the more prevalent LGBT-focused publishing houses that also generously utilizes NetGalley as a way to get their books out in the hands of more reviewers. More of then than not when I try searching for LGBT titles to review on the site, I find myself selecting books that turn out to be from Riptide, even without knowing about the connection beforehand.

But to be fair, they're only consistent in how they're not quite the greatest books in the world. I suppose you could say that it seems that Riptide's goal appears to be providing the kind of trashy novels that we've long seen targeted for women and sold on drug store shelves everywhere. I've experienced this relative level of quality in the Riptide books that I've read thus far and so when I "picked up" It's All Geek To Me, I generally knew what I was getting into.

Still, I kinda hoped that things would be better than the ones before. Plus the book was trying to capture the geek market, so maybe there was a true geek somehow involved in the writing, right? Or so I hoped.

And while the results weren't enough to salvage my opinion of Riptide's romance offerings, it was decently entertaining for a time.

Synopsis: It's All Geek to Me is an LGBT romance novel written by JL Merrow for Riptide Publishing. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion of the work.

Jez's best friend, Tel, has gotten into a bit of an accident and is now waylaid in a hospital while he recovers. But the true tragedy is the loss of a particular comic book that had been dear to him and he begs Jez to go to the local comic book store and get him a replacement copy. There's nothing geeky about Jez and so this feels like going into alien territory, but for his friend he makes the trip.

But what Jez wasn't expecting was to become infatuated with Rhys, the comic book store shop clerk. As described on the back cover, he's the poster boy for hot geeks - tall, gorgeous and generally cool. But Jez's not being a geek becomes a concern to Jez and so he then figures that if he's going to have any chance with Rhys, he'll need to geek up. And so he begs Tel to train him in the ways of all things geeky in order to sound like he knows what he's talking about in future encounters with Rhys. And so the story begins.

As is sadly typical of the genre, the book's core premise is based around deception. In most books it would have been the geek trying to be all "cool" in a traditional sense. So the only change really was reversing the roles and having the "normal" guy to try and be a geek. And I'll admit that I'll always be personally against the need to lie to this extent just to get another guy interested - it's always a recipe for disaster.

To be fair, Merrow has a nice mastery of conveying conversation in an honest, believable way. Things felt nicely natural in this regard and I appreciated that aspect of things since typically dialog can often become the most challenging part of good writing. And a lot of this little romance depends on the conversation being logical.

Part of me kind of wished that the setting had utilized actual geek franchises as opposed to creating fictional ones. I can understand the decision to use a fake comic book as the core plot device in order to avoid any traps of making errors, but in terms of everything else in the background I don't think it had to be made-up stuff. Perhaps if everything else in the shop had been clever parodies of existing licenses, then that might have been interesting, but in the end it was all so much background noise.

As expected, the initially negative premise of deceit led to a less than satisfying end result. And the "twist" at the end of things was probably the worst possible way to end the story. I wasn't quite expecting it, yes, but then I wasn't happy with that direction. Given a book of this nature was naturally going to interest other gay geeks who are into this sort of fiction, going down this road was sorely disappointing from the geek perspective.

It's All Geek to Me ended up feeling like an LGBT romance novella that was written  by a non-geek and thus didn't know how to support the fandom world in a positive way. It's a sorely fluff piece, but one that perhaps inadvertently sends a very negative message. So it only really gets 2.5 supposed geek lessons out of a possible 5.

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