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Eureka: Road Less Traveled

July 26, 2011
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Eureka: Road Less Traveled
Based on the Syfy Television Series
Cris Ramsay.
Syfy/Penguin Press 2011
262 Pages $7.99

Ordinarily, I sneer at a book when it’s released with a media tie-in cover, and would prefer to have a cover that doesn’t crow that it’s “Now A Major Motion Picture.” Ordinarily, I disdain movie or media tie-ins. But, I’ve got to admit, I do like well written fanfic. (The trouble is that the Internet is full of really bad, poorly written fic. And the grammar! Eeek!) It doesn’t really make sense that I’m willing to read bad fic in the sheepish corners of the Internet, and have been turning up my nose at novel-length fiction that’s been vetted by editors and licensed. There’s a disconnect there!
The rest of this review probably doesn’t make sense if you haven’t seen much of Eureka, but then again, neither would the book.

I wouldn’t have picked Eureka: Road Less Traveled up on my own. (See above, apologia of book-length fanfic.) A friend of Raphy’s wrote it. Raphy read it, and handed it off to me, assuring me it was a fantastic story.

And, for fans of Eureka the SciFi* TV show, it definitely is a fun read. All the familiar characters get their moment: Carter, Jo, Zane, Allison, Henry, Fargo, and so on. Cris Ramsay manages to be faithful to a lot of the conventions and characterizations the series has set up over its 5 seasons. Carter, the bemused traditional cop somehow saving a town full of science geniuses, time and again.Carter’s charged relationship with his boss, Allison. Bloodthirsty cop Jo and her cocky rebel boyfriend Zane, somehow softening each other’s sharp edges.

Working with ready made characters, and a show’s conventions, gives a writer both more freedom and more constraints. Without actors to wrangle and special effects to budget for, Cris Ramsay has even more freedom to be playful than the already fanciful Eureka allows. There’s a parallel universe wreaking havoc and a lab-engineered thunderstorm, a semi-sentient weather system hatched from an egg. Ghost cars, multiple appearances of characters living out alternate versions of themselves… all of which is much easier to wrangle on the printed page.
Even allowing for a familiarity with the show and the look of Eureka, Cris Ramsay does a great job describing how the action plays out, how characters react. A writer working on a media tie-in has characters already constructed, with their behavior and attitudes fairly well constructed over the course of television shows. And loyal fans, ready to howl in outrage if a writer strays too far from the established canon. So- a writer in this genre has a few ready devices and predictable elements. (Then again, so did Homer, “wine dark sea,” “rosy fingered dawn.”)

It’s interesting, though, to see how Ramsay works in the interior life of the show’s ensemble cast. Shifting perspectives, spending a little time in each major character’s head- you get a better sense of the specific fears and insecurities, regrets. Some of it works pretty close to the border between canon ad cliche, but mostly it rings true… and hitting that combination of originality and accurate mimicry is what makes this work.

*Yeah, I still can’t bring myself to call the channel SyFy. I’m feeling sheepish enough for reading a media tie-in, people. Let’s keep the cringing at myself to a minimum.

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