My much awaited copy of One Con Glory arrived on the same day that I was supposed to be preparing for my daughter’s seventh birthday party. Let me give you some context here. This is my only child. She is a girl so beautiful that I can’t believe she’s real, a kid who can take on five boys at recess during a spirited game of Star Wars and whup them all into submission while wearing pink sparkly tennis shoes that light up. So, when the book arrived in the mail, I did what any good mommy would do and set it aside until the following week, right? HA! AS IF! I sat down and read that sucker cover to cover right away! Well, I did stop long enough to pick the kid up from school. She puts up with a lot of reading – related neglect, but outright abandonment is probably going too far.
Fortunately for the fate of the birthday party, One Con Glory is a quick and easy read. Not only is it easy to read, it’s easy to review, because I can tell immediately who will like it and who won’t. If you know what “Frak” means, you’ll like it. If not, you’ll be completely lost. This is a book about a geek, written by a geek, and published by Nerd Alert Publishers. There’s a geek theme here, is what I’m saying, and if you in fact are a geek it is just loads and loads of fun.
The heroine of One Con Glory is Julie, a shy blogger who likes to avoid relationships and changes in her routine while blogging about comic books and the convention circuit. Her dream is to acquire an action figure of Glory Gilmore, Julie’s comic book hero from the comic book series, “Periodic Seven”. Glory is a little bit like Wonder Woman only, in my opinion, way cooler because she has neater clothes and, and I can’t stress this enough, is not stuck being the frakking secretary for Justice League. Don’t get me wrong, secretaries rule, but jeez. Anyway, Julie’s dreams are thwarted by Jack Camden. Jack Camden is the very pretty star of the TV show loosely based on the comic book series (he plays the male lead, obviously, not Glory, who is played by a Mean Girl). Julie maintains that he is miscast because he is too good-looking and has no soul. When Jack and Julie meet at a convention, he swears that his movie star facade hides the soul of a true geek. Is he as geeky as he claims? Can Julie manage to let her shields down for five minutes? Will she ever get to take home a Glory action figure? Far be it from me to spoil the book, dear readers. Excerpts from Julie’s blog appear between chapters to show us Julie’s inner world and why Glory is such an important part of her life.
I picked this book up because a sci-fi website of which I’m fond recommended it, albeit in the most patronizing way possible. [SB Sarah: Tell me about it.] This surprised me, because some of those people are, and it pains me to say this, big old snobs. Why, why, why can’t sci-fi and romance get along? Why must you pull me between you like parents in mid-custody battle? I see lots of romance fans who also love sci-fi, so where’s the sci-fi fans who also heart romance? Think of all the great sci-fi/fantasy romances out there – Han and Leia, Willow and Tara, Sayid and me (yeah, you heard me, he’s mine). Yet the comments on the sci-fi sites are loaded with, “Our misunderstood and marginalized genre is superior to yours” crap. Not ALL of them, of course, but just enough so that when a sci-fi website says, “Hey, check out this romance novel”, I pay attention. I’m glad I did, because I really enjoyed this book.
The characters felt real to me, and even the ones I didn’t like were fun to watch in action. I liked the witty but realistic dialogue and the vivid setting. I adored Julie’s alter egos, Schmuzie (the one who can do small talk), Drulie (the drunk one) and Schmthulu (if you can’t take at least a stab at that one, the whole book is lost on you anyway). I loved all the little twists and shout-outs and smashed-up stereotypes. Julie is not a gamer! Yay! Julie, call me! We must bond, although your reasoning is flawed! Above all, I enjoyed the way cultural references weren’t just token shout-outs, but were used to show us the character’s worlds and thoughts (I have to thank my sci-fi reviewer for bringing that to my attention, see below for link). And, of course, I loved how the adventures of Glory showed us what was going on with Julie, providing much needed glimpses of back-story and of motivation.
I did have a few problems with this marvelous geekfest of joy. To start with, Julie is a really tough character to like. Frankly, I would have preferred to read about Mitch and Layla, supporting characters who seem much more like geeks I know. Mitch and Layla are quirky, but they are also perfectly capable of healthy social lives, and I’d like to see more portrayals of that in geekdom. But, since we’re stuck with Julie, it’s fortunate that the first-person narration and the Glory threads exist, because these glimpses into her head make the character much more sympathetic. Seriously, if I were just watching Julie’s actions instead of hearing her inner pain, I would smack her. As it is, I promise, I really did care about her by the end of the book. I would have liked more back-story, though, since I never really understood why she is the way she is. The book packs a lot of character development into its 103 pages, but its brevity forces it to remain a little superficial. Reading it is like enjoying a snack-size bag of M&M’s as opposed to a large chunk of chocolate cake. Incidentally, I know some people hate first-person narration, so you have been duly warned. Also, the closest thing we get to explicit sex is in the first chapter (read on for lurid details). So if hot sex is a must for you, this is not the book you’re looking for.
Also, can I just tell you how much I hate the first chapter? Not the intro, in which we learn the fate of Julie’s three previous Glory Action figures. That was great, and made me weep a little tear for my beloved Star Wars action figures that I (brace yourselves) GAVE AWAY in a moment of false maturity. No, the section I loathe is “February 25, 2002”. It’s only a few pages, so just skip it. Here, I’ll sum it up for you: Julie had a pretentious, manipulative boyfriend who moved her action figures just to see if she’ll notice. STEREOTYPE ALERT! Julie noticed during a bout of bad sex and dumped the guy. He ran off with Julie’s latest Glory action figure. End scene. It’s not that the scene is poorly written, it’s just that it’s a remarkably unappealing intro. The sex is icky, both characters are annoying and the whole “geek is obsessed with placement of collectibles” thing is patronizing. Although I have to admit that if someone shuffled my Jennifer Crusie books and my Terry Pratchetts, and they did it just to bug me, I would dump their sorry asses in the middle of sex, too. So maybe I’m just an eensy bit defensive.
In conclusion, read One Con Glory if you are a geek, and you’ll have a blast. I gave this book a B+, but, Sarah Kuhn, I’m watching you! I fully expect your next novel to get an A! Which I hardly ever give out! So, quick, to the batcomputer! Incidentally, dear Bitches, lest you perish of suspense, the birthday party went well. Best gift? My husband made dear daughter two foam practice swords with pink duct tape, thus proving conclusively that he is the Best Feminist Geek Dad in the ‘Verse. And, if you want to visit the review that started it all, it’s on io9.com.