Shootout Solution is a different take on a core component of Mike’s Ree Reyes series, genre knowledge used as a source of magical power. In the Genrenauts, genres are their own separate world and genre knowledge allows you to navigate those worlds, and fix them when they get off track.
It’s an interesting concept, and Mike definitely has the broad swath of knowledge to pull it off. First up is the Western genre, and there are a lot of little things that pop out to me, and I’m not even really a Western fan. I’m super looking forward to later books in the series where I’m better able to see the sly nods to genre.
This is the first book in the series, so is a bit of an origin tale. Mike starts off by jumping us right into the action in the prologue and then introduces us to our POV character, an Asian comedian, with the first line “Leah Tang was dying on stage.”, which is a heckuva lede. From there we see some classic Tropes such as The Pitch, The Base Reveal, and The Urgent Mission.
While these are classic tropes, the character’s awareness of and interaction with the tropes is new. The Genrenaut’s entire schtick is that they know tropes and this genre awareness allows them to protect and save entire realities. How they interact with Tropes becomes part of the humor and the storyline.
One of the things that I enjoy about Mike’s work is his interest in expanding how we think about genre. Posts such as Sci Fi and Fantasy 101 and Everything is miscellaneous delve into the categorization of sf/f and how we can better utilize that to open the borders of the genre and attract eyes. He furthers those posts by being a strong proponent of making genre more welcoming to diverse viewpoints and diversifying the characters in his stories away from the Strong White Male protagonist that has historically been the norm.
Shootout Solutions is part of the pilot group of Tor.com novellas (Aside: If you’re not reading the Tor.com novellas, you’re missing out) and it’s very close in tone to Matt Wallace’s Envy of Angels (review forthcoming) and both authors have a lot of the same strengths. The humor in Shootout is a little lighter than the more sardonic Envy, but both were great fast reads I thoroughly enjoyed.
Final Verdict: Thoroughly Enjoyed and I have pre-ordered the sequel.
For fans of other genre-based works: Mark Fabi’s Wyrm and Jim Hines Libriomancer series
For other humor-based works: Matt Wallace’s Sin du Jour series and Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld
For other unorthodox takes on fantasy tropes : Myke Cole’s Shadow Ops series (Control Point: Reluctant asshole protag, Fortress Frontier: Epic journey , Breach Zone: Hopeless seige)