Samhain Publishing, $6.50, ISBN 1-60504-201-3
Romantic Suspense, 2008
Benne is a demented serial killer indeed. He goes online and wades through fanfiction to find the one person that he feels could relate to his ideals about love and what not. Needless to say, he’s mad. If you have to spend hours reading fanfiction online, your mind would have snapped too some time around that time when you come across the story where everyone on that show was raped simultaneously by some randy tentacle monster.
Lynn Broadmore, however, doesn’t include tentacle monsters in her fanfiction. She writes apparently Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfiction of great quality under the online pseudonym “Hush”, and she also maintains a popular website that features such fanfiction by her as well as by various other contributors. What she isn’t aware of is that she is going to encounter a bigger threat than snotty Hollywood lawyers – Benne has decided to take down a Buffy fanfiction writer next and you have guess as to who the lucky lady is.
Jack Edwards shows up as the new accountant at Lynn’s day job workplace, getting the cubicle next to hers, and he’s actually an FBI agent working undercover to take down the Fan Fiction Killer (snort), even if it means using the unsuspecting Lynn as a bait. Actually, the author sets up the story in such a way that you could easily suspect Jack at first for being the killer – provided you’re not cynical enough to realize that anyone that hot in a romance novel will never be allowed to be the bad guy – but the publicity material and the plot synopsis on the publisher website make it very clear to casual browsers that Jack is the good guy, so it’s not as if I’m spoiling the story here.
I have to hand it to Ms Gilmer – Fantasy Girl is a wish-fulfillment exercise for so many different people at so many levels, it’s actually an impressively amazing piece of work. People who loathe the concept of fanfiction will get a jolt of glee out of the idea that someone out here is taking out those writers one by one in a scene straight out of those fanfiction writers’ very own stories. Homely fanfiction writers who dabble in Mary Sue stories will swoon and enjoy vicariously the possibility that somewhere out there, a handsome hunk like Jack will read through their fanfiction and realize that the author is a very special person that he’d love to shag and, of course, marry. And that, you know, despite how homely everyone calls them, they actually have bodies of supermodels and it is the world that doesn’t appreciate how special they are. So there!
And for those with far less emotional investment in the culture of fanfiction but are familiar with aspects of it nonetheless, Ms Gilmer has provided plenty of amusing playful pokes at that culture to keep them entertained. I also hope that some people out there will take note of how Lynn eventually gets into trouble after being caught writing her stories while at work – as much as fanfiction is serious business to some people on the Web, the employer is rarely as understanding.
Given how unusual and interesting the ideas and concepts in the story are, it is most disappointing, therefore, that I have a hard time getting into this story. The problem is mostly a technical one – I really do not like the way the author mixes Lynn’s first person point of view with the third person point of view in this story. I’m not against the practice on principal, it’s just that in this story the mix of the two is done in a way that I find distracting on the whole. The momentum of the story screeches to a halt every time I encounter such a switch.
It is also a pity that for a story this untypical, the hero is such a typical example of the dark, surly, and macho hero stereotype, the one with a permanent sneer or scowl on his face. I’d think that an undercover fellow will be more charming towards the woman he wants to use in his assignment, but no, Jake is too busy running through the laundry list of stereotypical action hero antics here. Then again, romance heroines tend to love being beaten with the condescending stick by the hero, so maybe Jake is on to something here. After all, being nice towards a romance heroine is a surefire way of ending up as her gay best friend rather than the man of her dreams.
I really want to like Fantasy Girl because of its subject matter but the execution of the story leaves much to be desired. Still, I would recommend that you give this one a look if you are interested in stories set in the fanfiction community, not that there are many of those stories at the moment. This book may not hit the right spots with me, but it is nonetheless interesting, which makes it a little better than other average stories out there.