Science fiction novel written by J.D. DeLuzio (better known to us Everythingians as the ever-jolly JD) and published in November 2020 by Brain Lag Publishing

This is the story of a convention. Two conventions, actually, both booked into the same Canadian hotel on the same weekend. One con is a very traditional science fiction convention; the other is a weekend-long meeting of the Jane Austen Society.

And because you can't write about conventions without writing about people, this book is about a large-ish group of people attending one or the other con.

There's Telfryn Tyde, a middle-aged geek with a history of mental illness; Brian and Augusta Slesak, married nerds with secrets; Patti Washington and Chelsea Ashe, supergeeks supreme; Thomas and Mark, nerd brothers chasing girls; Denise Moon, frustrated musician; Kate the Athlete, attending a con she doesn't understand solely to chase her love; and Lady Susan Vernon -- or rather, the hardcore roleplayer cosplaying as the minor Jane Austen character.

Oh, and also Azogo of Uirtkauwea'ki, who might be someone wearing a stunningly complex costume... and might not be.

The book starts out a bit confusing, as a lot of characters are dropped on the reader in the space of just a few pages, and some of them are more important than others. But soon enough, all the characters get sorted out, aided by short spotlight chapters that let us get acquainted with everyone quickly.

It actually comes as a shock when the plot suddenly barrels onto the scene. Telfryn gets a couple sudden shocks that unexpectedly re-awaken the mental issues he thought he'd conquered long ago, and a chunk of the rest of the cast is enlisted in one way or another in locating him and helping him get back on a more even keel.

The story wraps up as the cast members make new connections, new friends, new relationships, ponder the nature of conventions, cons, and truths, and pack their cars to return to their normal lives.

Far and away the most fun part of this novel is the characters -- which was a little surprising because there were a few of these folks who I really disliked when they were introduced! Thomas and Mark, the nerdy girl-chasing brothers, were infuriatingly familiar, if you know many young, immature geeks, though they got a lot more bearable as the story went on and as they grew beyond their own stereotypes. And I never got to a point where I liked the Slesaks at all.

(I also harbor some deep dislike for Telfryn's parents for saddling him with that name. Anyone who names their child Telfryn Joncourt Tyde is really just setting their kid up to get beat up for most of their childhood.)

Lady Susan Vernon was also someone I had a hard time liking. All of her spotlight chapters were told through Lady Susan's internal voice, which was entirely in-character as a scheming, shallow, seductive, judgmental, class-obsessed Regency-era woman -- in other words, it's almost exactly as if Lady Susan Vernon were plucked out of Jane Austen's unpublished novel, "Lady Susan," and dropped into a modern sci-fi convention. Eventually, I saw her as someone who was an astonishingly great actress and performer, dedicating her efforts into perfectly playing a role from surface appearance clear down to interior monologue. That may or may not be healthy, but I saw her as a more interesting character nevertheless. 

And I want to emphasize that my dislike of some of the characters was not in any way a bad thing! They were all fully realized and detailed. They felt like real people -- it's just that some of them had personalities I disliked, just like other real people.

The plot itself isn't the most complex one in fiction, but it's well-described, engrossing, even intense. And intensely weird, too, as it's got a large chunk of odd science fiction wrapped clear through the story -- if we can believe our senses, that is.

And outside of the main plot, there are plenty of truly wonderful moments. The impromptu battlebot tournament in the garage. Kate's meeting with the Doctor Who cosplayer. The genuinely moving, even glorious, Anglican evensong performed by Denise for the Janeites (and possibly a visitor from another planet).

This was a slow starter, but still a story I came to enjoy a lot. It's a great book about real people, even if they're technically fictional. Go pick it up, okay?

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