A debut fantasy about an Illinois grad student who goes to various places that share more than a few similarities with familiar movies and TV shows.
George Preston is a 27-year-old working on his dissertation in the year 2000. One day, he opens his bathroom door and sees a rainy city outside at street level, despite the fact that his apartment is on the third floor. He soon figures out that the rainy day is in the future, but then, after a short while, someone sticks a gun in his face—and George suddenly wakes up somewhere else. In this new place, he meets Dirk Hendricks and J.P. Ryder, characters from the 1990s sci-fi television series Hidden Agendas, who demand to know what he remembers. Soon, George is dodging bullets, and then he wakes up in yet another universe, stealing treasure with Pistol Kramer, a thrill-seeking adventurer from the movies. George moves from universe to universe in different ways, but wherever he goes, he keeps seeing a familiar man, who may be the only one who can explain what’s happening to him. But the mysterious man isn’t exactly forthcoming; sometimes he’s sympathetic to George’s plight, and other times he’s outright antagonistic. George has no option but to traverse assorted universes and hope for a return to his perfectly normal life. This witty story enjoys parodying recognizable films and TV shows; Hidden Agendas, for example, is an obvious play on The X-Files, complete with a “Gum-chewing Man,” and George later finds himself in a role akin to a certain popular, fictional MI6 agent. Deason layers on smart satire, as well, largely through his protagonist’s self-awareness; for example, George recognizes the innate racism of the Indiana Jones–esque Kramer. The myriad worlds are colorful, with each appearing to George as they would onscreen, such as a 1950s sitcom that’s all in black and white. The likable protagonist, meanwhile, ultimately sees the people he meets as more than just characters, sparking an intriguing question: could one of them cross into George’s world? However, the ending, while emphatically resolving the plot, is familiar from other stories and may be too predictable for some readers.
A boisterous, persistently fun adventure story.