Review: “Eureka–Substitution Method” by Cris Ramsay

Title: Substitution Method
Author: Cris Ramsay
Series: Eureka (Media tie-in)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Ace, 2010

Media tie-ins are a tricky business. They aren’t meant to be great literature–they aren’t even really intended to appeal to a wide audience. They cater to the tiny segment of the populace who watched the original source and wants more. If the book is just a rehash of a popular film, there’s usually little point to giving it the time required to read it. On the other hand, there are times that the book transcends the source material and adds something new. Getting inside Anakin’s head in the Revenge Of The Sith novelization? That story almost made sense after that. Almost. With regards to TV series, a tie-in can offer a chance to do something that the time or effects budget of the show wouldn’t normally allow. In such a case, the highest praise you can offer is that it felt like another episode of the series. That was my experience reading Substitution Method. Though that cover image has nothing to do with anything….

Okay, let me get this out of the way: if you haven’t watched Eureka before, you really should. It’s a great sci-fi comedy series. The basic premise is that Einstein and a bunch of his fellow world-changing scientists founded a town after WWII where they would all be in one place to share ideas, resources, and security measures. The result is a town full of super-geniuses who have a habit of letting their projects get out of hand. Jack Carter is the everyman sheriff of this town, and it certainly keeps him on his toes. If he isn’t trying to shut down some girl’s escaped mini-sun science project before it goes supernova and vaporizes the entire hemisphere, it probably means he’s busy trying to undo the consequences of that latest button Fargo couldn’t resist pushing. For obvious reasons, you need a truly frightening security clearance just to know Eureka exists. Which is why it’s especially troubling when people and buildings in Eureka suddenly start being swapped with people and buildings out in the wider Pacific Northwest….

Like I said, this very well captured the feel of the show. All of your favorite characters show up, even a bunch of the background characters we only met for that one episode when their project threatened the existence of life on the planet. The central gimmick of the novel was something suitably beyond the scope of the show’s effects budget without feeling forced or out of place in this universe, and the mini-subplot of Carter questioning his place in Eureka now that Zoe’s in college was something that you’d never get from a show that eschews inner-thought voice-overs. Oh! And in case you care, this is set between seasons three and four.

CONTENT: Pretty consistent with the show, which maintained a PG equivalent throughout its run. Some mild language. The threat of violence or bodily harm, what a kids’ movie might describe as “mild peril” in its rating description. Mild sexual innuendo, but nothing anywhere nearing explicit.

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