John Joseph Adams (AKA "The Slush God") has written a review of Rangergirl for Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show. You can read
it, and his other reviews, here.
I really like this review. He focuses on one of my favorite things about the book -- the relationship between Lindsay and Marzi -- and the bit about the influence of King's Dark Tower series is probably a fair cop. I read those books starting in fifth grade, so I imprinted pretty deeply on them.
The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl by Tim Pratt
Bantam Spectra, 2005, $12.00
Though The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl is Pratt's first novel, he's an
accomplished short story writer; he's previously published an acclaimed story
collection called Little Gods (titled after his Nebula-nominated story of the same
name), with another--Hart & Boot & Other Stories--in the works. He also works
at Locus, the trade journal of science fiction, and in addition to being a part of the
editorial staff, he regularly writes insightful reviews for the magazine. That sort of
resume builds up some high expectations for a first novel, but Pratt meets those
expectations and then some, delivering a delightful and fun novel--a blend of
contemporary fantasy and pulp fiction Westerns, with a meta-fictional
twist--that's sure to leave readers clamoring for more.
Marzi works as a barista at the Santa Cruz coffee shop Genius Loci to pay the
bills, but her real job is writing and illustrating the cowpunk neo-western comic
book called The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl. But the lines between fiction
and reality start to blur when a strange things start happening--Marzi is attacked
by a mud-woman, and Beej (the Loci's local eccentric) starts spouting prophecy;
this, along with other odd occurrences reminiscent of her comic book have Marzi
wondering if she's having a mental breakdown. It wouldn't be the first time; she'd
dropped out of art school a few years before the events of the novel, and a fragile
mental condition is easier to accept than the fact that the bizarre events Marzi is
witnessing are true. But they are, and as the barrier between worlds crumbles,
Marzi finds that she's a pivotal figure in all of this madness, and she'll have to
face her fears if she's going to save the world from certain destruction.
The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl is just plain cool. And one of the coolest
things about it is how Pratt makes the Genius Loci a character in itself, and makes
the reader wish there were a place just like it in his neighborhood (well, maybe
without all the mud monsters and earthquakes). The paintings of disappeared artist
Garamond Ray which cover the cafe walls are a nice touch that Pratt deftly ties
into the narrative later in the book. One of its other primary virtues are its
characters, which are fully-realized and lifelike; of particular note is the bond
between Marzi and Lindsay, which is not your typical friendship but feels very
true nonetheless. Aside from those noteworthy features, Pratt's prose is tight and
pellucid, making for a fast and enjoyable read.
If there's anything worth complaining about The Strange Adventures of
Rangergirl, it's that throughout the novel we only get to see brief-yet-tantalizing
glimpses of the comic book's world; though the novel's main plotline is engaging
and entertaining, readers may find themselves longing to step through the door in
the Desert Room of the Loci and into the cowpunk world of Rangergirl.
Speaking of stepping through doors, fans of Stephen King's The Dark Tower
sequence won't be able to read Rangergirl without thinking of King's masterpiece,
but while Rangergirl is reminiscent of it in many ways, it's wholly its own novel.
Pratt blends the tropes of contemporary fantasy and the western into his
"cowpunk" mélange with deft skill, and though Rangergirl does not aspire to the
heights and epic scope of King's magnum opus, it delivers a fun and memorable
comic book-inspired adventure.
If you think the book sounds interesting (or you've read and enjoyed the book
already), be sure to check out Pratt's Rangergirl webpage, which includes the full
text of "A Rangergirl Yarn" called "Bluebeard and the White Buffalo."