Aside from shovelling back copies of my Calling Spots subscription onto my Kobo, I really needed something breezy to read while soaking up the sun (and a few beers) on holiday last month. So when I stumbled across a geeky love story written from the viewpoints of both its main characters, I thought it would do very nicely.
And it did, quite nicely. Backward Compatible is the story of two college geeks, Kate and George, and their blossoming relationship over a winter break in their small-town home town.
From the minute they lock eyes (and angry words) over the last copy of Fatal Destiny X at the midnight opening, Kate and George float in and out of each other’s lives; she while fending off the advances of rival gamer and blogger Seynar (whose 12 followers await his review of The Hobbit with bated breath….kinda reminds me of writing here), while George hangs out with his friend Lanyon and they while away the hours with ball-punching competitions and video gaming.
They drift from mall to restaurant to movies in a fairly resigned manner, waiting until term starts again so they can go back to being grown-ups…until Fatal Destiny X drags them kicking and screaming into late night sessions and an obsession with winning the ultimate geeky prize.
What I liked about this book was the magnifying glass put over the minutiae of everyday life, and the ever-expanding cast’s attempts to geek things up in order to feel normal, and wanted, and comfortable. My favourite books all contain a completely disparate group of people drawn together by common goals and forming the bonds to achieve them. It’s so cool to see that loosely-defined family come together, just as it was to see George and Kate overcome their own overblown neuroses to…well, I won’t spoil things, but it is pitched as a romance novel so you can connect the dots.
What I didn’t really care for though, in a fair few scenes, was the sheer amount of references to geek culture being dropped casually into conversation. I know it’s exactly how I talk to some of the people I’m closest to, but as material used in a novel it feels like there’s a test on every page just waiting for me to feel inadequate and distant from the characters in case I don’t get it. (The very worst offender here is one of the very final ‘clues’ to the relationship – I’ve just Googled it and I don’t feel as if knowing the reference allows me to say “AH HA! Story complete!” It’s not needed either way.)
For some light holiday reading, Backward Compatible: A Geek Love Story did just the job; with a semi-ambling plot that’s more about getting to know and feel for the characters as it is to root them on. Next time you’re packing a suitcase, pack this onto your e-reader too.