Tuesday, December 26, 2023

45 Days of CCS, #26: Steve Thueson

Steve Thueson has been doing irreverent genre fiction for some time now. They started with a fantasy parody in the same spirit as Lewis Trondheim & Joann Sfar's Dungeon with a series called Quest Mania, and that led them to what is new a 2-book series about a reptilian James Bond type named Timothy Dinoman. The second volume, Timothy Dinoman And The Attack Of The Dancing Machines is 50% pure nonsense, 45% rock-solid spy thriller, and 5% queer romance. It's because Thueson respects that 45% spy thriller that the whole thing works, because the action sequences are excellent: well-paced, exciting, and unpredictable. Much like Trondheim and Sfar love fantasy but also enjoyed poking fun at it, so too does Thueson lampoon the excesses of the spy genre while staying entirely within its world-building rules. 

Spy stories are heavy on setting and plot and light on characterization. The protagonist rarely has a motivation beyond stopping the villain, who sets the plot in motion in interesting settings. It's no different here, as Dinoman's origin story isn't even referenced here; the fact that he's an anthropomorphic iguanadon isn't mentioned once. Like James Bond, he's also a bit of a conundrum: a world-famous spy. Hilariously, his disguises always fool the bad guys. The first 37 pages of the book are an extended infiltration and ski shootout sequence between Timothy and a gang of robots. The ski chase is a classic spy thriller trope, and Thueson nails it visually, with fluid and logical action sequences that still have a touch of humor. 

Thueson mixes that with some very light romance with Timothy's work partner Jen and her potential love interest Kris. The book's real plot involves Timothy going undercover as a journalist at the headquarters of a tech bro genius named Ellis Heron. Heron decides to throw a global party where he unveils his robots, to whom he teaches a choreographed dance routine. Jen despises Heron (a former classmate) and all he stands for, but the somewhat naive Timothy enjoys the tech bro's celebrity impressions. 

The rest of the book unfolds as one would expect: Heron has sinister plans involving the robots, and the heroes are in a race against time to find a way to stop them. Thueson has several spectacular action sequences, including one where Timothy barely survives being on a runaway jet plane. There are nice twists that play into the slice-of-life elements introduced early in the book. There's also a little bonus story that's funny on its own in a Scooby-Doo sort of way that also connects to the main narrative. Thueson hits that middle-grade sweet spot with jokes that tweens will understand and appreciate as well as action that will keep their attention. 

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