Michael Cobb was a miserable man. Stuck in a dead end journalism job writing articles for a lad’s online magazine, Michael was bitter, angry, and estranged from his girlfriend, Laurie. And it looks like she’s been sleeping with other guys behind her back. Just when he thought things couldn’t get any worse he gets sent for the worst job in his life: a trip to Atlanta for Griffin*Con – were geeks gather. Will Michael be able to salvage any dignity out of this?
Lost at the Con is by Bryan Young, a multi-hyphenate kind of guy, editor of geek news site Big Shiny Robot!, frequent contributor to The Huffington Post, writer of comics published by both Slave Labor Graphics and Image and producer of documentaries – and now he’s trying his hand at writing novels. His short story compilation, Man Against The Future, has been released on the same day, so his entry into the book publishing world really comes with a bang.
Coming in at about 169 pages (on my iPad), Lost At The Con is quite the quick, breezy read. There’s quite a bit of introduction to the con at first, just as we’re seeing things through Cobb’s eyes, but the final third of the novel really flies by as Cobb’s experiences climaxes into a gigantic geek vs others battle – with Cobb having to choose sides. Young’s ability to see a convention through Cobb’s virgin eyes is interesting, considering how big a geek Young is, and on the most part Cobb’s sardonic tone rings true.
However, there are some instances which detract from the story as a whole – Cobb’s haunting by Space Lincoln, while amusing, seemed almost inexplicable for the most part, especially for a man who’d by then figured out that people were in costume. Cobb’s character seemed inconsistent, at times sardonic, bitter and nonchalant, but other times suffering from low self-esteem. Some might see it as all part of a complex man, but to me it felt as if he was borderline schizophrenic and hard to empathize or even follow at times as a narrator. At any rate, Cobb is definitely highly unlikeable, especially for the target market reading this novel – but that also makes his journey a larger, complete circle.
Also, for a trashy online magazine, the articles that Cobb writes seem too serious and too formal – I’d imagine his editor would go crazy rephrasing it, not just choosing smutty photos. What i’d imagine was less Huffington Post and more Maxim, or at the very least, The Reg. Another subtle weakness would be how Cobb suddenly sounds a little more geeky than usual (though he is a lapsed geek), at that point it’s easy to visualize Bryan Young speaking instead, given how Cobb appears to be an alternate reality bizarro version of Young.
I’ve been to SDCC before, and while the events described in this novel are warped by Cobb’s disdain and drunkeness, there definitely is more than enough for it to strike a chord with me – the crowds, the cosplayers, the awkward looking people. Maybe there aren’t quite as many cosplayers at SDCC than at Griffin*Con, but I would think that it would be easy for any uninformed newcomer to be overwhelmed by an explosion of colour the costumes have.
Would I recommend this book? At the price it’s offered at in the electronic iterations it’s inexpensive, seasoned con goers can relive their first experience especially when things got harrowing, and if you’ve never gone to one before – well, experience the wild extremes of a crazy convention in the US, then buy your ticket to one right away! Geeks will enjoy the book, especially spotting the references, but non-geeks might feel as nauseated as a drunk Michael Cobb, never risking a con ever.