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NOWHERE ISLAND UNIVERSITY

Ignore the Title

By Billy Higgins Peery, author of A Bad Idea

Jun 16, 2015: Film critic Brian Phillips once said that spy movies are, at their heart, fantasies about tourism. Both feature people travelling to exotic locales, but whereas the spy often seems at home in their exotic surroundings—a spy’s usually supposed to blend in, after all—real tourists find themselves constantly lost. They have to cut through bureaucracy, deal with languages they don’t know, etc.

If that’s true, I’d suggest that Nowhere Island University is a nightmare about boarding school. Though it took me two or three chapters to figure out, it’s definitely a spy tale. The main character, Nathan, is a sharp wisecracking motherfo, who is recruited by a secret organization to infiltrate a boot camp for supervillains.

As you’d probably expect, there’s a lot of tension inherent in the situation, but Nathan still manages to make friends. Everything you’d expect from a boarding school is there, but amped up to eleven, in a terrifying way: a boarding school can often feel isolated, like an island; you might meet people with scary and different views, though probably not many people who want to kill you; and someone’s definitely going to have a creepy giggle that makes you wonder if they’re a psychopathic murderer.

In that way, I think it works pretty well. Occasionally it does feel a bit caricature-y—of course the Southerner is a racist who’s named Richard Forrest Taylor the Third—but most of it works, because spies and superheroes feature in genres that can handle a certain cartoonish sensibility.

In all honesty, I ended up liking the serial a lot more than I expected to. Unlike Tartra, I actually kind of liked Nathan (it probably helps that I’m a college-aged guy who did stand-up and Improv, just like Nathan). I thought the atmosphere of the island was done pretty well, too.

My main complaint would be the title, which, let’s face it: it’s pretty bad. Sounds a little clunky, and it’s got so much going on as to be confusing. It’s a university on an island in the middle of nowhere? What?

A second complaint would be the first two chapters. They’re actually pretty decent writing-wise, but the first one starts without enough context to make me care about the characters, and then the second one gives all the context, but in a weird flashback that feels out of place in the second chapter of a serial.

After that, things get a lot better though. There are some typos, but they’re not too rough. And T4nky is pretty good about fixing them.

It’s for all of these reasons that I give this a solid four stars.

Disclaimer: This was written as part of a review challenge. For more information, read here: http://forums.webfictionguide.com/topic/not-your-normal-review-swap

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