The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl
|Genre||Modern Western, Science fiction novel|
|November 29, 2005|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|LC Class||PS3616.R385 S73 2005|
The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl is a 2005 novel by Tim Pratt. This is Pratt's first full-length novel. 'Rangergirl' takes place in present-day but with science fiction and western themes found throughout the story.
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'Rangergirl' focuses on Marzipan "Marzi" McCarty, who is an art major dropout from UC Santa Cruz, who now runs the night shifts at the popular coffeeshop Genius Loci. While she is not serving coffee to the various people of Santa Cruz, she works on a comic book under the same name as the title of the book. In her comic book, Rangergirl takes on a more surreal western environment where there is a rattlesnake sphinx, a scorpion oracle, menacing natives, and the eternally evil Outlaw.
Recently, a college student from the east coast, named Jonathan, had rented the upstairs room located in Genius Loci because he is interested in the murals depicted within the coffee shop. The murals were painted by Garamond Ray, who was an interesting artist but went missing the day of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake; Jonathan is looking into doing his graduate thesis on the works of Garamond and these murals were his last pieces.
Lindsey, Marzi's best friend, is a regular at the coffee shop and made her goal to get Marzi and Jonathan together; Lindsey is not interested since she claims she is "done with boys." She has her interests with Alice, a motorcycle riding lesbian. The three become an outgoing group.
Amongst all of this, strange things begin to unravel. An art student named Beej, who was a coffee shop regular, becomes more dirty and homeless-like, claiming he is to unleash a god. A graduate teacher's assistant named Jane, becomes ambushed by a mudslide and is then transformed into mud being who can morph her body at her will into different shapes; she declares that her mission is to resurrect the earth goddess. Also, Alice, Lindsey's lover, has developed her urge to set things on fire increasingly. However, all of this connects to Genius Loci. Both Beej and Jane make various visits to the coffee shop to unleash a god that, according to them, is held prisoner in there; Alice wants to burn the place to the ground but does not know why. Even Marzi is subject to some strange encounters like her surreal dreams where she is floating over Santa Cruz county and sees all of it destroyed. Plus, her own personal problems becomes apparent again when she is to confront her own fears such as opening any closed door.
Once everything is put into perspective, Marzi realizes there is some kind of presence in the Genius Loci coffee shop; an earthquake god is in the kitchen storage room, which Marzi made a distinctive point for everyone not to open. Since Jonathan was curious about the Garamond Ray murals and he knew there was one more mural located in the storage room, he fulfilled his own curiosity and opened the door to the storage room (with the help of the power of the earthquake god). The earthquake god pulled Jonathan into the unknown realm and the god came into the present reality. Since Marzi became the guardian of the door, the unknown realm took on the appearance of the western world she had created in her comic, and the god became the villainous Outlaw. Once freed, the Outlaw recruited his assistants, Beej, Jane, and Jane's supposed lover, Denis, a graduate student who is to be blamed for her mudslide incident. The Outlaw gives Denis and Beej a project to work on: to create metal door that is reminiscent of the bat wing doors found in saloons in the Wild West. The two do their part and create the door. Meanwhile, Marzi and Lindsey realize that Jonathan is missing and that the Outlaw has been unleashed; they realize they need to go into the unknown realm and figure out how to save Jonathan and destroy the Outlaw.
Upon entering the storage room, the two find themselves in the western setting that Marzi had created. When learning this, Marzi finds out that she can control the surroundings, which means manipulating the weapons they have (like Lindsey firing a gangster-style tommy gun), being knowledgeable about the enemies they encounter (like savage Native Americans who ride car-sized bugs), and many other circumstances. They also encounter Garamond Ray, who managed to capture the Outlaw back in 1989 and put it in this realm, however, Garamond was pulled into it and was not able to get out. While the three talk, it is revealed that the Loma Prieta earthquake was due to Garamond and the god fighting over being imprisoned. Later, the three encounter an oracle, who explains that Marzi must go to its temple and ask one question. After a wild adventure through the world that Mazri created, they find themselves at the oracle's temple. Instead of asking about how to defeat the Outlaw, Marzi asks about how to save Jonathan (who was discovered by being unconscious). The oracle answers, although disappointed because it feels that Marzi should have asked about the Outlaw, and it explains that they must enter Jonathan's soul and revive him from there. Meanwhile, the Outlaw, Beej, Jane, and Denis have created nothing but chaos and havoc throughout Santa Cruz by firebombing parts of the downtown area and the coastal beach areas. Once Marzi and Lindsey free Jonathan, they meet up with Garamond and all of them know their part in terms of destroying the Outlaw. However, the door that the Outlaw demanded Denis and Beej to create was put to use. They went to Genius Loci and placed the door on the outside of the storage room, which then fused into the mural setting (hence the saloon like door). The door would then transport whoever walked through the door into another reality. Marzi, Lindsey, Jonathan, and Garamond walked through the door and found themselves enveloped in Genius Loci, which was dominated by the murals coming to life. Marzi realized that Beej is in control of the surroundings and manages to persuade him to stop the animated murals. They then enter the present reality and confront the Outlaw.
While migrating to the Outlaw, the group encountered Jane, who had become a more monstrous mud being. Before Jane was able to attack, suddenly Alice, Lindsey's lover, came roaring on her motorcycle and blazed Jane with an ultimate amount of fire, which disintegrated her instantly. Marzi was stunned by this, knowing that Alice had left town in order to avoid her pyro urges. Lindsey was an artist as well, and found a way to manipulate reality and therefore summoned the persona of Alice into the situation.
Marzi earlier was thinking of ways of destroying the Outlaw. She realized, at first, that since all of this reality was being maintained by her comic book setting, then she and the Outlaw would have to have some kind of showdown. Usually what happened in the stories, was that if there was no showdown, then local enforcement would imprison the outlaw, but his henchmen would be able to free him out of his cell, which is exactly what happened in this case. While getting closer to the Outlaw, Marzi realized that if she can manipulate this reality she would be able to destroy the Outlaw willingly. However, before she moved in on this action, it dawned on her that if she went outside from what the western reality was providing, that meant that the Outlaw would become something outside of the recent reality. This is something the Outlaw was anticipating. But due to the sudden realization, this altered the Outlaw's powers and Denis (who was already frustrated by the Outlaw) was able to stab him numerous in the torso and the back, killing him as if he was some kind of mortal.
Knowing that the Outlaw was destroyed, Marzi and everyone felt everything would slowly come back to normal. Denis did time in prison, Jane was no more, Beej was in his own world, Jonathan decided to stay in Santa Cruz, Lindsey was pleased to see the return of Alice, and Garamond became a legend to hero with his return to the world.
Tim Pratt had lived in Santa Cruz for a few years and derived much appreciation for the town and, therefore was able to deliver the backdrop for Rangergirl.
Points of Interest
- Genius Loci: inspired from Caffe Pergolesi, a popular coffee shop located behind the downtown area.
- The Red Room: nearby bar that Marzi, Lindesy, and Jonathan attend. This is where Marzi first sees the Outlaw. The bar is a hotspot for college students and the locals.
- Neptune's Kingdom: in Marzi's dream, she encounters the oracle at this location. It is found at the Boardwalk.
- UC Santa Cruz: many of the character are students there; the Outlaw has Beej and Denis construct the special door at one of the art studios.
- Downtown Clock Tower: the Outlaw recognizes this being the only structure that survived the 1989 earthquake and therefore made it his first thing to destroy. The clock can be found one of the ends of the main downtown strip, where Pacific Ave meets with Mission St.
The story of Rangergirl has a science fiction theme to it, the book also has elements of fantasy and roots of mythology in it as well. The idea of gods that are not currently being worshipped but still exist in modern-day society is an idea that has almost become its own genre. Writers like Neil Gaiman greatly explored this concept. The western setup is something of great use. The book was described as cowpunk, which usually is referred to a style of music, but at the same time, gives the same kind of edge that this story holds. The character, Rangergirl, holds traits found with modern westerns, that the protagonist is almost an anti-hero. Plus, the fantasy western structure is reminiscent of other stories such as Jonah Hex, Brisco County, Jr., and Stephen King's The Dark Tower series.