Substitution Method, written by Aaron Rosenberg under the house name Cris Ramsay, is the first entry in the new Eureka novel line. When there are some strange occurrences of swapped items and persons in Eureka, that isn’t really cause for much concern for Sheriff Jack Carter, as strange occurrences are the norm in Eureka, the most extraordinary small town in America. With his daughter now only being with him during her days off from college he’s even kind of worried that being a small town sheriff, even in Eureka, is not what he really wants for his life. But when the swaps get bigger and whole buildings are exchanged, and the area they happen in spreads outside the boundaries of Eureka, he hasn’t much time to ponder his life choices. Tapping all his contacts in and outside Eureka he has his hands full to secure the secrets of Eureka and to stop the swaps.
Writing the first novel in a new tie-in line isn’t the easiest task an author can get, but Aaron Rosenberg was able to provide the reader with an entertaining tale. Granted, he had the benefit that the show has been on air for a few seasons, but even then it is impressive how well he captures the residents of Eureka. There’s no timeframe given, but from the fact that Zoe is already in college, but the changes of early Season Four haven’t happened yet, I assume the novel is set between Seasons Three and Four, and Rosenberg aptly bypasses the problem every author of a tie-in novel released while the show is still on air has: the fact that he or she can’t really change the status quo of the series in general and the characters in particular. Instead of just leaving the characters alone and focussing on the plot, though, he gives Carter a little “midlife-crisis” side plot that can be believably resolved within the confines of one novel and keeps things for the other characters fresh my mixing them up a bit, e.g. having Fargo and Zoe team up to keep the “visitors” to Eureka in check, or have Taggart and Zane swap places.
As can be seen in the little summary above, the main plot starts rather slowly, but gradually accelerates as the swaps get bigger and more widespread. Rosenberg is able to take the reader through this build-up process without losing his/her attention, and while Carter is the focal character of the story he makes sure the reader doesn’t forget and cares about the other characters, too. The plot of swapping people and buildings around isn’t totally new, but Rosenberg adapts and combines it with the Eureka flair in a way that it remains fresh.
As mentioned earlier Rosenberg is very successful in capturing the characters of Eureka, starting from the main player Carter down to the bit players like Vincent. Some of my favourite character-related scenes are those showing the team-up of Fargo and Zoe, which is kind of strange because I have to admit that Zoe isn’t really one of my favourite characters on the show. But here their banter, among other things, really shows just how different childhood must be when you’re a genius and live all your life in a sheltered community like Eureka. Something that I didn’t really realise until I had finished the novel is that Allison takes the backseat in it somewhat: she’s there, but doesn’t really play a big part in it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – she gets more than enough exposure on the show – just odd. And I guess it shows how well the author uses the other characters that it doesn’t really stands out while you’re reading the novel.
Overall, Substitution Method is a more than successful start for the Eureka tie-in line and certainly whets the appetite for more prose stories set in Eureka. If you’re a fan of the show, you should also enjoy this novel.
Substitution Method (by Cris Ramsay) was released by Ace in August 2010.