Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams




Book Review: Tune in Tomorrow, by Randee Dawn

Tune in Tomorrow
Randee Dawn
Paperback / Ebook
ISBN: 978-1786186300
Solaris, August 2022, 464 pages

Greetings, everyone, and I hope you all know what time it is—that’s right, time for another book review! This month we’ll be looking at a clever comedic romp through the mysteries of fae reality television in Randee Dawn’s debut novel, Tune in Tomorrow.

When I first started reading Tune in Tomorrow, I have to admit I wasn’t expecting much. As someone who is most definitely not a fan of reality television (but occasionally forced to consume it due to my spouse’s viewing habits, please don’t talk to me about housewives of any city), I figured the plot would be a simple repackaging of familiar reality TV tropes with a light dusting of fantasy sprinkled on top, about as substantial as a cotton candy umbrella.

I am happy to tell you all that I was completely wrong. Tune in Tomorrow is a hilariously well-constructed story with surprising complexity, and one that uses its reality TV premise not as a destination, but as a jumping off point to create something uniquely interesting that stays entertaining the entire way through.

A summary in brief—our protagonist, Starr Weatherby (stage name, obviously) has been looking for her big break in New York for the past ten years, but the only thing breaking is her spirit. Ready to give up entirely, she’s approached to join a show that sounds a little out of this world, which it in fact is—it’s the longest running reality show on the other side of the Veil, where the assorted folks of the fae get their kicks watching humans be, well, human (for a given value of human). Assorted hijinks ensue, which I won’t spoil here because it’s far more fun to read them happening in the book, and Starr finds that she might just have what it takes after all.

The first thing that really struck me while reading Tune in Tomorrow is that Dawn is clearly knowledgeable about the ins and outs of reality television, especially the blending of scripted events and natural reactions (wrestling fans know this as “kayfabe”), but the way she deploys her knowledge is always in service towards a deeper objective—whether it be Starr’s emotional growth, building the intricacies of the world beyond the Veil, or advancing the mystery at the heart of the story—rather than using it as a “look what I know that you don’t” piece of filler. I genuinely felt like I got to look behind the curtain of what goes on during a reality show without it feeling forced or out of place, which is a tricky needle to thread, but Dawn does it wonderfully.

The second thing that stood out was how much Dawn cares about the mythology of the fae. It would have been easy to slap on some mushroom circles and pixie dust and call it a day, but Dawn draws from multiple cultures and references to create the world beyond the Veil, and as a result it feels beautifully chaotic in a way that makes it real. The inhabitants (including several of Starr’s coworkers) of the Veil shift effortlessly between recognizable humanity such that you wouldn’t be surprised to have coffee with them at a nine a.m. meeting, and terrifyingly alien personifications of magic older than time (that still expect you to show up to that nine a.m. meeting ready to go to work), and it’s a testament to Dawn’s writing skill that she makes them flow seamlessly from one to the other. The world of Tune in Tomorrow was never quite what I expected, and that was a very good thing indeed.

The last, and I think most important thing, is that Tune in Tomorrow is a book filled with heart. There’s an underlying acknowledgement that, yes, reality TV as a thing is inherently silly, a modern day soap opera that isn’t necessarily “real,” but that there are still people who devote their time and passion to making it as real as it can be, that care about what they’re doing, and there are a lot of other people that care about what’s being made, despite being able to see past the illusion any time they want. Dawn doesn’t ask us to care about the plot of Starr’s show, because the plot of any reality show is always going to be absurd, she asks us to care about the people, and in that she succeeds admirably.

Overall, Tune in Tomorrow is an excellent read if you’re looking for something to make you smile; a story that holds a mirror up to a shallow surface and shows us the depths lurking on the other side; and well worth your time.

Read if: You’ve ever wanted a river of rum; you appreciate the importance of brownie unions; you hate glitter.

Chris Kluwe

Chris Kluwe

Chris Kluwe grew up in Southern California among a colony of wild chinchillas and didn’t learn how to communicate outside of barking and howling until he was fourteen years old. He has played football in the NFL, once wrestled a bear for a pot of gold, and lies occasionally. He is also the eternal disappointment of his mother, who just can’t understand why he hasn’t cured cancer yet. Do you know why these bio things are in third person? I have no idea. Please tell me if you figure it out.