A Touch of Whimsy
Warehouse 13: A Touch of Fever
by Greg Cox
Pocket Books, New York, 2011
“Miracles break the rules. That’s why we have to lock them away.” –Artie
About ten minutes into this novel — the first officially authorized story based on the Syfy Channel’s seriesWarehouse 13 — I wondered if I had wandered into a young adult book. The tone, the attitude and the atmosphere were all about what I would expect of a teenager’s point of view. And then it dawned on me: author Greg Cox has perfectly caught the “voice” of Pete Lattimer, the boyish, silly half of an investigative team that tracks down strange, dangerous artifacts. On the show, Lattimer is played by Eddie McClintock with ridiculous charm; on the page, he comes across just as adorably eccentric as his TV self. Joking, punning and teasing his way through every case, he is the perfect foil for the too-serious, intensely focused Myka Bering, played on television by Joanne Kelley. These former Secret Service agents, recruited into the service of the mysterious Warehouse, track down weird objects that have been imbued with the substance of their owner’s lives, mostly in sinister ways. Once found, they put on purple gloves to “snag, bag, and tag” the relic, dipping it in purple neutralizer goo.
In this instance, someone is using a glove once owned by Red Cross founder Clara Barton during the Civil War to heal people. This sounds not only innocuous but benevolent, and Pete has a few serious moments when he asks himself whether this particular artifact wouldn’t do the world more good out of the Warehouse than in it. Myka reminds him that such artifacts usually have side effects – a truth Pete learns all too soon when the bearer of the matching glove shows up. This glove has the opposite effect from its healing twin, and soon lands Pete in the hospital, fighting Civil-War era typhoid. With the clock ticking, Myka races to find the sideshow carnies who have the healing glove, all the while dealing with crowds of desperate patients. A riot in Central Park, a madcap ride in the Red Baron’s triplane, and a handful of sideshow acts all add to the mix, for a bizarre adventure as fun as it is crazy.
The real fun of Warehouse 13, however, is the toy box. Like one of the magical tents in the Harry Potter stories, the Warehouse is larger inside than outside – miles long, in fact. It holds thousands of artifacts from all of history, all with various fascinating characteristics. There’s a bioelectric car invented by Thomas Edison, or Samson’s jawbone, or a Phoenix charm that saves the wearer from fire. I’ve often thought it would be far more entertaining to just stay home and play with all those toys.
But like the gloves Pete and Myka are chasing, even the mildest-seeming artifact can turn dangerous. Warehouse agent Claudia Donovan discovers this when a chain reaction turns Johnny Appleseed’s pot into the trigger that sets off a bathtub once owned by a bloodthirsty countess, a shrunken head, and a murderous totem pole. Artie, grumpy Warehouse boss, Leena the local proprietor of a bed and breakfast, and Claudia use a host of artifacts to beat back the flying menace.
Cox uses his knowledge of the show, and a lively imagination, to give us passing (and fascinating) glimpses of the contents of the Warehouse: the “original” hot potato, the Procrustean Bed (where Artie suspects Claudia of catching a catnap), the rocking chair used by Whistler’s mother, and pirate Anne Bonney’s cutlass. Whimsy mixes with malevolence, and an artifact that may sound benign often turns out to have a startling side effect, such as the original can of worms, or a brick from the Berlin Wall.
The main appeal of tie-in novels lies in how close they can take us to the original experience. In this respect, Greg Cox has done an excellent job. He gives us Pete, Artie and Claudia exactly as rendered onscreen, and his use of the artifacts rings as true as the stories themselves. If Leena and Myka are slightly less sharply drawn, it may be because it’s hard to compete against characters as quirky as those three. It would be hard to beat Cox’s rendition of snarky Claudia, or happy-go-lucky Pete, or irascible Artie. The mission sounds authentic, the story “back home” suitably perilous and beguiling. Cox strikes exactly the right tone in capturing the mad and joyous heart of this quirky series. Readers who know theirWarehouse will feel as if they never left home.
Copyright 2011 by Sarah Stegall. All rights reserved.