Review by Catherine Paula Han
“Jenny T. Colgan boldly goes where no author has gone before” states the tagline of her latest novel, Resistance is Futile. Coglan has an established reputation as the author of numerous “chick lit” novels, of which the best known are Meet Me at the Cupcake Café (2011), Christmas at the Cupcake Café (2013) and Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop of Dreams (2012). She has also written the Doctor Who tie-in novel Dark Horizons (2012) and a Doctor Who short story “Into Nowhere” (2014). Combining these seeming disparate genres, Colgan’s latest novel claims to be “Bridget Jones meets Independence Day”.
A hybrid of science fiction and chick lit, Resistance is Futile features a mathematician heroine named Connie MacAdair who has recently been awarded a prestigious fellowship at the University of Cambridge. At her arrival, Connie realises that something is distinctly amiss when she discovers that all the top figures in her field have also been gathered together. The eccentricities of these mathematicians are a source of gentle humour throughout the novel, with many jokes relating to the shy but attractive oddball Luke Beith.
Eventually, Resistance is Futile reveals that the university has summoned Connie and her colleagues to solve some mysterious mathematics that have flummoxed the astrophysics department. After weeks of work, Connie realises that the numbers are some form of communication from an alien species. Her discovery, however, occurs at the same time as the revelation that this extra-terrestrial presence has started committing murders on Earth. Complicating the matter, Connie has fallen in love with Luke who has turned out to be a wholly different person than he initially claimed.
Because of its combination of genres, Resistance is Futile could be an interesting example or case study for any researchers interested in contemporary chick lit’s experimentation with its own boundaries and conventions. Caroline J. Smith groups Colgan amongst other writers who “began to experiment with the conventions of chick lit, particularly in terms of expanding the target audience for the texts and in straying from the previously established narrative structures of these texts” (136). Early on, numerous chick lit writers experimented by featuring protagonists of different races, nationalities and ages. Since then, “writers from all genres have been capitalizing on the chick lit trend, adding a chick lit spin to their narratives” (Smith 2008: 137). Consequently, we could position Resistance is Futile as part of larger trend in contemporary, genre-blurring chick lit.
Resistance is Futile’s science fiction element does add an unusual spin to the narrative, particularly the romance between Connie and Luke, which does not conform to the expected paradigm of “girl-meets-boy”. Indeed, certain scenes invite a queer(ish) reading and the courtship plot has an unconventional ending. This aspect also means that an undercurrent of darkness runs throughout the novel beneath Colgan’s trademark humour. Though the novel derives much comedy from the threat of an alien attack, Resistance is Futile also repeatedly compares imagined, off-planet wars with real, Earth-bound military conflicts. Though these analogies remain under developed, Resistance is Futile adopts a slightly broader perspective than the often de-politicised, “feminine navel-gazing” associated with chick lit (Whelehan 217). To say that Colgan has “boldly go where no author has gone before” would be an overstatement but Resistance is Futile does exemplify interesting developments within contemporary chick lit.
Smith, Caroline J. Cosmopolitan Culture and Consumerism in Chick Lit. London, New York: Routledge, 2008.
Whelehan, Imelda. The Feminist Bestseller: From Sex and the Single Girl to Sex and the City. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.