Okay you all know by now that I am obsessed with superhero media. It’s, like, my Thing. So when I saw that there was an anthology of superhero1 novellas out? I jumped right on that.
So, as I usually do for anthologies and other collections, I’m going to break it up into a series of short reviews.
My Big, Fat, Accidental Superheroine Wedding
Autocorrect doesn’t approve of ‘superheroine’ but it does approve of ‘superhero.’ Sexist.
Anyhow, this one was a little weird – it was very much focused on a specific subculture, one that I know next to nothing about. In that, it was a bit hard to relate to, but I think that’s okay- like, oh no, however shall I deal with media that doesn’t revolve around me, a white male? So yeah, I’m fine with that part. The actual superhero content of it was a bit odd, though- the main character is basically a deity, after she and her fiancé both wound up in an accident in the Large Hadron Collider that left them able to control their bodies at what appears to be an atomic level. And they’re on the run from the government. Which makes for an interesting story, overall, but I dunno, something about this one just didn’t click for me. Oh well, it was still interesting, and the ending scene was a really good one.
The World, My Enemy
This was a delight to read. It had hints of some of the non-Discworld Terry Pratchett stuff, in the way it looked at the world, and oh man did I love it.2 The main character is an Austrian super-genius, trying to be a super-villain, and… kinda sucking at it. He’s a very millennial type of villain – tons of support from his parents, a lot of potential, and just… not using it at all. And the other characters that make up the setting, from the Nemesis figure to whatever-the-girl-is3 to the cowardly boss- they’re all wonderful, executed delightfully well. It’s a silly little story and I absolutely love it.
Summer of Lob
This is actually the reason I bought this book- I adore Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents… series of books, and I saw through his twitter that this book featured a novella set in the same universe. And it was everything I wanted – a short, sweet story, following Bull in his younger days. As a bonus, it gave the background for one of the characters I wanted to know more about, and introduced a few more who I’d also like to see more of. Basically, this alone made the book worth buying to me, and the rest was a nice bonus.
Weeper of Blood
I’m assuming this was part of a series, because there’s way too much setting for it to be a standalone short story. To the point that I’m still unclear on some of the stuff – things about the various characters were hinted at well enough that I’ve got an idea, but the world itself is a mystery – is it an alternate timeline, or set in the future, or what? It was really hard to tell, and I’d like to read more to find out.
The story itself was pretty good- a little sad, definitely, but a nice ‘redemption’ arc present as well, so I did like that. I definitely want to see more of this world, get a bit more of the background, though, because I have so many questions.
File this one under “have to read more.” Like, I actually just took a break from writing this so I could go google the author and find out if he’s written more.4
There was absolutely everything I want in a superhero story: an interesting main character, and a look at what people with superpowers do if they’re not being superheroes. Plus a superhero team that went insane and became villains, some high tech gadgetry being used, and a wonderful concept of superpowers that give the story its title. Another one in the category of “I would recommend buying this book on the merits of this story alone.”
Friend or Foe
Oh my god I am so confused. I really can’t tell from reading it if this one is part of a series or not- like, the amount of questions I was left with afterwards makes me want it to be, but it was written in such a way that it could believably be a standalone that was supposed to leave the reader with questions. If that was the goal, boy did it ever work. The whole thing basically takes place in the aftermath of a Final Showdown sort of fight, with only allusions to what actually took place there. The way it switched back and forth between two characters was pretty interesting – clearly, one of them was the villain, but not in a very strong way. It was more of a… misunderstood genius, kind of thing, though with a touch of willing sociopathy, so I dunno. It was interesting but a bit aggravating at times.
Night Stalker: A Tale from the Tome of Bill
I wish I could say I liked this one, because the story was kinda interesting, but I didn’t. It felt like it was written by the kind of person who tries to defend the whole “Spider-Woman butt in the air” pose: that’s to say, delighting in that gamer-nerd stereotype, “I live in my parents basement playing WoW all day” sort of humor. The main character spends a while complaining about being “friendzoned.” Blah.
This made me think of Code 8, a cool little short film. They’re the same sort of setting, to the degree that I could pretty reasonably believe one inspired the other. Basically, a world where something like the Superhuman Registration Act of Marvel’s Civil War5 passed, and now the superhuman folks are living with the aftermath. Yeah, there’s some superheroes, and they’re distinctly following a legal process created around that idea: but there’s also regular people who got ground under the wheels of bureaucracy. The main character spent a couple years in prison after “robbery with a deadly weapon.” Which, yeah, a reasonably jail sentence- except for the fact that the robbery was him holding his hand in his pocket so it looked like he was holding a gun. The ‘deadly weapon’ was the fact that he’s got super-strength. The fact that he never mentioned that to the person he was robbing apparently never came up in the trial, or didn’t bother the people sentencing him at all.
Which is a wonderful touch, because there’s people like that in the real world, people who get ground down by the way the system works. And I love that sort of sad realism in superhero content.6
The Incident on Orion
This one was somewhat reminiscent of Invincible, a fun little comic that I read a while back. Basically, it’s the ‘superman’ type hero, except Krypton hasn’t exploded. Instead, Krypton has, as was bound to happen with a society of supermen, become the seat of a sprawling galactic empire.
In this one, as with Invincible, it’s a bit of a vicious one – survival of the fittest was heartily adopted by that empire, and you wind up with people fighting for their right to live in the empire. And once they’ve earned that, they set out to annihilate everyone that stands in the way of that empire, even if ‘standing in the way’ is defined as ‘within 10 light years of somewhere we might want to be one day.’ Basically, gleeful genocide.
There’s a lot of Roman Empire present in this, both in naming and in the way the mythology interacts with the characters. It was really interesting to read, a sort of sad and hopeful tale. I think I’d like to read more.
Sinergy: Immortal Sin
Strange and interesting. The superpowers are a lot lighter a touch here, they still distinctly present. What was more interesting was the backdrop: there’s an Order, it’s apparently been around for a couple thousand years, and it’s somehow affiliated with the catholic church, or christianity as a whole? I’m still a bit unclear. But it was a cool mythology, definitely, and I want to see more of it, because I do love that ‘ancient order’ kind of stuff.
The story itself was… really sad, actually. I think a single character had a ‘happy’ ending, and that was “woke up with no memory of any of this happening, twenty minutes outside of Prague, with nothing but their passport and a plane ticket,” so… not a super happy ending, at that. Still, interesting.
And there we go, that’s the book reviewed. I quite liked it, and would absolutely recommend it. Go read it.