Sunday, October 12

Book Corner: Even superheros can have bad days

It seems the world has been taken over by Batman, Spiderman, Superman, the X-Men and all their friends. Superheroes began by infiltrating the comic book world, then they moved to our television screens, before staging a complete takeover of our theaters. By now, it seems that even the staunchest critic would have been able to find some hero to believe in.

(This is the U.K. cover I bought, much better than the U.S. version you will see later.)

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But if that is not the case, and you are still looking for a way to join in the fun – this book gives you yet another option. “Determined to become costumed crime-fighters, but baffled by a lack of super-villains to tackle, the quintet soon finds the ramifications of their new powers are more complicated than they anticipated, and that human (even themselves) are much more fragile than they’d ever realized.”

You guessed correctly – this book attempts to provide a realistic portrayal of what it would be if a group of five average college students were suddenly blessed/cursed with super-abilities. Admit it, just like everyone else living in this hero-obsessed world, you have imagined what it would be like to be strong enough to lift a car without breaking a sweat or fly like a bird, effortless and free.

But maybe strength or flying wasn’t what you had hoped for, maybe you had always wanted to hear other people’s thoughts, or to be able to run faster than a speeding bullet. This book has those powers, plus a personal favorite – the power of invisibility.

The students that these powers are bestowed upon are believable, if less than completely satisfying. The five students are not stock characters that are often found on poorly written TV shows, but they feel slightly underdeveloped.

They do some of the things you would do if you got these powers, like run to Egypt to see the pyramids in an afternoon or spy on the people you care about. But they don’t allow themselves to do anything really bad, something most people wouldn’t be able to resist. They are a little too good, too earnest and too moral. (But, maybe that says more about my view of people, rather than the author’s storytelling ability.)

Superpowers (bad)
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But whatever you think of their morals, the characters do lack depth, and since the readers spend most of their time with these five kids, it is not exactly an ideal situation.

None of the characters has a clear development arc and they are a bit thin and static. Now as a reader, you could take that two different ways: you could put that to the fact that this is simply a brief look at one period in these characters’ lives, or you could see it as a lost opportunity in searching deeper into how these powers affect people.

But the thin characters are not the biggest problem I have with this book, my biggest complaint is that it gives away a couple plot points before they have had time to fully mature. (I for one, won’t do the same thing by stating them here, but be forewarned, before the halfway point you will know more than you want to know.)

The book feels a bit too eager to please. I don’t know if this should be blamed on first-time writer David J. Schwartz or maybe an aggressive editor. But, if I had my say, I would let the story build up the suspense, and not give it away. I also might not beat my message of how fear makes people do stupid things into the reader’s head. I might tone that down, just a bit.

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With those minor changes, observant readers would be able to enjoy the book’s journey a bit more, without feeling like the writer is holding their hands at ever turn. And don’t worry about the non-observant readers, they will figure it out in due time, as long as they finish the book.

Now, don’t take all this negativity to heart, this is not a bad book. It was not exactly the page-turner I thought it would be, or the in-depth look at how superpowers would effect your life I hoped it would be. What it is, is an entertaining and face-paced story, filled with humor and an interesting supporting cast.

In this age of superhero overload, this book provides a nuanced look at how superpowers would affect people in the real world, even if it doesn’t do it flawlessly.

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