I recently read a couple superhero themed books and figured I’d give a few thoughts on each in the same review. I’ll tell you right now that I had tons of fun reading both and if you like modern superhero stories I’d recommend both.
The Regional Office is Under Attack!
By Manuel Gonzales
Not My Edition:
Hardcover, 398 pages
2016, Riverhead Books
A group of super-powered females who work to save the world from natural and supernatural threats exists under the cover of a travel agency that caters to the wild whims of the rich is under attack from within. Can a woman with a robotic arm stop a group of superwomen specifically trained to take over the office?
My blurb is vague, I know, but I think going into this book mostly blind is the best bet. I was caught initially by the bright cover (of course I was) and intrigued by the sci-fi setting and while I had no expectations of what I was getting myself in to, this book did not disappoint.
This book centers around a group of super-powered women who are hired to kick ass and save the world. There is, however, a splinter group of recruits who are being trained to attack and take down the women that run the Regional Office. The plot is a little hard to follow at first, as we’re getting past and present experiences from women on both sides (in a sort of stream of consciousness format): Rose (trained to destroy the Regional Office) and Sarah (a worker at the Office), as well as excepts from some sort of paper written about the founding of the Regional Office and the resulting attack – and we don’t know who wrote that paper.
Once I adjusted to the constantly changing viewpoints, this book was a lot of fun. We get a darker look at what it’s like to be super-powered, especially from young, cynical Rose, who is recruited to destroy the Office and nothing quite turns out as she expects.
I won’t say much about the plot, but I enjoyed the style of the book immensely – it was fast paced with good action scenes and I enjoyed our two main characters. I’d like to share a couple quotes.
Rose’s thoughts about training to be a super assassin:
“[It would be like] An Officer and a Gentleman, but without the gentleman bit. Her pitted against the hard-ass drill sergeant. She’d be the spitfire who constantly mouthed off and who would ultimately reveal herself to be pitted against her inner demons, not the drill sergeant at all, and in the process develop a bond with her fellow trainees, becoming in their eyes an example of what not to do, of how not to act, but also, in the end, by the end of boot came or whatever this place was, becoming for them, also, an example of a hard battle fought and won with difficulty, tenacity, and through her indomitable spirit and unfathomable skill.”
A letter to Sarah:
“We navigate through like with the good-faith hope that we are doing our best, that we are aimed in the right directions, that we are helping the helpless. Maybe we slip, maybe we mess up, maybe from time to time we do things that are less the right thing. Or we cut corners, or we make choices that serve our interests over the interests of those who depend on us, or we hide the consequences of the decisions we have made with the hope that those consequences will never be seen despite how often we make those same decisions. We go back to the ones we love when clearly they do not love us, or do not know how to love us, or show us their love in a way easily mistaken for hate. We are weak in the face of the hard work it sometimes takes to be strong. We convince ourselves (incorrectly) that silence is not a form of consent. We let good people die and sometimes we kill them ourselves and we hide and we hid and we hide and soon hiding becomes the thing we are best at doing.”
You can find Gonzales on Facebook and also check out a short story project he runs called Whats the Worth – I particularly recommend The Princess and Glowing Orb.
Soon I Will Be Invincible
By Austin Grossman
Paperback, 318 pages
Doctor Impossible has escaped from prison yet again and he’s working on his latest plans for world domination. He’s the smartest villain that ever lived, but can’t seem to pull off a successful world heist, as some team of heroes is always kicking his ass. Fatale is a cyborg, newly recruited to superhero team, The Champions, is struggling to fit in with her peers. She doesn’t remember much about her past, or how she came to be mostly metal and just wants to feel accepted.
I only recently heard of this book, despite it being out for so long and it was another vacation find that I was very excited about. This book switches between narration from Doctor Impossible and Fatale and while I enjoyed both, Dr. I. was certainly my favorite. He’s snarky and cynical, yet incredibly self-assured and stubborn in his quest for world domination.
As the story progresses we learn of the Doctor’s origin, as well as that of his arch-nemesis who he just happened to create. We hear of his many failed plans and his impressive plans and extensive genius, and despite his hubris, he felt surprisingly real and I was rooting for him from the start.
While this book is set in the present day, it’s clear Grossman did a lot of world building, as the Doctor does give information about past battles and the history of supers. There’s even a timeline in the back of the book which added some substance to the story (I recommend looking at this partway through the book rather than waiting until the end like I did.) There’s even a glossary of sorts with details on the different heroes and villains.
I flew through this book and appreciated having both the “hero” and “villain” sides of the same story.
Visit Grossman’s website or Tweet at him.