Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Soon I will be Invincible - Austin Grossman

This excerpt from the first page of Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible (hopefully) gives an indication of what to expect from this debut novel:

"This morning on planet Earth there are 1,686 enhanced, gifted or otherwise-super powered persons. 678 use their powers to fight crimes, while 441 use their powers to commit them. 44 are currently confined in Special Containment Facilities for enhanced criminals. Of these last, it is interesting to note that an unusually high proportion have IQs of 300 or more - 18 to be exact. Including me . . ."

This book has a great premise - it takes a wide range of super-power comic book clich├ęs and pokes gentle fun at them. The chapters alternate between the perspective of a much-thwarted and twelve times imprisoned super villain (Dr Impossible), who is plotting his next escape from prison whilst pulling together his latest scheme to take over the word, and a young woman (new name of Fatale) who, following an accident, has woken up with cyborg powers. As well as regretting her choice of hero name, Fatale is not yet clear what her new physical limitations are and has recently joined the elite "New Champions" super team and soon, inevitably, these two characters find themselves on opposing sides of a battle of Good against Evil. If sides are really that simple to define…

Key to the success of this story is the depth of knowledge, and affection, Grossman has for the genre. He succeeds in avoiding the trap of merely parodying comic books and as a result this book has more to say about its characters than I expected – what might drive an intelligent young man to become a villain rather than a hero? Could his life have taken a different path? What challenges might face an evil genius recently escaped from prison in his attempt to raise funds to realise his latest plan? What’s the bedding in process for a woman who wakes up with what are effectively super powers as she settles into a team of established team of famous heroes?

I do have to say though that the book felt as if, after a terrific start, Grossman was not quite sure where to go with his idea and the latter half, although enjoyable did not live up to the potential of the first.

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