Author: Scott Westerfeld / Margo Lanagan / Deborah Biancotti
Series: Zeroes #1
Scam’s big mouth is always getting him into trouble. He’s got a power that can help him say whatever is needed to get what he wants—but he doesn’t know what he’s going to say until it’s already been said. So when he hitches a ride home with the wrong guy, he ends up on the bad side of drug dealers, bank robbers, and mobsters. And even Scam’s big mouth isn’t enough to talk his way out. Problem: will his former friends forgive him enough to come to his rescue?
This is a different take on the whole superhero subgenre. The powers themselves are fascinating (and I LOVE the nicknames!). Ethan (Scam) can be the ultimate con artist. Nate (Glorious Leader—no, really!) can focus a group on a goal. Riley (Flicker) is blind, but can use other people’s eyes to see. Chizara (Crash) can destroy any high-tech device. Thibault (Anonymous) has to work very hard to make anyone notice him at ALL, and they’ll forget him immediately. And Kelsie, the daughter of the bank robber, can nudge the emotions of a crowd.
Really, you can’t go wrong with a book that has a character everyone calls Glorious Leader only half-ironically. (The ringtones the various kids have for his number is also hysterical.)
The powers mostly remain a mystery, although one Nate has been trying to solve for ages. I do hope he gets farther in future books, as the crowd-based mechanics is an interesting twist: only Ethan/Scam works best one-on-one. I’d love to know if he really is the same as the rest of them, or if he may be, as Nate once suspected, a different species.
The morality is mostly shades of grey. Chizara is the only one of them concerned with using her powers for good and not just for their own sake; Nate in particular was interesting to watch, as his power is influence, and he has a very amoral stance on just about everything that happens. So he’ll urge the group towards what he thinks is best, rather than try to build them up as potential heros. And he wants to be a politician . . .
Overall this is a great read, although people who find Ethan/Scam really annoying might be turned off at first, since much of the beginning is from his perspective. I’m going to have to hunt down the second book now. I rate this book Recommended.