Tag Archives: superheros

Nick of Time

Title: Nick of Time

Author: Julianne Q. Johnson

Nick is tired of his life. Day in and day out, he’s constantly confronted with people in need. Lost children, fires, heart attack victims—so many needs, and it never ends. Even when he tries to stay home and take a day off, trouble finds him. But life might be taking a turn for the better when he helps out a neighbor in need. She thinks they might be able to find the root of his “curse” and fix it once and for all . . .

I loved this. I like superhero stories in general, and this one is a surprisingly unique take. Nick isn’t extraordinary. He’s taken classes in martial arts and first aid because he keeps running into people with severe issues. It’s a reaction, not a drive to be a hero. And yet he is a hero, because he chooses to step in, time and again, even when this puts him inside burning houses or in front of people with guns.

He’d just really like a day off.

It’s a lot of fun to watch his “curse” in action, and how his family and friends have adapted (or not) to what’s going on in his life. It’s funny to see how heroism has basically destroyed his dating life, since he can’t hold to anything like a schedule. I also liked having a somewhat older protagonist, in his mid-30s, who has a bit more experience with life in general.

I didn’t care for the prologue/interlude as much, as I was initially puzzled at why the book I was reading started like a typical fantasy and not the modern-day superhero-who-isn’t story I was expecting from the back cover summary. I think that information might have been better as just part of the present-day narrative. I also thought it wrapped up a little fast, and a little too neatly (the curse-givers were a bit too reasonable once all the facts were on the table, for beings that don’t really care about morality at all). But it was nice to get an ending, which makes this a standalone book.

Overall this was an excellent read and one I’m sure to come back to, especially the beginning. The contrast between watching Nick save people and his own depressive attitude towards the whole thing can get really funny. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Knights of the End (Knights of the End #1)

Title: Knights of the End

Author: J. D. Cowan

Series: Knights of the End #1

Teddy MacIsaac dreams of heroes in a world where heroic ideals have succumbed to world-weary pessimism. Undaunted, he follows his dreams and a voice calling inside until he discovers a golden coin with mysterious powers. It grants him what he always wanted: the chance to be a hero. But no hero stands unopposed, and the general evil that’s haunted his world is about to get a lot more personal . . .

I really liked this. I found it based on a blog post by its author, and the comment that it had been written for his (her?) 13-year-old self immediately grabbed my interest, as the summary promised an actual light-versus-dark conflict that’s becoming increasingly hard to find.

And we get lots of awesome. Transforming superhero powers, secret identities, magical powers strong enough to change the world, and a colorful cast of friends and enemies. I particularly liked what happened with Rock, and how Teddy’s relationship with him changes over the course of the book. Bits of this read like an old comic book or cartoon drawn in greater detail. And I mean that as a compliment—the bombastic fights, the witty exchanges, the soaring imagination, the love of what it actually is to be a hero.

There are a few minor typos and errors that detracted a bit, but overall this was a solid book. I do hope the series continues, and continues to explore more of what it actually takes to be a hero who holds on to right no matter the cost (along with increasing the superhero cool moves and powers). Teddy takes a few knocks this time around, but certain events seem to be setting him up for a much deeper conflict between who he is and who he wants to be. I rate this book Recommended.

The Ascension (The New Heroes #5)

Title: The Ascension

Author: Michael Carroll

Series: Quantum Prophecy/The New Heroes #5

They thought Krodin was gone. Burned up by Pyrokine’s ultimate sacrifice. But then reality shifts and nothing is the same anymore. The United States is under martial law—and has been for years. And Krodin is somehow in charge. Lance, Abby, and the rest of the superhumans need to unravel this mystery fast, and figure out how to put down Krodin for good.

I couldn’t make it through this one, due to the extreme totalitarian government going on, that looked like it was going to be in place throughout the book. I don’t like dystopias. And I couldn’t buy the timeframe (only fiveĀ  years?) and the sheer number of people who were quietly submitting without secretly rebelling. It was more, this America? Five years? And Krodin wouldn’t have time to go after everyone himself, which means his plans should’ve been more open to sabotage. Which is why I dislike dystopias—I start thinking of all the ways it would fall apart before it got that bad, or all the ways such a “total” hold is really very fragile, because people don’t like falling in line, especially not in a country where everyone involved would be able to remember something better.

Also, bringing Krodin back felt like cheating. I would’ve much preferred a new villain. Krodin’s abilities just don’t make him much fun to fight, either, since basically nothing is effective, which means even people with superpowers are going to need some deus ex machina rather than being able to work up to it with their own abilities.

So. I made it far enough in to tell I was disliking the experience and quit. I rate this book Neutral.

Swarm (Zeroes #2)

Title: Swarm

Author: Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti

Series: Zeroes #2

Ethan and the rest of the Zeros have started testing how far their powers will stretch—in the guise of a nightclub (illegal, of course). But when the unexpected addition of MORE people with powers sends it crashing around their ears, they realize they’re not alone, and not everyone is interested in keeping quiet . . .

I tried, but ended up picking up the book for a chapter or two, putting it down again, and eventually quit when I realized I was actively reading other books to avoid going back to this one. It’s not bad, but the whole “nobody is really all that great, just different shades of horrible” started to grate on me worse and worse, and when people I would’ve really liked to see killed off weren’t (or at least, not by the time I quit), I figured it wasn’t worth pushing through what was becoming a slog. I put it down around halfway.

If you liked the first book, you may not be as put off by that as I was. The writing is fairly solid, and everyone’s trying to advance their powers (or in Ethan’s case, using what he’s been given . . . putting him as a recruiter did make me laugh).

Again, I dislike this for tone and the fact that nobody’s really anyone I want to root for rather than for poor writing. Your mileage may vary, but I’m done with this series. I rate this book Neutral.

Zeroes (Zeroes #1)

Title: Zeroes

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.

Super Human (The New Heros #4)

Title: Super Human

Author: Michael Carroll

Series: The New Heros #4

Once there was a man who was more than a man, a warrior who single-handedly conquered the known world and whose death is still a mystery. In the present, though, superhumans are a bit more common, and when a virus starts taking out all of the adults, it’s up to a group of teenage heroes-to-be (and one teenage con artist) to figure out what’s going on and to stop the Fifth King from coming again.

Maybe I should’ve read The Quantum Prophecy first (I felt like I have, but I don’t see it marked), but in any case, what little I’ve read of that book convinces me this one is much stronger. And since this trilogy looks like a prequel to the other, it’s not even a problem to read them out of order. Basically, don’t be fooled by the #4 designation—this one reads fine by itself.

The choice of villain is interesting. Krodin is not exactly evil, but he’s about like a natural disaster. Powerful, amoral, and not something anyone wants around. But his abilities make him formidable even when other people with super powers are around. His chapters in the past alternate with the story in the present, until the two stories intersect. (I’m a little disappointed by how it ended for him, as reading the summary of the next book was enough to tell me my guess about what really happened was correct. Oh well.)

In the present, we begin with Lance, who is about as far from the model of “hero” as a kid can get. I really liked how Thunder confronts him. Thunder correctly deduces that Lance has zero regard for anyone outside himself, and devises a clever lesson to help drive the point home. (It was fun to see a budding sociopath get his due.) But what Lance lacks in empathy or heroics he makes up for with smarts and a knowledge of how a criminal’s mind works. And he has a big mouth.

The other characters that make up the teen hero team are more traditionally minded heros. I liked the little details, like Abby continually fumbling with introducing herself because she can’t think of a good hero name for herself, or Thunder’s absolute refusal to let anyone find out his secret identity (which drives Lance nuts), or Roz’s creativity with her powers.

The action is strong and fairly nonstop, which makes for a fast-paced book. And it’s not just the battles—Lance in particular has a way of walking right into interesting situations and making them worse.

All in all, this is a fun read, and a decent addition to the superhero genre. I rate this book Recommended.

School for Sidekicks (The Academy of Metahuman Operatives #1)

Title: School for Sidekicks

Author: Kelly McCullough

Series: The Academy of Metahuman Operatives #1

After a mysterious explosion in Minneapolis triggers superpowers in a large number of people, heros and villains (otherwise known as Masks and Hoods) leap from fantasy to reality. And because new people are still discovering powers, Evan Quick hopes desperately to be one of them. But when an encounter with a Hood finally unlocks the abilities he always wanted to have, he finds that life isn’t so simple anymore. Masks and Hoods aren’t what he thought. Now he’s a sidekick to a washed-out Mask, looking for answers.

This was an odd one for me to read right after My Hero Academia because the two have a very similar premise up front. Superpowers have become normalized in society. The main character is a powerless kid who obsesses over heros, particularly the greatest one who has spectacular power but also a dark secret. And the powerless kid suddenly gets a power, but not one he can easily use to do awesome things like he originally thought.

In Evan’s case, though, the story takes darker turns. Captain Commanding has it out for Evan after Evan helps him out in a fight against the strongest Hood, Spartanicus. The hero school Evan attends will train him to be a Mask, but they also have complete legal authority over him, and can override his parents on everything. And the reason meta-humans exist . . .

I did like how well Evan could navigate even without a flashy power, and especially how he finds creative ways to use his abilities to actually fight. I liked the conversation he has with his parents about that first fight, too, where they’re urging him to consider what it actually means that he can now go so far beyond human boundaries. And I liked the entertaining take on many of his classes. Combat with Dinnerware was easily my favorite.

Sometimes the superhero homages made less sense. A class in quipping? And I get having superhero handles, but not being able to choose one yourself sucks a lot of fun out of it (and Evan’s is terrible considering it doesn’t tie into his powers at all, nor is it really a great pair with his Mask’s except that they’re both animal species). And I’m still trying to figure out how radiation from a bomb can cause you to grow jewels under your skin that shoot out laser death-rays (perhaps a different explanation of how the powers are triggered would have sat better with me). Even if it is a very special bomb.

I was also a little disappointed Evan completely skipped out on the memorial. I was hoping to get some insight into the metamorphosis brought up, but the story went in a different direction, so perhaps in a future book. This does leave plenty of room for future stories, and I hope we get at least a few more (please bring aliens, any kind of aliens, whether friendly or not). Evan and his new friends have hardly scratched the surface of what’s going on and what they might one day grow to do.

If you like superpowers, superheros, and don’t mind a somewhat darker take on the whole thing, this is a good read. (For a similar premise, but much more positive story, see My Hero Academia.) I rate this book Recommended.