Category Archives: superheroes

Teaser Tuesday – 11th July, 2017

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Face the Change – Book 3 of the Menopausal Superheroes series by Samantha Bryant
19% Jessica watched the sky and imagined how good it would feel to fly up there in the open air. It would be warmer by day, but, then again, there would be more people around to wonder what on earth was happening. Giddiness bubbled in her again, as she imagined how going public might change things. She’d be able to fly openly, in a sunlit blue sky.

BLURB: The Menopausal Superheroes are coming out of the closet and the pressure is high, on the job and on the homefront.

Now that he knows what it’s like to be a hero, Leonel “Fuerte” Alvarez can’t imagine going back to his former life as a grandmother and housewife. But putting his life on the line may cost him his husband even while he saves the city.

Jessica “Flygirl” Roark is holding on to her second chance at love with both hands while learning to balance single parenthood with her new career in crime-fighting.

Patricia “Lizard Woman” O’Neill is blindsided by an unexpected romance just as she signs on to join the team.

Meanwhile enemies abound–old and new. When superpowers alone aren’t enough, what a woman really needs are her friends.

I enjoyed the second book in this unusual take on the superhero genre and was delighted when the author asked if I would like to read the next slice of the adventure – see my review of Change of Life. It didn’t take me long to pick up the storyline of all four of the main characters and I’m enjoying the ride. I’ll be reviewing this one shortly.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Annihiliation Score – Book 6 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

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Dr. Mo O’Brien is an intelligence agent at the top secret government agency known as ‘the Laundry’. When occult powers threaten the realm, they’ll be there to clean up the mess – and deal with the witnesses. But the Laundry is recovering from a devastating attack and when average citizens all over the country start to develop supernatural powers, the police are called in to help. theannihiliationscoreMo is appointed as official police liaison, but in between dealing with police bureaucracy, superpowered members of the public and disgruntled politicians, Mo discovers to her horror that she can no longer rely on her marriage, nor on the weapon that has been at her side for eight years of undercover work, the possessed violin known as ‘Lecter’. Also, a mysterious figure known as Dr Freudstein has started sending threatening messages to the police, but who is he and what is he planning?

I recently caught up with this excellent series when I got hold of The Rhesus Chart – see my review here – and this book is very much its companion piece. This extract from the Laundry Files is told in Mo’s viewpoint, rather than Bob’s, the usual protagonist who features in these adventures. Mo is Bob’s wife, who is sent out to regularly confront the grisly and terrible creatures with her bone violin. The sticker on the violin case THIS MACHINE KILLS DEMONS isn’t a joke… So it was treat to actually have her first person viewpoint.

I’ve read a few reviews complaining about what a bitch she is – but she’s teetering on the edge of full PTSD, while wrestling for control of her soul and psyche with the violin she uses as a weapon. If Stross had presented her as a softer-edged character, full of concerns about her husband’s woes while all this grief was piling up at her door, the book would have gone flying across the room. Of course, she’s taken up with her own concerns – I think Stross has done a first class job of writing her. The only grizzle I have is the rather constant harping on about middle-aged women turning invisible – given she’s beautiful (Bob has told us she is and I’ve no reason to doubt him) and only in her early forties, she shouldn’t be turning into wallpaper given the strength and charisma she displays in other situations. It grated because, while it can be a problem for women who have spent their vital years running around after spoilt children and a demanding spouse, Mo clearly doesn’t fall into that category so it struck a false note.

However, it’s a relatively minor niggle in a tour de force. Mo’s spiky tetchiness pings off the pages as she finds herself attending meetings and trying to defend her fledgling department’s performance. Being mired in office politics and powerpoint presentations while trying to save the world from the outbreak of superhero powers manifesting within the general population seems an all too realistic probability. I also really enjoyed the discussions about the uniforms they are supposed to be wearing. While Mo doesn’t have the sardonic, world-weary humour Bob regularly displays, there was plenty in this book that had me quietly grinning.

But her gritted desperation as she battles to hold it all together without Bob’s support is palpable. I found her timed crying jags very poignant – especially as there isn’t an ounce of self pity on display. The storyline worked well within the series, though I’m aware there is a steady heightening of the stakes and I do wonder how it plays out and whether they all survive intact. This particular crisis was brought to a satisfying end, though I have found myself pondering this book quite a bit since I finished reading it – always a strong sign I’ve read something special. This is a great addition and, for me, one of the best books in the series to date.
10/10

Review of Ghosts of Manhattan by George Mann

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I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the successful Newbury and Hobbes series set in a version of Victorian London – see my reviews of The Immorality Engine here and The Osiris Ritual here. All very anarchic and entertaining stuff with plenty of action and the alternate, cool touches that defines steampunk. Would I enjoy this new genre mash-up series?

ghostsofmanhattan1926. New York City. It’s the Roaring Twenties but not as history remembers it. Coal-powered cars line the streets, while zeppelins and biplanes patrol the skies. The US is locked in a bitter cold war with a British Empire that still covers half the globe and the Lost Generation is drinking away the nightmares of the trenches. In Manhattan, a run-down police force is losing the fight against a tide of powerful mobsters and against one in particular: The Roman. His henchmen – not all of them human – with the streets and the body count is rising. It’s time in need of a hero. It’s a time in need of THE GHOST.

As you can immediately see from the blurb, steampunk has shifted from its more usual Victorian timescape, which was really successful in my opinion. There are some significant problems with the Victorian era – not least that many of the ingrained attitudes towards anyone not white, male and upper middle-class jar with modern tastes. Not that I’m holding up the 1920’s as any ideal of broad-mindedness – but attitudes and behaviour had been modulated by the Great War. Did Mann take account of that huge event? Absolutely. I have read books set in the 1920’s that completely ignore the Great War, while Mann effectively depicts the damage wrought upon his protagonist, who is still haunted by the carnage experienced in the trenches.

There is a gothic-noir feel to this book that puts me in mind of the Batman films. Not that I have a particular problem with that – Mann knows how to tell an entertaining tale. His characters are reasonably convincing and I’m guessing that there are untold layers about the Ghost we will uncover in subsequent books.

The baddies are satisfyingly nasty – in fact my chief grizzle is that I would have liked to learn more about The Roman who appeared to have really fascinating backstory. I will be looking out for the next in the series – I generally enjoy Mann’s work and I’d like to see where he takes the Ghost in future instalments.
7/10

Review of Steelheart – Book 1 of The Reckoner series by Brandon Sanderson

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By a curious coincidence, I read and reviewed another superhero book only a couple of weeks ago – see my review of Turbulence here. This novel is quite different, however…

steelheartTen years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of Man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule Man you must crush his will. Nobody fights the Epics… nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them. And David wants in. He wants Steelheart – the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning – and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience. He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

So there you have it, the blurb. And if you think it sounds chockfull of action, you’d be absolutely right. This book starts with a bang and doesn’t let up until the very last page. I really enjoyed this offering – it certainly presents a different spin on the whole sub-genre. Told in first person by a non-Epic human who is driven by the desire to be revenged for the death of his father, it is a story of what has happened to humankind since Epics started ruling the world. David has been obsessively studying the Epics and listing their strengths and weaknesses in readiness for moving against them. His character is the lynchpin of the story as we see the situation filtered through his perception – it was a smart move to start the action when David is a small child as we instantly feel more protective towards children and that opening scene demonstrates only too clearly just how grimly ruthless Steelheart is – and what lengths he’ll take to ensure his rule is absolute.

Not that there is any coherent rule throughout most of the country. So many flock to Newcago because although it is grim and in constant darkness, at least there is power and running water. Sanderson is an excellent worldbuilder and this gritted existence unfurls in amongst the action and adds to the tension pinging off the page. But being Sanderson, as well as providing excellent action and plenty of adventure, he also raises some pertinent issues along the way. If a tyrant provides a measure of protection and stability, does that consideration mean that rebels shouldn’t target him? After all, if they prevail a lot of innocent people will die… If that happens, doesn’t that put the rebels in the same amoral pit where the tyrant is residing?

As we are plunged straight into the action, without a lot of exposition, the readers gradually learn more about the Epics throughout the story, as well as the nature of the Reckoners, the desperate group trying to wrest some kind of control back from the Epics on behalf of a crushed humanity. The string of surprises and continual action had me reading late into the night to discover exactly what would happen – a couple of deaths early on in the story demonstrated that Sanderson wasn’t afraid to kill major characters, which certainly kept me attentive. And the climax was brilliant – a set piece where the stakes couldn’t be higher, with a number of unexpected twists thrown in for good measure. Overall, a thoroughly satisfying, entertaining read and I cannot wait to read the sequel, Firefight.
9/10

Review of Turbulence by Samit Basu

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Well this is fun! And different…

Aman Sen is smart, young, ambitious and going nowhere. But then he gets off a plane from London to Delhi and discovers that he has turned into a communications demigod. Indeed, everyone on Aman’s flight now has extraordinary abilities. Aman wants to heal the planet but with each step he takes, he finds helping some means harming others. Will it all end, as eighty years of superhero fiction suggest, in a meaningless, explosive slugfest?

turbulenceBasu’s slick, pacey writing style is a very good fit for this particular take on the superhero trope – and before you roll your eyes and mutter that you’re fed up to the back teeth of all these overcharged beings zooming through the skies in skin-tight cossies, wearing their pants on the outside – give this particular book a go. For starters, being set in India immediately gives the book a different feel. Basu’s sharp descriptions of the backdrop and society bounce off the page, and the priorities and concerns of the characters are based around the fact that this is an Indian book about Indian superheroes.

The storyline rattles along at a fair old lick – Basu doesn’t hang around – and he manages to give us the different experiences of a number of the passengers on the London-Delhi flight and their character progression. This, for me, is what makes this book stand out. Basu sets up plenty of humorous moments – but that doesn’t stop him asking some penetrating questions about the nature of superhumanism and what it does to the recipient. There are some characters who react with predictable consequences – Jai, a committed patriot and professional soldier becomes a megalomaniac. And despite the chirpy feel of the writing, there is a great deal of death and destruction, along with some genuinely poignant moments.

However, there are some interesting consequences – I liked the fact that no one is left significantly unchanged by their ‘gifts’. And some of them manifest in unexpectedly interesting ways. Aman, as one of the main characters, makes some high-minded decisions to take money from the undeserving rich and bestow it onto the poor – which doesn’t work out as well as he’d hoped. While Uzma initially wants to capitalise on her superpower that makes everyone want to please her by becoming a Bollywood actress. However, things don’t quite pan out that way…

In fact, whenever I settled back down with the impression that I knew what would happen next, events proved me wrong. I’ve attempted to read several superhero books recently and haven’t managed to finish a single one on the grounds they were too predictably violent. There is plenty of blood and gore in this one – but nothing about it is predictable. The climax was suitably full of high-octane action with flashes of humour, some surprising deaths and an interesting twist at the end, which means I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on the sequel, Resistance.
8/10