Tag Archives: superhero fiction

Review of KINDLE Ebook Change of Life – Book 2 of A Menopausal Superhero by Samantha Bryant

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When I saw the cover and the blurb for this book, which was released last month, I immediately requested it from NetGalley. I’m quite happy to read about youngsters coping with all sorts of adventures while assailed by self-doubt and first love – but as a woman of a certain age, the prospect of reading about my contemporaries zipping through the sky was irresistible. Would I be disappointed?

changeoflifeWith great power comes…great frustration. Several months after the events of Going Through the Change, retired corporate vice president (and occasional lizard-woman) Patricia O’Neill is embroiled in a search for the mad scientist who brought the “change” upon them all. Meanwhile, Flygirl Jessica Roark and gender-bending strongman Linda/Leonel Alvarez have joined a mysterious covert agency known only as The Department. They’re training hard, in hopes of using their newfound powers for the greater good. Patricia thinks they’re being used. Cut off from the other menopausal heroes, she’s alone. And her search has hit a serious dead end. Then Patricia disappears, and all the clues point to a dead man. It’s up to her friends and The Department to find her and bring her home.

The cover led me to think that this would be a humorous take on the superhero sub-genre, but while there are a few comedy moments, Bryant is focused on delivering a full-on adventure. It took me a little while to work out what was happening to whom, because I did my usual trick of picking up the second book in the series, as the first book, Going Through the Change, clearly ended on something of a cliff-hanger.

But once I worked out what was going on with all four of the women who have been changed, the story started to fall into the place and I was intrigued by Bryant’s quirky take on the superhero genre. One grumpy elderly woman has been transformed into a flamethrower – so how does she control this lethal superpower? Poorly is the answer. Jessica can fly – or can she? She leaves the ground, but is finding it very difficult to do anything other than bump along the ceiling, or tumble helplessly without extra help. Whereas Linda, who has also changed gender as she comes to terms with her super-strength, is finding her marriage is being tested. No… David, her husband, is able to cope with her gender change, but isn’t so impressed that now she is fighting super-villains, the household chores are being neglected and she isn’t there to make his supper.

I love this notion that just because these women have been given these great powers, they don’t get a pass on basic physics or everyday problems. Life doesn’t get any easier – especially when you factor in the fact that there is also a couple of sinister characters who are kidnapping individuals with remarkable abilities to use for their own ends.

There are a few issues with the narrative – at times the pacing loses momentum while the storyline is pieced together. Within the different viewpoints and plotlines, there is some repetition and backtracking which, ideally, could be smoothed out. But I was surprisingly tolerant of these glitches – unusual for me, as this is something I normally very much dislike. However, I really enjoyed these characters and was prepared to go on reading to discover what would happen next. Though, I should warn you, while the main story is resolved, there is a major plotpoint still dangling. Will I be looking for the next slice in this adventure? Oh yes – I’m also going to track down the first book in this unusual, quirky series. I received a copy of Change of Life from the publishers via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 24th May 2016

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Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
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:
changeoflifeChange of Life – Book 2 of The Menopausal Superhero series by Samantha Bryant
8% While she waited for the water to come to temperature, she ran through a series of stretches, touching her toes and rolling her neck, then bringing out her scales and spikes in various combinations: just the talons, just the facial armor, the spikes at varying lengths, and, finally, fully armored. She admired her shape in the mirror, nodding her head sharply to make her spiky red hair bounce.

BLURB: With great power comes…great frustration.

Several months after the events of Going Through the Change, retired corporate vice president (and occasional lizard-woman) Patricia O’Neill is embroiled in a search for the mad scientist who brought the “change” upon them all. Meanwhile, Flygirl Jessica Roark and gender-bending strongman Linda/Leonel Alvarez have joined a mysterious covert agency known only as The Department. They’re training hard, in hopes of using their newfound powers for the greater good. Patricia thinks they’re being used. Cut off from the other menopausal heroes, she’s alone. And her search has hit a serious dead end. Then Patricia disappears, and all the clues point to a dead man. It’s up to her friends and The Department to find her and bring her home.

As a woman of a certain age, I saw the blurb for this book, looked at the cover and knew I had to give it a go. While I’m reasonably happy to read shedloads of books featuring fresh-faced young things full of uncertainty as they discover passion and try on adulthood for size, the prospect of reading a superhero book with a protagonist dealing with issues I’m more familiar with is a no-brainer. It’s early days yet and as this is Book 2, I’m still slightly floundering. But I really, really like Patricia…

Review of Firefight – Book 2 of The Reckoners series by Brandon Sanderson

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This is the second full-length book in The Reckoners series. I really enjoyed Steelheart – read my review here – as this super-hero, near-future science fiction romp was chockful of action and adventure. Would this sequel successfully continue to sustain the pace and excitement?

Sanderson-R2-FirefightUK_thumb21David realises he has questions. Big ones. And there’s no one in Newcago who can give him the answers he needs. Babylon Restored, the former borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic, Regalia, also known as Firefight, David is sure Babylon Restored will lead him to what he needs to find. Entering another city oppressed by a High Epic despot is a gamble but David’s willing to risk it and embark on a quest darker, and more dangerous even, than the fight against Steelheart to get his answers.

I’ve dramatically pruned the blurb so that if you haven’t yet read Steelheart, you won’t find yourself beset with spoilers regarding the plot. Sanderson has shifted the environment from the metallic surroundings of Newcago, so David is now out of his comfort zone and confronted with another hostile urban landscape. The Epics acquire their superpowers when the population are exposed to Calamity, a celestial body that bathes everyone in a lurid light. But as well as gaining superpowers, the Epics also are driven to rule at all costs and regard the rest of humanity as a lower lifeform destined to do their bidding – and if they don’t, then they should die. Or… die anyway.

The Reckoners, an underground group, have evolved to try and halt the Epics is humanity’s last desperate fight back against the chaos the Epics have caused as they squabble among each other in unceasing power struggles. David is part of that group. This gives plenty of scope for non-stop action and mayhem, which is a staple for this particular sub-genre. What makes this offering stand out for me is David’s quirky first person narrative. He is a geeky, driven character who spent his formative years trying to prevail against the overwhelming might of the Epics by observing them and keeping copious notes on their habits.

He is the opposite of the classic lantern-jawed hero, with his nerdy preoccupations about his weaponry and coining cool metaphors. He is also tongue-tied and awkward around girls – come to think of it, he’s not all that at ease around anyone else, either. But his character provides some lovely moments of light relief that had me laughing out loud in amongst this ruined dystopian world.

Sanderson’s rich, disturbing backdrop whisked me away from a horrendous cold and the overarching story where we are steadily learning more about exactly what lies behind the Epics powers had me turning the pages way into the night. If your taste runs to superhero adventures – or even if it doesn’t and you want to know what all the fuss is about – then track down this entertaining series.
10/10

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