Friday, April 1, 2016

No Heroes

V.E. Schwab's super powered world is grounded in one much like our own except a bit bleaker. The mundane problems of everyday life are set alongside the possibility for humanity to achieve something more than human but unlike a comic these abilities are not gift at all.

The story follows two college friends, Victor and Eli, as they discover there are humans out there gaining special powers, known as EO's (ExtraOrdinary people), which can only be 'received' by having a near-death experience. Undertaking this dangerous experiment, with Eli going first, both friends end up with extraordinary abilities and an altered worldview. Eli is given an auto healing ability and the almost religious zeal that everyone else with abilities is evil and must be killed. Victor, unbeknownst to Eli who refused to help him, does the same experiment emerging with the ability to make people feel enormous amounts of pain with his mind. Pain enough that can kill. And that's exactly what happens. As Eli's girlfriend helped Victor with his own near-death experiment he revived and, though accidentally, killed her in the process. Victor goes to prison for her murder, thanks to Eli, and Eli continues his crusade against all EO's while Victor plots his revenge.

The greatest part of this book is the growth between Victor and Eli from friends to despised enemies. Their interaction is reminiscent of the relationship and attitude between Superman an Batman. None of the EO's exhibit powers on the same level as normal comic heroes. None of them can fly or have super strength and they are all vulnerable to any weapon a normal person would be vulnerable to. All except Eli. His healing ability means that he truly cannot die. He gains an ally in Serena; an older sister of two EO's whose power is much like Kilgrave (the Purple Man) from Jessica Jones. Her loyalty allows Eli to kill any EO's he wants and never be caught since the police will do and think whatever Serena says. Victor gains allies as well, a brute of a cell mate who is also a tech guy, Sydney the younger sister to Serena, who can bring people back from the dead, and finally a US military veteran who can go into a shadow version of reality where he can disappear and walk through walls.

Even though Victor has more allies than Eli it is Eli, with his one ally, which has the advantage. Eli sees his work as righteous, good, a correction to the order of the world, becoming the nightmare version of Superman that Batman always feared he would become. Their battle of wits, plans, and powers come together, after a very dark road, in the most sinister and satisfying way. No one is a hero here but Victor, though out for blood, seems to be the lesser of two evils who befriends genuine, good people. If you can't root for the protagonist then cheer for those that follow him, for they are better than he is and he doesn't want to kill them. Which is nice.

My overall rating for this book is that its very good. Looking back at my top reads of 2015 I think this book and the previous one I reviewed should have been number ten and nine instead of eleven and twelve. Oh well.

I hope this second review from my top reads for 2015 has helped you in deciding what to read next. If you would like to see my top reads of last year that list it can be found here. The first review from that list is can be found here. Be on the look out for next Friday's review over Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. As much as you can have a pleasant and peaceful weekend.

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