Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Soon I Will Be Invincible

Title: Soon I Will Be Invincible
Author: Austin Grossman
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2007
Rating: 7.5/10

Review: I received Soon I Will Be Invincible as a Christmas gift. As an aside, Christmas gifts are awesome for getting one out of a reading funk. They are also good at introducing books and authors that one might never pick up on their own. For me, Soon I Will Be Invincible is one of those books that I probably wouldn't have picked up myself.

The book is told from two different perspectives in alternating chapters. The first perspective is that of a super-villain, Doctor Impossible, who escapes the prison for the 12th time to hatch yet another plan for world domination. The second perspective is of a superhero, Fatale, who joins a band of other famous superheroes called The New Champions. The original Champions and a few new members are brought together to stop Doctor Impossible and find out what happened to CoreFire, a missing member of the original group.

I have to make a disclaimer that I have never been big on superhero cartoons or comics. I didn't grow up with them, I have never read the comics, and I've only seen one or two of the superhero movies that came out recently. I can be relied upon to not remember the difference between Spiderman, Superman and Batman. So at first I was a bit put off by the fact that the whole novel is about superheroes.

However, Grossman handles the subject in a surprising manner. He takes the usual tropes for superheroes and villains and he twists them to fit into the real world. It's an adult handling of a subject usually dealt with in kids' media. The villain evokes pity rather than fright, despite his abilities and clear malevolent intentions. Since half the story is told from Doctor Impossible's POV, there is a much clearer motivation than usual in these types of stories. The superheroes are not as impressive either, squabbling, facing family issues, divorced, disillusioned. They are typical adults with a few extraordinary powers. It's hard to tell whether the heroes are the villains in the novel are more twisted.

The novel in itself moves pretty well, there are lots of interesting elements to it, and a nice twist at the end of the book which I didn't see coming. It's well written, but the dark tone is not necessarily something I want. Here's an example from the scene where Doctor Impossible breaks into The Champions' residence:
Splendid, but the place smells like they always do -- sweat and ozone and disinfectant, hospital smells. The ability to stretch your limbs or secrete acids can wreak havoc on the human metabolism. There's a fine line between a superpower and a chronic medical condition.
Even if I hadn't made a connection from Austin Grossman to Lev Grossman at first, I definitely would have as I was reading the book. There is a common element to The Magicians and Soon I Will Be Invincible. They both take subjects that readers associate with their childhood and think of with nostalgia; and turn them into adult themed books.  Turns out they are brothers, and I really wonder why both of them decided to treat, what I assume to be their childhood interests, in this manner.

Overall, it's an interesting and unusual narrative. I think folks who don't mind a more edgy and adult treatment of superheroes will enjoy it a lot. For me, it was entertaining, but not entirely satisfying.


  1. Wow, you've been a super busy blogger as of late; I'm inspired.

    Sounds like I missed with this one… I laughed from page one to the end, but that's because I'm sick and twisted. I didn't think the narrative was dark; edgy yes and certainly adult, but not dark. Perhaps that's just me.

    "there is a much clearer motivation than usual in these types of stories. The superheroes are not as impressive either, squabbling, facing family issues, divorced, disillusioned. They are typical adults with a few extraordinary powers. "

    I think that is a great summation of the what makes the novel work.

    What did you find to be the 'twist?' I thought it was all kinda straight forward unless I'm forgetting something.

  2. You read my two books to hit 40! Didn't you? I feel good about that for some reason. Don't break my bubble…

  3. I did read your two books to hit 40! They came just in the nick of time and motivated me to read!

    The twist I was referring to is Lily's identity. I probably should have seen it coming, but I really didn't.

    I guess you might be right about the book not being that dark, but I guess it just felt a little bit on depressing side, especially when it came to Doctor Impossible. I just felt so bad for him when everyone keeps beating him up and he keeps getting socially rejected and so forth. And at the same time I couldn't root for him... It's frustrating :)

  4. Okay, I can understand that frustration. He was a very endearing character and one I enjoyed while remaining hard to genuinely like.