Author: Austin Grossman
Genre: Science Fiction
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.