anthimeria: Comic book panels (Sequential Art)
[personal profile] anthimeria
PART THE FIRST: I have just finished the ARC of a new book coming out on June 25 called Sidekicked, by John David Anderson, and it is awesome.  I love the main character, his voice and his choices, I love the plot, I love the worldbuilding, the way a larger world is hinted at without needing to be on the page all the time, the mystery and the adventure.  I love that it has diversity (at least two characters of color, one of whom is deaf!  And it does acceptably well gender-wise) without Being About Diversity.  I love the in-jokes and the chapter titles.  If you like superheroes, check this book out come June 25.  It is, technically, a kid's book, but the writing is definitely of a kind that I wouldn't hesitate to hand it to an adult who likes superheroes, or any teenager who likes a good adventure story.

Possibly one of my favorite things is that Sidekicked doesn't take itself too seriously, while taking the genre itself seriously.  Every speculative fiction fan knows there are aspects of their genre or subgenre that are laughable out of context, and sometimes even in context.  The best works are like, Yes, this is actually ridiculous, but work with us here--what if?  Sidekicked does this marvelously without going too over-the-top or disrespecting its origins.

Also, it has really good superhero and supervillain names, which is a feat.  I was impressed.

PART THE SECOND: Recommendations!

The story behind this bit is that I recently attempted to read another superhero novel aimed at the same age group and had to put it down after forcing myself through the first hundred pages, hoping it would get better.  I love superheroes and I love books, but I am well aware that the two usually go together like cats and cold water (and I'm not talking tigers.  Housecats.   Fluffy housecats).  Most of the few superhero novels and even comic book novel adaptations I read in high school and college sucked.  Even stuff like Hero, which was passable, weren't great.  But as superheroes become more popular and we get more books, I've been reading everything I can get my hands on, looking for the good books.

So: this is my the good, the mediocre, and the don't bother list of superhero novels.  I'm not making any distinctions between intended reader age, though I shall mention it, along with a brief reason why I gave a novel this ranking.

I invite discussion and suggestions of more superhero books for me to read in the comments!

The Good:

Black and White, by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge
--This was the first good superhero novel I ever read, and it has two women main characters.  It constructs a world where superheroes are controlled by a single corporate source, and people with superpowers exist in very limited numbers.  It's not perfect, but it delves into a lot of issues with kids with powers, the hero/villain dichotomy, and has two great main characters.  I haven't yet read the sequel, but intend to.  Adult.

Velveteen Vs., by Seanan McGuire
--Okay, I'm cheating with this one.  It's Seanan McGuire's series of superhero short stories, but they all tie together into a larger narrative, so I'm including it.  Velveteen also constructs a reality where superheroes are under a single corporate umbrella, but as the stories unfold it turns out her world is much more complicated than that, and there are a number of heroes operating outside the corporation's control--and that the line between hero and villain is often more in the media than the actions.  Velveteen, of all the superhero books, is the only one that embraces the multi-genre nature of superheroes in that she has magic, mad science, mutation, alternate realities, holiday worlds, and you name it as part of the worldbuilding.  That very defiance of genre conventions by throwing everything into the pot is something I love about superheroes, and Velveteen does it phenomenally.  Adult

Sidekicks, by Jack D. Ferraiolo
--I believe I reviewed this book here when I read it, and I still love it.  Despite its flaws, and it did have some--mostly plot-related--it was clearly written by someone who knows superheroes and loves them.  Its main character is great and the relationship in the book is realistic and fantastically written.  I ended up loving her as  much as or more than the MC, which made me incredibly happy.  Not to mention the fights scenes are great.  Upper middle grade, youngish young adult.

Sidekicked, by John David Anderson
--See above, re loved it.  Above and beyond its qualities as a superhero narrative, it's simply and wonderfully a good book.  Upper middle grade, but definitely enjoyable by older folks.

The Mediocre:

Hero, by Perry Moore
--This is a book where the worldbuilding just wasn't big enough--a flaw shared by most superhero novels (the exceptions being Velveteen Vs. and Sidekicked, IMO).  The writing is fine and the story is fine and if you love this book, more power to you, but even though I finished it I couldn't summon up much emotion for it.  Give it a try, you might like it more than I did.  It's a solid YA.

Joshua Dread, by Lee Bacon
--It's a solid middle grade adventure story that happens to star the child of two notorious supervillains.  It's a fun read but nothing really special.  I would definitely hand it to an 8-to-12-year-old who likes superheroes.

The Ultra-Violets: The Fuchsia is Now! by Sophie Bell
--Even moreso than Joshua Dread, The Ultra-Violets is aimed solely at its age-group.  It's bubbly, fast, and the text is purple.  I had to skim this one, but I'm pretty sure nine year old girls will love it.  Middle grade.

Those Who Walk in Darkness by John Ridley
--Caveat: I read this many-a-year ago and don't remember the fine print.  That and my general distaste for incredibly dark books is why it's in Mediocre and not Good.  But the broad strokes stuck with me, and Soledad, the main character, is violently memorable and makes incredibly interesting choices.  Her world was painted in a sort of worst-case-scenario for a superhero world.  Not quite dystopian, but close.  Soledad learns interesting things and makes interesting choices, and I recommend this book for people who like their fiction gritty.  Adult.  (PS: thanks to Elena for reminding me about this one!)

The Don't Bother:

Cloak Society, by Jeramey Kraatz
--Too much grandiosity, not enough character.  I had trouble with the world and the characters.  Middle grade.

Vindico, by Wesley King
--I wanted to like this one so much, but I just didn't buy it.  It had gender issues and the writing was technically good at the sentence level but the worldbuilding was shaky and the characters were all surface--they didn't seem to think or feel much, just act.  It felt like the author had been writing scripts for a long time and hadn't quite gotten back into the habit of writing in all the stuff a visual medium does in comic book panels or on screen.  Youngish-young adult, maybe upper middle grade.

AND that's it's so far.  There's a few obvious books I haven't read, like Jennifer Estep's Karma Girl, but it's on my to-read list.  If you have other recommendations, let me know in the comments!

If you disagree with me, tell me why.  I'm up for spirited discussion but trolling or rudeness will be summarily deleted at the discretion of the author.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-17 01:05 pm (UTC)
feuervogel: photo of the statue of Victory and her chariot on the Brandenburg Gate (Default)
From: [personal profile] feuervogel
Broken and its sequels Fly into Fire and The Spark by Susan Jane Bigelow. They're not superhero novels that are like comic books; they're future SF with people who have superpowers and end up fighting the evil government. I love them.


anthimeria: unicorn rampant, first line of Kipling's "The Thousandth Man" (Default)
Lauren K. Moody

Positive Obsession

There is hope in error, but none at all in perfection.
--Ursula K. Le Guin

The universe is made up of stories, not atoms.
--Muriel Rukeyser

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

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