Vicious, by V.E. Schwab

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Vicious is a book worth reading. I’d heard that I should read Victoria Schwab’s work, and that I should start here; the first point was abundantly, obviously true, and as to the second… I desperately want more, so it can’t have been that far wrong.

I don’t want to spoil any of the fun for you. But I’ve got to share some of what I loved, because there’s so much here worth admiring.

I admire how Schwab has structured her narrative. She’s done fun things with time, fun things that become obvious at the very beginning when you read the first chapter title: “Last Night.” But what has by now become a trite ploy in TV shows (and all manner of other stories) feels like the right way to tell this story. By the end of the book, it feels inevitable… and that inevitability is itself appropriate.

On top of that, her choices about how to use her narrative voice feel extremely fitting as well. I’ll leave that comment be. I think further discussion of it would risk larger spoilers.

Schwab’s character construction also deserves praise, but to tell you why they’re so wonderful, I have to tell you about Schwab’s writing itself; the joy of reading and knowing these characters owes a great deal to her prose. Often poetic, always evocative, and frequently compelling, her words drip life from the page.

This is a book I feel certain I’ll come back to. I will want to relive it, and I will want to see how Schwab managed to put it all together. There’s so much here to appreciate, so much here to admire. And there’s a great deal here from which to learn.

I strongly recommend reading this book. If your taste is anything like mine, I suspect you’ll devour it whole.

Jessica Jones, AKA Intense

No spoilers here, but a trigger warning seems appropriate.  This show deals with abuse and PTSD.  It’s emotionally exhausting.  I haven’t seen the whole series all the way through; that would require far more endurance than I have, and less pursuit of other things that I enjoy.

But I can tell you that from what I’ve seen so far, it’s a really good show.  It’s intense in the kind of way that leaves me with weird twisty knotting feelings in my chest, but without pushing me so far overboard that I can’t watch at all.  It makes me want to keep watching, too.

It’s funny, it’s painful, and I think it has a far better central character and set of central struggles than did Daredevil.  In fact, I think it more or less improves on Daredevil in every way.  It isn’t perfect; there are a few narrative choices so far that I disagree with or which ring false to me but… it’s GOOD.  It’s really good.  I hope you get to watch it soon.

Oh, also, the art for the intro looks a lot like Jeremy Mann’s cityscapes, which are gorgeous.

Brilliance, by Marcus Sakey

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In my case, Lee Child’s cover blurb is highly inaccurate.  Assuming that he includes himself in the group he describes, I’d guess Lee Child hasn’t read many superhero stories; he certainly should be familiar with a number of the other elements involved in Sakey‘s Brilliance.  The book is an excellent combination of superhero fiction, “spy” thriller, and semi-dystopian intrigue, and while I haven’t read many books that combine all of those elements at once, I’m certainly familiar with each of them individually.  That familiarity leaves me well positioned to appreciate the skill with which Sakey unwinds his plot.

The story is set in a world in which some people (1% of the population, more or less) are extremely capable at pattern recognition, generally focusing on a specific subset of their environment.  Our protagonist, for example, is able to read people’s immediate intent through their body language, making him fabulously good at telling where people are going to move within the next few seconds, and at telling whether or not someone believes what they are saying to be true.  This basis for superpowers is simultaneously remarkably constrained and very wide-ranging.  It doesn’t make people superhuman in immediately noticeable ways, and Sakey does an excellent job of keeping to his original concept without breaking the plausibility of the setting.

This is a fast and fun book, and an easy read.  The main character is a quintessential representation of The Man, and the story offers pulpy action goodness, with a thick helping of intrigue, implicit duplicity, and lies.  If you enjoy quick reads that deal with a moderately dystopian alternate present filled with superhumans who are indistinguishable from the rest of us, and all the problems that entails, then I suggest you pick up this book.  You may want to pick it up even if those keywords don’t set your Must Read alarms buzzing, but I’ll save any more description for after the break, where I keep all my spoilers.

Also, just to warn you, this book definitely deals with racism and the abuse of authority.  I think it does it decently, you may think differently.  I don’t think you’d mind it, Stephanie, but I also don’t know that you’d identify with the narrator at all.

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Resistance, by Samit Basu

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When I wrote about Turbulence a little more than a month ago, I agreed with the book’s cover blurb in my demand for a sequel.  But while it’s hard to make something that is truly good and worthy of others’ consumption, it’s even harder to make something as good to follow the first.  Fortunately, I think Basu succeeds where many others have failed, and offers a sequel that not only delivers on the promise of the first book, but follows it appropriately in tone and structure as well.  If you want good superhero fiction, this is an excellent place to start.  Or, rather, Turbulence is a good place to start.  Then you should read this.  And for heaven’s sake, don’t read them in the other order, you’ll just spoil lots of cool stuff from the first book.

Like last time, I find myself in agreement with the cover blurb on Basu’s book, and yet again I think that the blurb misses something even more wonderful; I’m still convinced that Samit Basu is some sort of Bob Ross of words, successfully conjuring worlds out of thin air with the sparsest of descriptions.  Unlike last time, I took more than one day to finish reading this book.  Perhaps if my reading hadn’t been interrupted by working at an overnight summer camp I would have powered through this book as well.  I can’t tell whether I did not feel as drawn in by Resistance as I did by Turbulence because of those delays or because of something else, but I’m happy to give the book a pass given how much I enjoyed it anyway.

Suffice it to say that if you liked the first book, you’ll like this one too.  And if you haven’t read the first one but are down with non-American supers and women who aren’t just given the short end of the stick, you should definitely read Turbulence (and then Resistance).  If you like superhero stories at all, I suspect you’ll like Basu’s work here.  More on the details after the break…

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Turbulence, by Samit Basu

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 The cover doesn’t do justice to the book.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know that I laughed, cried, or gasped while reading Samit Basu‘s Turbulence.  But I also didn’t put it down once I’d picked it up, and I most certainly do demand a sequel.  I’m not sure how I couldn’t, after having happily finished the book in one day.

This book is profoundly easy to read.  Some stories are told in a way that defies accessibility, that requires you to think hard and work your way through the language to the story underneath.  This is not one of them.  Instead, Basu’s descriptions of the world surrounding our protagonists are offered offhand, seemingly effortless in the way that they paint a picture of the world.  The first analogy that comes to mind is watching Bob Ross paint his happy clouds; one minute there’s a blank blue sky, and the next there are beautiful fluffy cumulus floating in it.  He hardly seems to exert himself beyond the bare minimum necessary, and yet a whole world drifts into being over the course of a few words.  Basu certainly relies on his audience to fill in the gaps, as we always do, but each time he conjures up another tiny detail or reminds me of the appearance of some particular piece of scenery, everything flows together again.

Turbulence is the story of what happens when a single plane full of people are all granted superpowers for no apparent reason.  By focusing on the many and varied people aboard BA flight 142 from London to Delhi, Samit Basu offers a superhero story about people who aren’t American (though American superhero comics exist and are referenced), and in which women aren’t automatically relegated to the status of sex-objects.  I really liked it.  Heck, I think even Spaige would like it.  I wasn’t especially surprised by the twists that Basu provided, but I enjoyed all of them and I loved the end of the story.  Now I can’t wait for more.  Fortunately, it looks like I won’t have to, since the sequel comes out in July.

More after the break.

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