Thursday, 31 January 2013
Book Review: Soon I Will Be Invincible
Soon I Will Be Invincible is a book written by Austin Grossman. The book details the lives of a supervillain, known as Doctor Impossible and a half woman / half cyborg superhero known as Fatale. Each chapter alternates perspectives as Doctor Impossible devises a plan to rule the world and Fatale joins the Champions, a superhero group bent on twarting Doctor Impossible's plan.
Without knowing the author's intent, there were three things that really stood out to me regarding the story. The most perceptable and obvious thing to me was how humanized, these superhumans, half humans, and even aliens and mythological beings were portrayed. The book has an undertone of sadness to it, in that it takes the shine and glory off of being a superhero or a supervillain.
Dr. Impossible is a victim of bullying as a kid genious, and grows up with major social defeciencies, along with what could be described as a superiority complex. At a college lab demonstration gone wrong, Jonathan's Zeta Beam (before he becomes Dr. Imposible) strikes Jason, the good-looking, popular, atheltic, smart student whom Jonathan views as his rival, when Jason heroically pushes Jonathan's love interest out of the path of the beam. The accident gives Jason both the powers that will eventually turn him into Core Fire, an invincible superhero and leader of the Champions, as well as the heart of the girl Jonathan loves. Enacting a kind of revenge against the all-american persona of Core Fire becomes one of Dr. Impossible's main motivations in his plans to take over the world.
Fatale is a young girl who suffers life threatening injuries after she is struck by a motor vehicle, her life is saved when she is turned into a half woman/ half cyborg super soldier. Fatale struggles with her feminine identity in a physical sense because of her lack of relationships with men and because of the removal of her reproductive organs during her surgery. She also struggles with her roll as a "big time" superhero when she becomes a fledgling member of the veteran group. The background story for virtually every hero and villain mentioned, save for Core Fire perhaps, elicits a very human and sympathetic tale.
The second thing that stood out to me was how blurred the lines were between superheros and supervillains in the story. In a lot of comic books super heros may turn bad, or villains good, but if/when they do so, it usually involves an accident or outside stimulus. Rarely is an allegiance to good or evil changed because of a crisis of faith or internal struggle. One of the feature characters in the story, Lily, is a crystalline transparent super powered woman who was originally a supervillain and formerly involved in a close personal relationship with Dr. Impossible. At the time of the story though Lily has joined the Champions and now fights on the side of the heros. It's interesting to me that the transparent character, caught between the physical and invisible world, is also blurred between the good and evil world. Other characters in the story also struggle between good and evil, but none evidenced in the story more so than Lily.
The third thing that stands out are the strong female characters in the story. Equality abounds as there are many strong female super heros (like Elphin the fairy, Rainbow Triumph the teen superhero and Damsel, the leader of The Champions during Core Fire's absense) and super villians (like Dollface) who compliment the male characters in the story. Characters like Fatale, and especially Lily, go beyond complimenting the male heros and villains though in that they are the ones who most easily grasp the grey area between good and evil. In their ability to do so, while the boy's battle for supremacy and world domination, it's the female characters (especially Lily) who show the most compasion, thoughtfullness and intelligence. I'm not sure what women think of the female characters, but it would be interesting to hear their perspective. To me Lily and Fatale were the two most interesting characters and they "got it" a lot better than their male counterparts did.
Ultimately I loved the book. While Grossman's writing isn't overly audacious and the story line doesn't make you work too hard, the story flows well and I think the message is very real. It's kind of refreshing and different from any other super hero story I've read in the way that the reader can relate to both the heros and the villains. I really liked how Grossman's characters seemed more like you or I than Spiderman or Superman or Dr. Doom or Lex Luthor. I encourage anyone who has read the book to post their thoughts and opinions here, as I'd love to hear other perspectives.