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com This morning on planet Earth, there are 1,686 enhanced, gifted, or otherwise superpowered persons 678 use their powers to fight crime, while 441 use their powers to commit them 44 are currently confined in Special Containment Facilities for enhanced criminals Of these last, it is interesting to note that an unusually high proportion have IQs of 300 or eighteen to be exact Including me You really have to wonder why we all end up in jail Well, when a novel starts like this, how in a million years could I possibly pass it up And indeed, just about everything at first about Bay area author Austin Grossman s debut novel, Soon I Will Be Invincible, seemingly screams out I am for you to the random overeducated comics loving geek who comes across it the Chip Kidd cover, Grossman s nerdy credentials as a videogame consultant and PhD candidate in Victorian literature, Invincible s storyline concerning weary postmodern superheroes But there s a big problem regarding reviewing this novel, in that there are two very different interpretations one can have as to what Grossman s point is, and that my feelings regarding the book change profoundly depending on which interpretation you adopt of whether this is a light deconstructionist comedy about freaks in tights and what makes them do what they do or maybe if this is instead an unironic gritty Dark Age drama about superheroism itself.
What to do, what to do So I m trying something unusual today I m writing two mini reviews of Invincible instead, tackling my thoughts when it comes to each of these interpretations, since it s almost impossible to know which one Grossman meant for us to have unless directly asking him If you end up reading the novel yourself, I ll be interested to see which of the two takes you adopt, and encourage you to leave a comment at the end sharing your own thoughts on the matter.
A Soon I Will Be Invincible as deconstructionist superhero comedy For those who don t know, there s a rising subgenre of superhero stories out there now for those who enjoy such things, which is the ironic self aware superhero story where the heroes and villains in question understand just how ridiculous their entire situation is, and end up winking at the audience the entire time they re performing their heroic or villainous stunts Think of the most well known example of the subgenre, the 1999 Ben Stiller comedy Mystery Men how the superheroes in that movie live and die by their corporate sponsorships and celebrity endorsements, how most of the superheroes in question turn out to be nerdy losers once the masks come off.
And indeed, there s a lot of the same kind of humor going on in Invincible, and it s undeniable that Grossman has a natural talent for these kinds of observational jokes, such as when the main villain a Lex Luthor stand in starts ranting about the flying abilities of his superhero nemesis clearly a blonde Superman He didn t even have the decency to work for it, to flap a pair of wings or at least glow a little He seemed to do it purely out of a sense of entitlement But there s a weakness that comes with this part of the book as well, or should I say two symbiotic weaknesses that a lot of the novelty concerning this kind of humor has worn off by now, ten years after it first started becoming popular, and that Grossman ends up directly ripping off the concepts and jokes of a whole lot of other projects that have come before his, projects that are frankly better and funnier than his.
Perhaps he I m considering writing an essay, in the tradition of Mark Twain, called Austin Grossman s Literary Offenses.
This book is that bad Really.
It s so bad, I wonder what s wrong with someone that they could actually like this book I know, that s a really mean thing to say, but if you read this book and it doesn t make you feel like the world just got a little darker and dreary, I challenge that you aren t actually a human being, but probably some sort of text scanning utility maintained by a Belarusian literature pirate.
My first complaint is with the book s form While Grossman s and his editor removed all traces of typos and other rudimentary grammatical errors, they left intact all of the awkward and flailing writing that seems to form the backbone of Grossman s style In most basic terms, this book was not edited Writing should be clear or at least intentionally obfuscated neither is the case here Whole sections requiring rereading not because of their complexity, but because of their incomprehensibility.
At one point I had to stop reading to go watch TV when the author wrote Give me where to stand, said Archimedes, and I will move the world That one sentence condenses everything that s wrong with the author s incomprehensible, cluttered style Not enough pickled ginger in the world to scrub that out of my skull.
Beyond matters of form, we have issues of style In this, I am hesitant to criticize, but I cannot leave this matter half finished The best term I can think of to describe Grossman s style, once I ve dispensed with incomprehensible, awkward, thick, and failing, is immature I mean this in the sense that he seems the immature writer, still at the start of his craft.
The book alternates between the two main characters, one a hero, the other a villain Generally speaking, you can tell which is which because you ll read dialogue where someone addresses the person by their proper superhero villain name Beyond that, there s basically nothing to indicate that either character is a different person Add to this the fact that every character in the book not only exemplifies a stereotype, but in some cases proudly trumpets that fact.
This is not a good book, and you should not read it It mystifies me how this book gets good reviews from anyone And keep in mind that I say this as a reader, not as a comic book fan This goes beyond what the author does to the genre, into basic errors of literature Please, do someone some good and help them avoid this book.
If you need further coaxing, here, listen to my friend Charon It hurt me in my brain head, and I have only the one.
Doctor Impossible Evil Genius, Diabolical Scientist, Wannabe World Dominator Languishes In A Federal Detention Facility He S Lost His Freedom, His Girlfriend, And His Hidden Island Fortress Over The Years He S Tried To Take Over The World In Every Way Imaginable Doomsday Devices Of All Varieties Nuclear, Thermonuclear, Nanotechnological And Mass Mind Control He S Traveled Backwards In Time To Change History, Forward In Time To Escape It He S Commanded Robot Armies, Insect Armies, And Dinosaur Armies Fungus Army Army Of Fish Of Rodents Alien Invasions All Failures But Not This Time This Time It S Going To Be Different Fatale Is A Rookie Superhero On Her First Day With The Champions, The World S Most Famous Superteam She S A Patchwork Woman Of Skin And Chrome, A Gleaming Technological Marvel Built To Be The Next Generation Of Warfare Filling The Void Left By A Slain Former Member, Fatale Joins A Team Struggling With A Damaged Past, Trying To Come Together In The Face Of Unthinkable Evil Soon I Will Be Invincible Is A Thrilling First Novel A Fantastical Adventure That Gives New Meaning To The Notions Of Power, Glory, Responsibility, And Of Course Good And Evil First off, I loved the idea of this novel And even after the disappointment of actually reading Soon I Will Be Invincible, I can still honestly say that I love the idea of it It s just the novel itself I ve got a problem with When I first saw this on the shelf, my mind raced frantically back to the long cardboard boxes of comic books that I still keep stored up in the attic, each comic tucked safely away into a plastic sleeve to protect its value a concept that my incredulous wife mockingly insists will someday be reduced if I m lucky to a pitiful amount of actual legal tender Ha , I say.
Anyway, back to the book One of the things I found most interesting about this novel right off the bat is that, through and through, it s a pairing of opposites Just look at where its bright blue and pink cover shows up in the bookstore, somehow sitting in the G section as if it actually belongs mere inches away from one of my all time favorites, Ernest J Gaines A Lesson Before Dying except at Borders, of course, which is a different story altogether and by the way, A Lesson Before Dying should be stored on a throne far, far away from Mr Grossman s awkward debut But my point is that this thing has the heart of a comic trapped inside the body of a novel a wedding of two mediums that have probably never thought all that much of each other So if someone could pull that off, what a beautiful thing it would be.
But the novel does than just pair the two opposing mediums the story s unique touch well, others have done it better, but still is that it burdens near invincible superheroes and villains with the banality of everyday modern life Another interesting combination of opposites, and it s funny at first to think of these superheroes having to struggle through the same trivial obstacles we all go through, treasuring the same little hopes, harboring the same frustrations In the first few pages, one of the supervillains describes being locked up in jail I m the smartest man in the world Once I wore a cape in public, and fought battles against men who could fly, who had metal skin, who could kill you with their eyes Now I have to shuffle through a cafeteria line with men who tried to pass bad checks Now I have to wonder if there will be chocolate milk in the dispenser Something about that contrast excites me, and I guess it s hard to describe that in transforming into a novel, in moving from the shelf with all the exciting color drawings to the section with all the hefty works of literature, this comic shifted its focus from the super to the ordinary And there was a chance that in shedding its comic styled lettering for pages and pages of pictureless prose, this could have taken on the best of both worlds If the author had pulled that off, if he had found a way to blend all that together and bury some actual substance inside of it, this would have been something special Unfortunately, he didn t And it isn t Really, when you get right down to it, this thing is mediocre at best, whether you measure it as a comic or a novel As far as the comics side of it goes, the actual story itself is terrible Maybe it s purposeful, I guess it probably is, but the whole novel centers around a plot that s cliche, predictable, and boring I can see fans of the novel already saying, But that s the whole point Well, I don t know I guess so But I don t get that, and anyway, it doesn t seem special to me, just tedious There are plenty of comics that have brilliantly original and engaging plotlines, and I would have much rather spent my time reading one of them Or if the author wanted to have a cliche storyline, he could have gone way overboard, having fun with it and actually being creative Superhero League of Hoboken anyone But this doesn t do that instead, it takes its cliche a little too seriously, and that gets uncomfortably boring real fast If you want a comic with an actual heart, better stick with Watchmen, or Sin City, or Stray Bullets, or Dark Knight, or Jimmy Corrigan, or Astro City, or any of a thousand better, creative stories than this one And if you were thinking that maybe the novel side of things would save the day, not so much I ll admit that the writing is exciting and sharp for the first few pages, but after that it takes a pretty ugly nosedive There are actually a few long patches when this 14.
95 paperback choke feels like a rough draft At times, the author seems so afraid of describing something wrong or making a bad transition that he just skips it altogether Whenever I hit one of those confusing, disjointed patches, I learned simply to plow ahead and either I d figure it out later or it would turn out to be not important in the first place, so no big loss either way Another problem is that the writing style is so inconsistent it s distracting, almost as if a few different people high schoolers, maybe took turns hacking away mercilessly at this poor thing One thing that is consistent, however, is that the author uses the exact same descriptions for a few things repeatedly throughout the novel each time trying to pass them off as if they re new , so at least he knows how to cut and paste At first, when I read one of those repeat descriptions, it sent me into a sort of deja vu vertigo Wait, did I read that before until finally I adopted the zen mindset that it takes to get through this book and just stopped caring And I am not exaggerating when I say that there are sentences in this book that do not make sense I m not kidding, they don t make sense But again, zen mindset just keep reading and soon the book will be finished.
So as far as the writing style goes, Mr Grossman needs to fire his editor Or hire one in the first place, I don t know Either way, whatever he needs to do, it would ve been a lot better if he d done it before this book came out.
Despite all my bitter disappointment at everything this novel could have been but completely failed to become, it s still earned a place on my shelf for now, if only to remind me that a some day, someone is going to do this right, and when they do, it s going to blow my ing mind and b I seriously need to renew my public library card.
0 5 some surprisingly strong writing in this oddball offering from the most gutter of gutter sub genres meta playfulness with the iconic figures of superman batman wonder woman is to be expected in today s post post modern world, and the novel satisfies on that level less expected is the charmingly wry writing, the novel s melancholy tone, and the nostalgia that suffuses the thoughts of both narrators all of this than helps to make this surprising novel stand out overall, this may not be earth shaking, but it is certainly a very happy surprise.
i was also surprised that this book was written by the twin brother of the author of The Magicians the family snark was present, but none of the curdled, sour, wannabe Less Than Zero cynicismSuper Template ActionSuperman CoreFire Wonder Woman Damsel Batman Blackwolf Doctor Doom Dr Impossible our hero Cyborg Fatale our heroine Doctor Strange or Zatara Mr Mystic Wildcat Feral is there even a template for an invisible, invulnerable superwoman from the future Lilylove that name This was a surprisingly enjoyable read It had all the craziness and humor you would expect from a novel about a super villain trying to take over the world, but was also surprisingly sad as Austin Grossman used the opportunity to touch on far human subjects like growing old, celebrity, fading glory, loneliness, the struggle for acceptance, the issues people have trying to relate to one and other, and the desire to find ones place in life On the surface this reads like a classic comic book tale It is packed full of larger than life heroes and villains It is a tongue in cheek romp set in a world where the heroes always win and the villains cackle maniacally while trying to take over the world It is the first person narrative that gives Grossman the opportunity to add some depth to the story This story was told from two different POV s The super villain Doctor Impossible and the rookie hero Fatale We join the tale as the Champions, a famous superhero team, reform The Champions are adding a few new members and Fatale is one of the chosen Fatale is a cyborg, think a female Robocop, with little knowledge of her ordinary life She is young and eager to prove herself and be accepted by her famous peers Doctor Impossible is an experienced super villain We join his story just as he breaks out of prison for the 12th time in order to launch his latest plot to take over the world Doctor Impossible carries the story His voice is a fun one and he has some hilarious thoughts and insights along the way Fatale s parts are not quite as exciting, but they are still interesting as they give us a glimpse of the superhero team interacting with each other in private rather than in public I caught a few review comparing this to darker comics like Watchmen, but I do not agree This has some dark and sad moments, but they are balanced out by the action and humor I liked that balance a lot The book had a few flaws and was far from perfect, I d definitely have preferred a different ending, but on the whole this was a fun and worthwhile read packed with humor and action and with just enough melancholy and thoughtful moments to keep things interesting I wish there was a sequel Rating 4.
Audio Note The Doctor Impossible parts were narrated by Paul Boehmer who gave an absolutely fantastic performance as the wry and over the top super villain He really seemed to understand the tone of the story The Fatale parts were narrated by Coleen Marlo She was overshadowed by Boehmer, but still did a decent job voicing the young and eager to impress Fatale.
I found this book poorly written and generally rather boring The characters were not all that interesting and the plot devices plodding at best Not my cup of tea, sorry.
I have a difficult time describing this novel On the surface it is a very humorous plot involving superheroes and supervillains portrayed as actual people you get a look at how annoying it can be to have to save the world when one s marriage is breaking up, for instance You grow to understand how embarrassing it is to be a supervillain genius putting up with a misguided colleague s cheesy catchphrases and general stupidity Beneath that highly entertaining surface is, I think, an intelligently written satire of the entire comic book milieu A comic book fan can read Soon I Will Be Invincible and immediately pick out who is supposed to be the Superman, the Wonder Woman, and so on, and can instantly recognize the ways in which the author paints such characters against the backdrop of our own ordinary reality.
Some comic book fans who have written reviews of this book love everything about it Others complain about the relative dullness of the hero characters, or about the fact that it seems to be a generic amalgam of all classic comic book stories with almost nothing new or innovative These reviewers are correct in their cursory descriptions of the book, but they are also completely missing the point If a comic reader picks up this book expecting to read a cutting edge original tale of heroes and villains, he or she will inevitably be disappointed The imagination with which its fans credit this book lies not in the plot or the characters themselves, but in the way they are used to tell an entirely unwritten story Grossman is using his unillustrated prose to poke fun at the genre with the fondness unique to a genuine fan Frankly, if he had merely set out to write a brand new comic, I imagine he would have grounded it firmly in the industry by writing in the usual comic book format instead of taking a chance on the readers of general fiction.
The reason for my difficulty in writing this review is this I am a complete comic book dunce I ve seen the movies I readV for Vendettabecause I wanted a few plot points cleared up, and apart from a few forays into Archie as a child, I don t think I ve ever read any other comic books or graphic novels or anything of the kind My comic fan perspectives are only conclusions I have based on the words of those who know the genre I wish to make this perfectly clear because it is the reason for my five star rating even though I have no interest in the world of comic books, even though I had to have the subtexts pointed out to me by my boyfriend after failing to notice them myself, I still quite thoroughly enjoyed reading this book It is a comic book in novel form that manages to be universally accessible and enjoyable The satirical overtones naturally add to the experience, but even without them, you ll have a very good time.
The temperature went on rising Spiderweb cracks formed on the glass of the containment chamber an instant before the explosion The pain was like burning or drowning, and it went on and on, unbearable I wanted to faint, to leave my body When you can t bear something but it goes on anyway, the person who survives isn t you any you ve changed and become someone else, a new person, the one who did bear it all The formula saturated my body, and I changed.
This is one my all time favorite books.
Trapped in prison after his 12th attempt to take over the world, evil genius and super villain Dr Impossible is wondering if he ll ever escape Can he once again create a brilliant and amazing plan to make the Earth s populace bow down before him I m the smartest man in the world Once I wore a cape in public, and fought battles against men who could fly, who had metal skin, who could kill you with their eyes I fought CoreFire to a standstill, and the Super Squadron, and the Champions Now I have to shuffle through a cafeteria line with men who tried to pass bad checks Now I have to wonder if there will be chocolate milk in the dispenser And whether the smartest man in the world has done the smartest thing he could with his life.
This takes place in an exciting world of superheroes, a world that might exist in a comic book People routinely obtain superpowers from alien technology, fairy or god intervention, chemical accidents, and genetic experimentation.
This book is told from two alternating points of view that of Doctor Impossible and that of budding new superhero Fatale, a cyborg who used to work for the NSA fighting drug lords before she got invited to join the New Champions.
The book itself is physically beautiful the cover and the inside Each chapter is marked with either a little ray gun Impossible s chapters or a little cyborg eye Fatale s chapters The book is also divided into three parts, each marked with a full page black and white superhero type photograph I loved this.
The prose and writing is beautiful and truthful This book is very powerful, it hits you full on and never relents If you re different you always know it, and you can t fix it even if you want to What do you do when you find out your heart is the wrong kind You take what you re given, and be the hero you can be Hero to your own cold, inverted heart.
Grossman is also smart and weaves an amazingly intricate story here I ve read this book three times and even upon the third reading I was discovering and picking up on new things that eluded me the first two times.
This is NOT sci fi, it s fantasy, so don t expect any hard science here It s all death rays, and zeta beams, and alternate dimensions and stuff.
I can t believe the psychology and humanity that Grossman manages to fit into this book He coaxes out the intricacies of why people choose to do good or evil Doctor Impossible is not just a one dimensional villain, and his choice to embrace darkness is the result of a lot of different factors that sounded very familiar and true to me We are in Impossible s head and able to know his thoughts and his past and in knowing him so intimately we become aligned and sympathetic to him even so since things never seem to go his way.
I won t talk to much about what happens in the book, because I don t want to give anything away half the fun is piecing it all together Grossman didn t skimp on the intricacies and delicacies of plotting You ll be going Ah ha when different pieces to the puzzle emerge and you put something together that wasn t clear before It s really masterful.
Another thing that I think Grossman does insanely well is the balance he makes between the glossy candy part of the comic book world and the gritty, grim underside.
Fatale is experiencing the high class, expensive, flashy world of the superheroes Being this close to so much power is a vertiginous sensation The heroes pop out at you, impossibly vivid, colorful as playing cards but all from different decks, a jumble of incompatible suits and denominations dealt out for an Alice in Wonderland game A man with the head of a tiger sits next to a woman made of glass The woman to my right has wings This is where I want to be the players.
She and the other superheroes move through a world that adores, idolizes, and complies with them Damsel and I pass the first perimeter she flashes some identification at the policemen on the barricades, who stare at our costumes as if we were brightly colored poisonous fish.
But beneath all that glamour lies ugly truths, open wounds, and anguished pasts All the superheroes seemingly perfect, God touched lives have some open and sometimes festering wounds underneath.
The villains are just as complex and a lot of the book is spent in dumpsters, motel rooms, and sewers This is the modern real world but a world where some people can fly and see through walls, or generate force fields or summon lightning.
I love the juxtaposition of grimy and glossy that Grossman does so perfectly here He hits me again, and this time I almost feel it It s been a long time since I felt much of anything.
What else Grossman has a great vocabulary I love learning new words and he did not disappoint I mean, he s no Donna Tartt the book is pretty accessible, but he slips some gems in there and I loved it.
The chapter titles are so much fun Foiled Again and Enemy of my Enemy and Maybe We Are Not So Different, You and I are just a few examples.
If you like comic books, this is the book for you.
If you don t read comic books I m with you I am not a comic book reader But I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this book and that means that you might, too You don t need to be a comic book fanatic to understand or enjoy this novel I have a therapist here in prison , Steve, a sad Rogerian I m taken to see twice a week in a disused classroom Do you feel angry What did you REALLY want to steal The things I could tell him secrets of the universe But he wants to know about my childhood I try to relax and remind myself of my situation if I kill him, they ll just send another.
MEDIA THAT RELATES TO THIS NOVEL MOVIES MegamindHancockDespicable Me 1 and 2Dr Horrible s Singalong BlogMystery MenSky HighKick Ass 1 and 2My Super Ex GirlfriendSpecial 2006 WatchmenBig Hero 6Unbreakable Split GlassAny traditional Marvel or DC film I won t list them.
books Attack of the MutantAny superhero comic book, I won t list them.
But I want to add in here that this book has a serious, adult tone to it It is not a joke although it is frequently laugh out loud funny But instead of mocking or poking fun at superhero supervillain clich s, Grossman is playing it pretty straight He takes this opportunity and backdrop to really explore human feelings and psychology It s fun, it s thought provoking, and it s emotional there s a deep vein of sadness and despair that counteracts the silliness and wit that Grossman glosses this with I loved every minute of it and can t recommend it highly enough Why is it always like this I d forgotten about this stuff Let myself get complacent Images of Peterson get confused with the present day In another room with a tiled floor, they stand around jeering while I face the urinal I leave, face blank, in a trance of shame Somewhere in that darkness, I wedded myself eternally to science and genius and anger How had I forgotten that Not as dark as something like Watchmen, but not as light as traditional comic book fare, I think this book achieved the perfect balance in a way I haven t seen before All my life, I d been waiting for something to happen to me, and now, before I was ready for it, it was I saw the misadjusted dials and whirling gauges and the bubbling green fluid and electricity arcing around, and a story laid out for me, my sorry self alchemically transmuted into power and robots and fortresses and orbital platforms and costumes and alien kings I was going to declare war on the world, and I was going to lose.
If only it were all so simple If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being Alexandr Solzhenitsyn Should I be embarrassed about giving Soon I Will Be Invincible four stars Should I even admit that I bought it because I loved the title and the cover This a silly piece of entertaining fluff It s dessert after a really healthy dinner It doesn t have any hidden meanings, heavy symbolism or deep thoughts It s just really, really entertaining I laughed a few times and had a big grin on my face when I put it down Even better, I can pass this book to my son without any worries about inappropriate material It s very funny and very refreshing.