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Soon I will be Invincible by Austin Grossman

It’s been said here before that I’m a sucker for “sale” books. That’s true, but I’m also a sucker for superhero books. I don’t mean comic books, which you all know that I like, but I mean novels about superheroes…and not just Spider-Man or Bat-Man, either.

Soon I will be Invincible, by Austin Grossman, is just that, a superhero book about a bunch of heroes and villains we’ve never heard of before. Actually, I want to say that I prefer books like that. I think the reason is that I expect Spider-Man to act in a certain way (that established by the main man, Stan Lee) and when he doesn’t, I get a little upset. Early efforts were done well, but in recent years, many authors have been given great liberty and it generally doesn’t go over well with me.

Regardless, the cover to SIWBI grabbed me immediately—it did exactly what it was supposed to do…it got my attention. Plus, I love the title; kinda long, but very telling.

SIWBI starts off fantastic. Told in first person from the points of view of Dr. Impossible, the main bad guy, and Fatale, a new superheroine, we are dragged right into the story. Dr. Impossible, a supervillain who suffers from Malign Hypercognition Disorder (otherwise known as “evil genius syndrome”) is incredibly fascinating. When the story begins, he’s in prison after having been captured for about the twelfth time, plotting and planning not his escape, but his next attempt to take over the world.

Fatale has moments, but on the whole is pretty forgettable as are most of the other “heroes.” Many of the heroes are thinly veiled ripoffs of long established characters, or amalgamations of some. Granted, that’s part of the draw to them, to see what characteristic and personality quirks he picks up from this. Grossman pokes fun at superheroes and comics and often it is difficult to tell if he’s making fun of comics or if he’s treating it seriously. That may be because some of the novel reads seriously and other sections make you think he’s making fun. Again, the best sections are those with Dr. Impossible. I’d almost like to see the non-Impossible chapters removed, make the whole book about him as Grossman does a very nice job getting inside the head of someone who’s just not quite right.

I didn’t realize it when I bought it, but some quick internet research revealed that SIWBI was a finalist for the 2007 John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize.

Do I recommend it?

Yeah, I do. It’s not the best thing you’ll read and there are parts that are slow…but the pages continue to turn and you find yourself hurrying through Fatale’s chapters wanting to know what happens with Dr. Impossible.

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Terminal 9 by Rushford and James

Terminal 9 is another one of those books I found under those alluring words “book sale.” It didn’t exactly one of those covers that yelled “buy me,” but it did have one of those price/sale stickers that said that. It is actually the third book in a series, though reading the first two aren’t required to read this one. Co-written by Patricia H. Rushford and Harrison James, the 334 pages aren’t exactly page turners, but it wasn’t a complete waste of my time like one or two I’ve read in the past.

Part of the problem is that we see every…single…thing…that happens during and after the death of the victim. There are very few scenes of real drama, suspense or action. Yes, the plot moves along…well, it crawls along. And it isn’t that the characters aren’t interesting, it is simply a case of the editor failing to tell the writer, “you gotta cut some of this, it’s too long.”

An old man in a wheelchair is run over by a train near his house. All sorts of suspects, including the railroad company that wants to buy his riverfront land. The lead detective is Mac McAllister, who’s just been assigned a new partner…a female who happens to be a former romantic interest of his. We learn, through several agonizing scenes, that they’re both still interested in each other, but want to keep the relationship “professional.”

I think one of the things I learned while editing comic scripts/stories is that the lead characters should be characters of action…not inaction. The lead characters should be the ones doing the doing…not having the doing done to or for them. Terminal 9 read as if someone were simply pointing the way around to all the things that happened. It felt more like someone merely relaying facts of a story to me…when it should draw me in, get me involved and make me actually care about what happened. With the exception of Mac, we don’t really learn much about the other characters, and that’s too bad because there are sketches of some really interesting characters.

It would be hard for me to suggest this book to you for a retail cover price of $14…but if you can find it on the sale table like I did, it’s better than the latest book featuring Fabio on the cover. J

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The Best of Evil by Eric Wilson

Eric Wilson’s The Best of Evil was a very pleasant surprising find. As mentioned in this space before, I’m a real sucker for any place that has a sign containing the words “book” and “sale.” That’s exactly how I spotted Wilson’s book (and a few others that I’ll probably mention here in the coming weeks). 

As it happens, I’d just come out of a dentist appointment with a new dentist here in Oxford. Brett and I both had checkups (both of us had a clean teeth bill of heath, thanks!) and were returning to my truck. This office is in a strip mall, the first time I’d ever seen one in such a location.

Needless to say, next door is a Christian book store. As I got in my truck to leave, I stuck the key in the ignition. Before I could turn it, those words-you know them-“Sale. Half off.”

So, I told Brett to stay put (I could actually see the books on the table from my truck), and went inside for a quick look. I ended buying about 5 books, all for $3-$5.

The Best of Evil is about Aramis Black, a young man who’s moved from somewhere out west to Nashville. Out west he had considerable drug and alcohol problems (don’t they all, “out west?” -that’s a joke) and so he moves in with his brother, a struggling young country musician.

Aramis, who has opened up his own coffee shop, is still pretty much struggling to find his way, when out of the blue (how come it’s always “blue”? Why can’t it be out of the red? Or orange, or brown?) a man is gunned down in his shop right before his very eyes.

One of the ingredients in this story that really drug me along is that Aramis is supposedly a descendant of Merriwether Lewis, of the famous Lewis and Clark. Wilson’s tale tells of murder and intrigue relating to the Lewis family and a secret the family has passed down since the famous Merriwether’s death/murder. In fact, Aramis, when only a child, witnesses the murder of his mother, a death which he blames on his uncle.

Aramis must discover this secret past, which every one of his family members seem to know, but refuse to tell him.

The book was published in 2006, so it isn’t very old. It contains a lot dialogue so it moves very fast-the pages turn quickly. You’ll make your way through the 335 pages in no time. I don’t know that I could recommend it at the original sticker price of $14, but certainly worth your time and money at half that.

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