Wednesday, September 17, 2008

_Soon I Will Be Invincible_: a supervillain novel

I finished reading Soon I Will Be Invincible, by Austin Grossman last week. I'd been wanting to read this book for a long time, ever since I heard about it. The title was enough, hinting that it would be about superheroism from the villain's point of view.

But the book actually takes a two-character chapter-by-chapter tack, alternating between villain Dr. Impossible and heroine Fatale. 

I liked the tone; the book describes characters who are locked in a slow spiral towards terrible conflict. It manages to deal with super powers and comic-book themes in a more realistic way than most comics. The lone mad scientist's ability to come up with gadgets no hundred-person lab can make is made more plausible by the treatment of Dr. Impossible's history and story as an outsider.  

The premise brought me in, but the language kept me around. Here's Dr. Impossible talking about the moment when he gained his superpowers:

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 anymore; you've changed and become someone else, a new person, the one who did bear it after all. The formula saturated my body, and I changed.

And how about this bit where Fatale thinks about what it's like to be normal:

I used to have a real life; I used to be someone who went on vacation to Brazil. I used to be able to walk down a street without getting stared at, and lie on a bed, and talk to a man who would look at me in something approaching a normal way.

Mentiac predicts that in the very far future, the stars will have cycled through all possible stages of their fusion reactions, from hydrogen to helium and so on down the periodic table to iron. And then there will be a true iron age, when every atom in the universe will have turned to iron, everything transmuted by inexorable centuries to basest metal, even high-tech alloys, even diamonds. Everything. In my imagination, iron stars orbited by iron planets float through an iron galaxy in an iron void. But even then it won't be over. There's always a Rust Age. 

Or here's Impossible musing about losing a girlfriend:
My style of work takes a lot of preparation. I build things and test them out. I have to order parts, or cast them myself. I have to pull all-nighters to debug my robots' pathfinding routines before an invasion. It isn't that interesting to other people.
But getting a glimpse of the inner workings of Impossible's mind will be of great interest to other people. I recommend this book highly. 

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