Thursday, January 31, 2008

"Soon I Will Be Invincible" by Austin Grossman

Can you honestly say this title with a straight face? Doesn't it just make you want to do the stereotypical evil villain pose/laugh and shout "SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE!" It did me (and my hubby); I really liked this book, even though it wasn't entirely what I thought it would be.

Doctor Impossible escapes from prison and begins putting together another nefarious plot to take over the world. He's done this several times over but has never succeeded, mostly thanks to the efforts of the Super Squadron. Think the SuperFriends of our youth. The Squadron was led by Stormcloud and included various heroes and heroines such as Regina and the Pharaoh. Forward several years later and it's now the Champions who defeat Dr. Impossible on a regular basis, led by Damsel, the daughter of Stormcloud and step-daughter of Regina. This new super-hero group also has amongst its members Blackwolf, CoreFire ("created" by Dr. Impossible), Damsel (ex-wife of Blackwolf), Elphin "Warrior Princess", Fatale (one of our narrators), Feral (man-cat), Galatea (robot who sacrificed herself during the last big fight on Titan), Lily (played both sides of the fence), Mister Mystic, and Rainbow Triumph.

Alas, the Champions aren't what they used to be. After disbanding for almost a decade, they reform to track down and defeat Dr. Impossible after CoreFire disappears, then is found dead. Everyone is sure that Dr. Impossible is the responsible party; he and CoreFire are arch-nemeses, after all. It's a race to the end of the book to find out which side will win. Will evil triumph? Will the Champions save the day?

It would be very comic-book character territory if not for the duel narration provided in every other chapter. Our narrators are Dr. Impossible, who starts the story, then is continued by Fatale in the next chapter. They switch off chapters and provide not only the back story of each character, but also examine the psychological aspects of each side. As Dr. Impossible muses, why did he chose to become an evil genius? That he was a genius was obvious from early on; there was never any doubt about it. But why go over to the dark side? He could've just as easily played for the winning team, fought for the side of right and justice for all. Fatale is no different. Having become a cyborg after a horrific auto accident in Brazil, she wonders almost constantly why she was offered the job of a Champion. After all, she's worked for the NSA and as a free-lance mercenary, not exactly shiny, happy positions. And then there's the question of who made her; the company disappeared overnight and there are no records. She has her suspicions, though...

It's Dr. Impossible's chapters that make the book. He's very introspective for a bad guy, and there are small bits of humor in his chapters (not nearly as much as you would expect from the title, cover art, and jacket description). For instance, some of the good doctor's aliases are Baron Benzen, Count Smackula, Doctor Fiasco and my favorite, Smartacus. The doctor also provides the pathos for the book as well; he's obviously a very lonely man who never really grew out of being a lonely, highly intelligent teen. If you really could become a hero or a villain, which would you be? According to Doctor Impossible, it seems to matter what sort of childhood you had. Hmm, not so different from the real world of today, I suppose.

Check out this book today and soon, you'll find yourself running around yelling "Soon I will be...INVINCIBLE!" (insert evil laugh here)

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