Three flying saucers
I’m not normally into superheroes, but I almost gave this story my very top rating. I’ll discuss why I didn’t at the end of the review (below the triple spoiler dragons), but basically the story just went a chapter too far. If it had ended right at the conclusion of its climax, I would have said it had one of the best story endings, possibly THE best story ending, that I can remember.
I had one additional problem with the book; I didn’t realize it was a “young adult” book when I bought it. So, maybe there are elements in the story which are requirements of the genre, and my issues are with the genre itself, or maybe another author could have implemented the YA concept differently. I can’t say, as this is the only YA book I’ve ever read.
In the story, an event occurs which causes a large number of people to develop superpowers. Instead of half of them becoming superheroes and half becoming supervillains, they ALL turn to crime or set themselves up as warlords or dictators. The main character in the story is an orphan who has just turned 18 and left an orphanage. As a child, he witnessed his father being murdered by Steelheart, one of the most powerful supervillains and dictator of “Newcago” (Chicago). This led the main character to spend the rest of his life obsessing about supervillains and how to kill them. He manages to link up with a small resistance group, and together they try to kill Steelheart.
One of the members of the resistance group is a teenage girl. In between a series of intensely dangerous crises, or possibly during them, the reader gets to hear the main character’s thoughts, such as “Does she like me?” or “Why doesn’t she like me?” This drove me nuts, and more importantly, takes the reader away from the life-and-death nature of the situation. In the middle of the book, there’s a scene where the teenage girl is critically injured and on an operating room table. It’s supposed to be a tense, heart-wrenching scene, but I couldn’t stop hoping that the girl would die, so I wouldn’t have to listen to the main character think about her any more. Apparently, YA readers can imagine themselves taking on invincible supervillains and saving the world, but can’t imagine coherent interaction with the opposite sex.
During a final climactic battle in which the resistance group takes on Steelheart, some of his supervillain allies, and an army of henchmen, the main character arranges things so that his own death also causes the death of Steelheart. That moment should have been the end of the story, and the end of the main character. I try to maintain a Latin-free blog, but there’s nothing to say at this point other than “Deus ex machina”. The main character survives in some improbable manner (I can’t even remember exactly how) as does every member of the resistance band. Not only did this distract from the “poetic justice” of the ending, it somehow seemed to lessen all of the earlier danger that the characters went through.