Book Review 55: Soon I Will Be Invincible

When your laboratory explodes, lacing your body with a  supercharged elixir, what do you do? You don't just lie there. You crawl out of the rubble, hideously scarred, and swear vengeance on the world. You keep going. You keep trying to take over the world.

Page 310
Soon I will be Invincible by Austin Grossman is a fun book that follows the adventures of a Supervillian as he tries to take over the word and a reluctant Superheroine as she struggles to fit in with a team of heroes determined to stop him.

The novel takes place in a comic-book like world and opens with Dr. Impossible in prison contemplating the nature of villains.
This morning on planet Earth, there are one thousand, six hundred, and eighty-six enhanced, gifted, or otherwise-superpowered persons. Of these, one hundred and twenty-six are civilians leading normal lives. Thirty-eight are kept in research facilities funded by the Department of Defense, or foreign equivalents. Two hundred and twenty-six are aquatic, confined to the oceans. Twenty-nine are strictly localized—powerful trees and genii loci, the Great Sphinx, and the Pyramid of Giza. Twenty-five are microscopic (including the Infinitesimal Seven). Three are dogs; four are cats; one is a bird. Six are made of gas. One is a mobile electrical effect, more of a weather pattern than a person. Seventy-seven are alien visitors. Thirty-eight are missing. Forty-one are off-continuity, permanent emigres to Earth's alternate realities and branching timestreams.

Six hundred and seventy-eight use their powers to fight crime. while four hundred and forty-one use their powers to commit them. Forty-four 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 more -- eighteen to be exact. Including me.

Page 3-4

All superheroes have an origin. They make a big deal of it, the story of how they got their powers and their mission. Bitten by a radioactive bug, they fight crime; visited by wandering cosmic gods, they search for the lost tablets of so-and-so, and avenge their dead families. And villains? We come on the scene, costumed and leering, colorfully working out our inexplicable grudge against the world with an oversized zap gun or cosmic wormhole. But why do we rob banks rather than guard them? Why did I freeze the Supreme Court, impersonate the Pope, hold the Moon hostage?

Page 7-8
It’s a fun book that looks at the fate of, and illustrates the flaws with, villains and heroes in a more light-hearted way than we see in the iconic Watchmen or in the tortured souls of the Marvel Universe.  We see meetings fall apart, misguided attempts at romance, and egos run amuck in a way that just seems more normal. The heroes’ organization seems more like a modern well intentioned corporate group than the almost sacred flawed heroes we’ve come to expect. 

Grossman tells the story in first person perspective, primarily shifting back and forth between the Dr. Impossible, the villain, and Fatale, the heroine.

And is often the case, the villain is more interesting.  Dr. Impossible talks about his conversation with another villain while in prison.
I stare back at him. I don't know where he got the idea I'm some kind of boss on the inside. The Prism talks to me sometimes, zaps in through the glass when no one's looking, but he's not making much sense these days. Spend too much time as a rainbow and you lose your grasp on certain things.

Page 41
Fatale faces her own challenges as a Cyborg (a human with who has had substantial portions of her body replaced with robotics).
He leaves me alone to unpack. My room looks like a hotel— whoever lived here before me didn't do much decorating. Then I catch on—this must be Galatea's old room, the famous living robot. It figures.

I don't like robots. I hate meeting them socially, even the smart ones that can paint pictures and talk about religion. I met XCathedra once, at a Washington reception connected to the high-tech industry. She was there, schmoozing with cybernetics executives who crowded around her like dwarves around Snow White. She was painted in white racing stripes for the occasion. 1 found myself looking at her shoulder joint, wondering whether we had any technologies in common. When our eyes met the feeling was uncomfortably intimate.

Page 54-55

"I was a superhero, too, for a while, but the NSA was just easier. It's not like how they tell you it will be. It's hard to make it on your own as a cyborg—I've tried, I weigh almost five hundred pounds. I can't find clothes that fit me. I can't ride a bicycle. I can't eat in a normal restaurant, or sit in a chair not reinforced for my weight. I need special foods; I need medication to keep my body from rejecting the implants, and then I get sick too often due to a depressed immune system.

Page 274
All good villains (I love that phrase) must take hostages at some point.  The Dr. Impossible keeps kidnapping a hero’s girlfriend/reporter.
In later years, true, we drifted apart. You can't just take the same hostage every time. Not that my dating techniques grew any more sophisticated in the meantime. But she must be out there somewhere. I'm still waiting for that interview.
Page 231
Of course the Dr. Impossible escapes early in the novel.  There wouldn’t be much of a story if he didn’t.  Later on, some of the heroes encounter him at a coffee shop.  As you would expect by this point in the book, they must follow comic book tradition and protocols.
"You're an escaped felon. We're giving you a chance to surrender quietly. This doesn't have to be a fight."

This sort of offer is a mere formality for a man with a Power Staff and a napkin taped to his face, and she knows it. I'm sweating, wishing I had my helmet. I promised myself once that I wouldn't go down in street clothes.

Page 193
Overall, Soon I Will be Invincible was a fun read.  It may not be a fantastic novel; it lacks the depth of many of my favorite books, but I got a big kick out of it.  It’s humorous and despite the dark things that happen in the book, it’s still somewhat light-hearted. I found myself invested with the characters.

It simultaneously satirizes and honors the superhero and comic book story telling. 

If you are compiling your summer vacation reading list, and you like the superhero world, Soon I Will be Invincible by Austin Grossman should be on your list.

You can find more of my book reviews here.

Here is the back cover synopsis of Soon I Will be Invincible by Austin Grossman.
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, we watch as Fatale joins a team struggling with a damaged past, having 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.

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