Archive for Adam Christopher

Seventh Heaven


Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher

The second novel by British writer Adam Christopher is actually more of a pure superhero story than his first one was. This one is set in the city of San Ventura, the only place in the world where there’s still a functioning superteam — the Seven Wonders — because it’s the only city where a supervillain — the diabolical Cowl — still operates.

We’ve got a pretty wide collection of characters to follow. There’s Tony Prosdocimi, working class schlub, who suddenly finds himself gaining superpowers; his somewhat mysterious girlfriend Jeannie; the Cowl himself, perplexed by the slow loss of his own powers; Blackbird, the Cowl’s sidekick; Sam Millar and Joe Milano, hard-working cops on the Cowl’s trail; and the Seven Wonders themselves: the powerful leader Aurora, the telepathic Bluebell, the speedster Linear, the alien powerhouse Dragon Star, the godlike technologist Hephaestus, his robotic creation SMART, and the shapeshifting warrior Sand Cat.

Once Tony discovers his powers, he becomes obsessed with becoming a hero, so he can defeat the Cowl and confront the Seven Wonders about their negligence in dealing with the murderous villain. At the same time, the Cowl is following a scheme to get his hands on a weapon so powerful and destructive that the Seven Wonders hid it and then made themselves forget where it was. And there’s an even more dire threat looming on the horizon — a crisis so dire it will force heroes and villains to unite to try to stop it.

There’s not a lot more I can tell without giving away spoilers. But I will note that more than one character switches sides, from good to bad, and from bad to good. Lots of people die — and some of them even come back from the dead.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a good, rollicking story, excellent action, mystery, and intrigue, and it reads pretty dang fast — it’s real easy to keep the pages turning.

Characterization is, at times, very good. Some of the characters are very interesting and well-created. Others are contradictory — several of the characters who switch sides appear to have done so just so the plot could have some characters who switched sides. While it keeps the plot moving, it can be very jarring. “Well, I was a good guy — time to embrace monstrous evil!” And some of the characters seem just barely sketched-in — they seem to be there to fill a spot on the stage, to help with battles, or to die somewhat dramatically.

It’s also a bit of a shock when our viewpoint character completely exits the story for about a third of the book.

I guess this is a certain amount of nitpicking, because, like I said, I did enjoy the book quite a bit. But I also wished I’d enjoyed it a little bit more

Still, certainly worth reading for fans of superhero fiction. Go pick it up.

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Empire Weekend

Finally! A chance to review something other than comics!

Empire State by Adam Christopher

“Empire State” is a sci-fi/fantasy/superhero/noir novel by Adam Christopher that starts out with a couple of super-people in 1930s New York having a fight so big, it ends up creating a pocket universe called the Empire State. It’s a darker, rainier, bleaker, more film-noir version of New York City — and only New York City. There’s no Jersey, no Albany, no Baltimore, no California, no Texas, no England, no Bangladesh, no nothing.

Our main character is Rad Bradley, a booze-swilling private eye on the trail of a missing woman, all while under the watchful eye of an oppressive wartime government, a shadowy religious conspiracy, mysterious bruisers wearing gas masks, a mad scientist, and a superhero called the Skyguard.

There are lots of sci-fi and fantasy touches here — robots, parallel worlds, super-science, mega-sized blimps, time travel, interdimensional mindtrip war — and the entire story is kicked off by a couple of superheroes who hit each other so hard they create a new universe — but the bulk of what you’re getting here is good old-fashioned pulp-flavored film noir. Rad Bradley is an old-school gumshoe. He gets hired by a leggy dame, he hangs out with a cynical newspaper reporter, he’s got a bad relationship with the cops, he’s got a run-down office, he wears a fedora — and he goes out investigating mysteries, just like any good old-school gumshoe.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Characters are pretty good. Action’s good. It’s got a fantastic hook. The book even comes with extras, including an interview with the author, a suggested playlist, and something called “WorldBuilder” that lets others write stories set in the Empire State universe.

If I’ve got a complaint, it’s about the lack of female characters. I think I counted four of them — one is Rad’s ex-wife, one is a murder victim, one is the lover of the murder victim, and the only one with a significant part to play in the story is the Science Pirate (not a spoiler — her identity is revealed very early in the book). But the Science Pirate never does a whole lot — gets captured a couple of times and is otherwise kinda generically villainous. Even worse, everyone talks about what a badass the Science Pirate is — until they find out she’s a woman, and then everyone starts disregarding her — “Oh, she’s just a woman, she’s no threat.”

Now that might be something you could excuse for historical accuracy — back in the ’30s, a woman might not be taken seriously by a lot of people. Two problems with that — first, Rad Bradley, the hero, is a black man, and no one ever suggests that he’s not a capable private eye, which definitely wouldn’t happen in the ’30s; and second, if the reader can accept a world with pulp mysteries, robots, superheroes, and all kinds of amazing science-fictional stuff that never happened in the 1930s, you can bet that the reader can also accept capable, non-background female characters.

And that’s a couple big fat paragraphs of negativity — when, really, I definitely enjoyed the book. It runs at a good, brisk pace, and it kept me reading as fast as I could all the way through. The mystery has even more twists and turns than you’d expect from a good pulp detective yarn, and the identity of the villain was a solid surprise for me, even if I could see, looking back, where he was being telegraphed to the reader. It’s a fun book, and other than that point about the female characters, it was a very enthusiastic thumbs up. Go hunt it down and read it, kids.

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