With the exception of Defiance and Dominion, there’s not a whole lot of good TV on in the summer. Just about every show I watch, from Game of Thrones to Arrow to Orphan Black to Doctor Who is on season break, and Gotham, the Flash and Constantine don’t kick off til September or October. That leaves me with a gap in my leisure time activities. Some of it gets filled with video games, of course (Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is my current go-to), some is spent learning guitar (I know enough chords to be a pop star, but still need to work on strumming and chord changes), but most of that extra relaxation time goes to reading. In case you weren’t aware, I’m a voracious reader on a normal day. During the summer, you can upgrade that to insatiable. My book every week or two norm has jumped to two or three books a week. Seriously. Two weeks ago, I read the entire Divergent series from Veronica Roth (well, minus the book of tales about Four, anyway). The week before that was Stephen King’s latest masterpiece, Mr. Mercedes, and the most recent book in Jim Butcher’s always excellent Dresden Files series, Skin Game. I could continue to list titles, but I think you get my point. I read. A lot. Hopefully you do too. Summer is perfect for it. Take a book to the beach or the park. Sit in your backyard (at least if you live in milder climes than I do. Seriously? 104 today? Why do you hate me, sun? Why???). Grab a beer or a glass of wine, or a cold pitcher of iced tea if you prefer and curl up with a good book. “But I don’t know what to read!” you cry. Well, never fear, good Nerdship. That’s where we come in. Here are a couple of excellent works. Grab one and give it a go, why don’t ya?
Soon I Will Be Invincible, by Austin Grossman
The evil super-genius. Anyone who’s watched Saturday morning cartoons or picked up a comic book has probably run across a fistfull of them over the course of their lives.Cackling maniacally as they monologue about their latest plan to TAKE OVER THE WORLD! Toiling away in their moon base or hidden lair underneath a volcano, vowing that this time it will be different. This time people will see. The heroes won’t stand a chance. In other hands, this familiar territory might have seemed trite, but Grossman deftly weaves a tale that, while being full of classic comic tropes, manages to also be a rollicking good story, with all the suspense, thrills and twists that entails.
The story centers around two characters, the nefarious Dr. Impossible, and a young cyborg super hero named Fatale, who has joined the Champions, a superhero team in the vein of the Avengers or the Justice League. Each character tells the tale from their point of view in first-person. Fatale’s story centers around her attempts to fit in with a team of heroes who have literally saved the world multiple times, while Dr. Impossible works on his latest scheme to take over the world, and also explains a little of why he is who he is, and how he came to be the world’s most feared villain. Grossman even takes a stab at explaining why extremely intelligent people tend to end up going evil, introducing us to the psychological condition known as Malign Hypercognition Disorder, or MHD for short.
The action gets started quickly, and the punches, laser blasts, explosions and giant airships keep the pages turning all the way to the end. I first read this one a few years ago when my roommate at the time brought home a preview copy from the bookstore he where he worked. I promptly purchased my own copy and it’s one that I re-read at least once a year. It’s full of humor and subtle (and not so subtle) nods at the comic world, with classic archetypes (billionaire genius inventor, alien princess, genetic experiment gone wrong, etc.) that could have just been cardboard cutouts, but somehow transcend the comic world by embracing it.
Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillain, by Richard Roberts
Penelope Akk is the 13 year old daughter of two superheroes. She loves them, respects them, and more than anything, wants to emulate them. Unfortunately, when her powers finally manifest, she discovers that a couple of misunderstandings are all it takes to be branded as an evil-doer. Even worse, she discovers she’s really, really good at villainy. Roberts paints a delightful coming of age story, managing to do something many YA novelists fail to do. In most books, the kid is either striving hard for recognition and acceptance, or struggling to prove that he’s not his parents, and that he can be his own person. In Roberts’ work, Penelope is in that awkward in-between that we all went through. She loves her parents, and wants them to be proud of her, but she’s also becoming a person in her own right, rather than just an appendage. There’s no rebellion for rebellion’s sake, there’s just discovering who she is.
Her quest for discovery is aided by her two best friends, Claire and Ray. Shortly after Penelope’s powers arrive in all their mad science intuitive weird inventiony goodness, she figures out a way to give them powers as well, and the three form a team. Initially, it’s just good fun exploring the limits of what they can do, but when they get into a fight with a superhero’s sidekick, they suddenly find themselves branded as villains. Over the course of the book, Penelope tries to correct that misapprehension, but discovers it isn’t very easy to lose a reputation once you have one, fair or not.
Roberts is a fan of fairy tales, mythology and dark subject matter, so he doesn’t shy away from repurposing and adjusting themes and elements from them to, in his words, “make the old new again”. HIs writing style is quick and easy to follow, and the story is just pure fun. A lot of folks tend to sneer at fiction aimed at younger audiences, but some of the best stories in both classic and modern literature were aimed at kids. To Kill A Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, the Chronicles of Narnia and yes, even the Harry Potter series. All aimed at kids, initially. And all still good books. To me, a YA classification is secondary to the story. If it’s entertaining and well written, I’m going to read it, and probably more than once. Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillain is definitely entertaining. It’s full of light hearted humor, with the occasional dark chuckle thrown in for good measure, and is a perfect book for lazing away a summer afternoon in your hammock. Memo to me: get a hammock.
I hope you give these books a try and that you find them as enjoyable as I have. Both are available in hardback, paperback and ebook formats (Kindle and Nook), so pick them both up and enjoy! But you don’t have to take my word for it.
*Disclaimer: Both books mentioned in this article were purchased by me. The publishers and authors did not contact us to request a review.