Soon, I will be derivative

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Ok, the title to this post is a little harsher than I actually feel but I am sticking with it.  Austin Grossman’s Soon I will be Invincible while a brisk entertaining read in an attractive book ultimately left me wanting.  I would still recommend it as a good summer read, particularly if you like superheroes.  While it did some things really well, it wasn’t all I had hoped it would be. 

This disappointment is not all of Mr. Grossman’s fault.  As I mentioned previously, I am looking for explorations of cyborgs for a project I am working on in another identity.  I was hoping this would be a novel that would provide some grist for the mill.  It doesn’t.  While Fatale is a cyborg, the discussions of the effect these cybernetic enhancements have on her and her definition of humanity are there but only really superficially discussed.  The interesting aspects of her personality — her insecurity around the other superheroes — seems to stem more from other notions than from artificial systems.  If anything, she sees them as inferior to the magic or other origin stories of the team.  She still feels like the “normal” tourist that she was before the enhancements.  Even the revelation that Dr. Impossible was responsible for making her is never utilized to its full potential.  The pitch is there; the novel just watches it go by. 

Throughout the novel, Grossman slowly reveals different origin stories leaving us in the dark.  The mysterious Lily (sometime girlfriend of Dr. Impossible) comes near the end when it is revealed that she used to be Erica — intrepid reporter and sometime girlfriend of Dr. Impossible’s nemesis, Corefire.  Sounds kinky, right?  Well, it ain’t.  Mostly because somehow I missed the fact that Erica was even missing.  It was a neat twist but seeing how I didn’t know Erica was missing, her appearance was merely neat. 

Oh, and I hate to spoil the novel but mistreating smart but socially awkward classmates will result in their desire to destroy the world.  Seriously?  I thought much of Dr. Imp’s perspective was refreshing in his approach.  He saw himself as expectional but also quite normal.  But, he’s evil because he was picked on by people prettier and smarter?  Not only is this a common trope in fiction; it has all too often become a common yet tragic trope in real life.  Is evil EVER the villain’s fault any more?  Can we no longer have evil people who are really evil?

One last derivation comes in the origin story of Regina (queen, get it?) who claimed to be a queen from Elfland.  She claims that she along with three other children were monarchs of a fantasical dimension “populated by humans, elves, and talking animals” Then we learn that he story is very close to a children’s book called Four Children in Elfland (wow, what  a terrible title but then again i guess The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was already taken!).  We also find out that one of them is a “high king.”  Other obvious links I will leave for you to discover. 

Now I honestly believe that Mr. Grossman is too smart to think that he could pass this off as original so it must be an intentional allusion.  But, to what end?  It almost seems to be there merely as a wink-wink in-joke.  The most significant thing of the episode is that Regina (and her supposedly powerful scepter) seem to be fakes but it is not entirely clear.  So, it doesn’t even settle the question of whether it was only imaginary and it lacks all of the allegorical power of C. S. Lewis. 

On its website, it claims to be an “outrageous adventure with a literary bent in the tradition of WATCHMEN” and that it is a “smart moving take on love, ambition, secret identity, and those old standbys truth and justice.”  For me, it was none of those things or at least not consistently.  That said, I still would recommend it as a fun, fast-paced read.  

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One Response to “Soon, I will be derivative”

  1. Nyerguds Says:

    It seems you missed the entire point of the book… namely that ALL of it is intentional allusions.

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