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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Superpowers: A Novel

Author: David J. Schwartz
Originally Published: 2008

Superpowers: A NovelAfter an end-of-term party, five college housemates wake up not only with hangovers, but also superpowers. None of them are sure where these superpowers came from, and none of them really care. All that matters now is that one of them can fly, one can turn herself invisible, one is super strong, one is telepathic and one is really, really fast. And as any group of friends might do if they all discovered they had superpowers, these five friends decide to become superheroes – with costumes, code names and all. Only, things don’t go as smoothly as they’d like. First, they have to keep their identities secret, but people keep noticing that something is up. Secondly, what happens when a superhero can’t always save everyone, or is the one to hurt other people?

There was potential for this book. Sadly, it wasn’t as good as I had been hoping. There were so many things about it that bothered me.

For one thing, there were way too many characters to keep straight. Five main characters, and about five times that in secondary characters that only show up once every ten chapters (and good luck remembering exactly who they all are). Because there are so many characters, there wasn’t any time to really develop the main ones. In fact, they all were very two-dimensional with no personality – a few of them even felt rather Mary Sue or Gary Stu-ish, imo.

The narration was confusing and jarring. The first chapter of the book is written by one of the minor characters, Marcus Hatch, who is a conspiracy theorist and runs his own newspaper. He says that he’s telling the story of these five college kids because no one else believes that it was real, or knows that it actually happened. He’s telling it to prove that he’s not crazy. But then it gets into the story, and we see it from the perspectives of the five main characters. My questions is, how would he know what they were thinking when they were the main characters? How would he know when a character falls asleep in class, or when they stopped being invisible after forgetting how to turn visible again? Yes, the telepath was supposed to have told Hatch everything that was going on, but there were periods when he (the telepath) was completely overwhelmed by his power he couldn’t even figure out what he was thinking, let alone what his friends were thinking. I wouldn’t have been this picky about it, though, if Hatch just did the first and last chapters. But when every few chapters there was something by Hatch, it kept reminding me that it was supposed to be written by some guy outside of the story, and it was jarring. If he was going to interrupt every once in a while and spew how this is a true story and real journalism, etc. then it would’ve flowed a lot better had Schwartz written it less like a novel and more like an expose or something along those lines. It could’ve been really cool like that. Instead, it just felt disjointed.

Not that it was all bad. It got in depth about some issues that were really interesting to explore – like the effect that superpowers would have on your mental and physical health. It dealt with morality and laws – if you were to have superpowers and could use them to help people, but it would be against the law to do so, what would be the right thing to do? So, yes, it was interesting at points.

What it comes down to, however, is that I wouldn’t recommend reading this book unless all you had experienced of superheroes was on tv or in the movies. If you’ve read comic books or graphic novels, stick with them.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:44 pm October 24, 2008.
Category: Speculative Fiction
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  • Alea

    I received this book but haven’t read it yet. It does seem potentially interesting but I’m not really surprised that it looks to have some problems as well. Too many characters is one of the reasons I gave up on Heroes, the tv show.

  • Court

    Alea – I like Heroes, I do. But they really, REALLY do have too many characters. Unless they kill a number of people off this season, then I won’t be watching it any more.