Let's discuss novels about superheroes and/or supervillains here.
Personally I prefer to keep graphic novels out of the discussion because they are more comic book than novel, but I'm just starting the thread, not ruling it. The X-Men graphic novel, God Loves, Man Kills, was fantastic and I'm glad I read it, but it isn't the same thing as a novel to me and I'd rather see that brought up in the comic book discussion. I also don't really consider a book like American Gods to fall into this category, even though many do. So let's try to keep this to novels that are fairly clearly "super-powered beings" that aren't gods in the traditional sense. Obviously there is always some line-blurring in a superhero universe (Thor, Hercules, etc.), but hopefully everyone understands what I'm trying to get at. Of course if the thread takes us elsewhere for awhile, someone can always post about superheroes again to bring us back on track.
Novels specifically about existing comics would be acceptable, because I know that there are plenty of people that would love to read a Batman novel, for example. I don't have much interest at present, but to be honest if Brandon Sanderson said he wanted to write a book about Aquaman, I'd read the fuck out of it.
Many ideas can be found on these two lists that Grimmlokk linked in another thread.
Just at a quick glance you can see that there are a ton of books on those lists that don't just jump out and say, "Read me!" And many more that aren't really superhero-ish. This is where our reviews and recommendations can help weed out the junk.
I am trying to think of the first true superhero novel that I ever read but I'm drawing a blank because I can only think of two that I've even read. I'm sure I've read others, but I'm not seeing them on the lists anywhere, so maybe not. I'll just list off some recent ones I've read or want to read. I don't want to spoiler stuff so I'll just give my overall feelings and some stuff I did/did not enjoy about it.
Soon I Will Be Invincible I liked this book a lot because it just threw you into a comic book world without any apologies. The main character is a supervillain, and he reminisces about the days when he almost conquered the world multiple times using tactics like alien invasions, powerful artifacts, etc. There is no explanation of how he went to another universe, became their ruler, and led them to Earth to enslave everyone, it just happened in the past and we accept it. Like picking up a comic book on issue #200, you just have to accept that all that shit happened. The main character is also fairly interesting and the writing is good. It could have been a bit deeper, but I liked it. Using Goodreads rating system I gave it 4/5 stars, but it really deserves a 3.5, I just wanted to get more recommendations like it. (P.S. They really need to change to a 10-star system, way too many in-between books for me.)
Wearing the Cape I was skeptical at first because it is about a teenage girl that has an overpass dropped on her while driving, which triggers her "breakthrough." That's what they call it when someone suddenly gains their powers. Her best friend had killed herself a few years earlier trying to trigger her own breakthrough by jumping off a building or something (I forget exactly). Immediately when I read teenage girl I thought Twilight. Except that a lot faster than I expected I was actually sort of liking the book and there was very little teen angst or relationship issues to deter me. Until about 3/4 of the book I was feeling pretty good about it, because even though it was about a teenage girl it was doing a pretty good job of things like showing how a new member has to adapt to being integrated into an existing team, particularly a team that has had their powers for a lot longer than she has. And then the relationship drama hit It quite literally sucked the air right out of me with how sudden and how terrible it was, and I had a hard time finishing. Now, to be completely fair, the relationship stuff pretty much resolved itself before the book ended and I was actually feeling a bit better about the whole thing, but the way it was resolved seemed pretty heavy-handed all the same. I am still considering reading the subsequent books in the series because it was pretty good other than the relationship stuff, but I'm scared that it will come back, and possibly be handled just as badly or even worse. I'd love to hear feedback from anyone that read further. I'd have given the book a solid 3.5 if not for the Twilight detour, so that drops it to a 3.
These have been on my radar but I have not read them. Grimmlokk mentioned and reviewed a couple of them previously.
Hero Gay superhero, everything turned out much better than expected according to Grimmlokk.
Confessions of a D-List Supervillain I could swear I read this one, but now I'm unsure if I've just read the synopsis so many times that I feel like I have. I definitely intend to at some point.
In Hero Years...I'm Dead Older superhero thrust back into a world of younger heroes, trying to fit in. Supposedly more of a noir feel to it. Stackpole is awesome so I will definitely read it at some point.
There are also the Wildcards books that get mentioned every time, but I've never read a single one of them.
Ex-Heroes looked interesting, since it is essentially superheroes vs. zombies, but many of the reviews make me want to stay away from it. Apparently there are 3 books in the series.
West Pacific Supers: Rising Tide is the first of three books where super teams are sort of like sports teams, every major city has one, paparazzi follow them around, etc.
As you can see from looking at the lists linked above, there are tons of books fitting the description, but just about every one of them beside the few listed here make me cringe at the thought of even reading them. The vast majority seem to be Young Adult or Teen Girl focused. Or just dumb. None of that interests me at all. Soon I Will Be Invincible was fairly mature, and despite the main character actually being a teen girl the Astra book wasn't half bad, but I haven't succeeded in finding a truly great superhero book. I mean, I'm not expecting Game of Thrones intricacy here, but how about Dresden Files great? You'd think with all the superhero movies becoming blockbusters there wold be an audience for something like that, right?
Anyway, your thoughts and suggestions are greatly appreciated.
Just gonna jump through and multiquote like the devil while I comment here for starters.
Villains Inc.), which focuses more on fighting crime now that Astra is an established hero and a core part of the team. Reads a lot more like a straightforward comic book in print form. It's more enjoyable and more focused than the first book, since she's mostly out of the training phase and it's got some protagonists right from the jump. I was unaware there was a 3rd book coming still, and there are a couple short stories set in the same world.
here. The gay stuff is kept to a minimum(I think there's 1 actual kiss), but if any gay stuff makes you cringe just stay away. It's not a bad book, but it's not good enough you're gonna want to power through it if that really gets to you.
Link to what I said about it here
Think I have the first 22 of these ready to put on my nook. Just haven't dove in yet.There are also the Wildcards books that get mentioned every time, but I've never read a single one of them.
Ex-Patriots expands the story some. They've got their foothold and are working to expand and bring people in. Turns out the US government was working on making it's own heroes and a base with some of them survived as well. Survivors meet, clash, etc etc. More and more zombies. Haven't seen the 3rd book at all yet(Ex-Communication), but I am looking forward to reading it.
And just to add something else, Black and White, and it's follow up Shades of Gray(NOT 50!). Focuses on 2 female characters, one a hero and one a "villain", who came up through the hero academy together. Jet is the hero and controls some kind of darkness she can make tangible. It's a dangerous power that has a history of driving users insane and she's always got to focus on not letting the darkness overwhelm her and make her do horrible things. She's fully bought in to the hero ideals and is a total goodie-two-shoes. Iridium is the villain, she always focused more on results and her own view of what justice was and couldn't work within the system. Now she uses her radioactive light powers to keep a neighborhood safe from the worst crime while she works to bring down the rotten establishment(the establishment is ALWAYS rotten in these books).
Book one mostly focuses on the now, figuring out what the hell is going on and who is actually good and bad. Book two is about half in the aftermath of the first book and half flashbacks to the two girls in school or their parents before them(last generation of heroes) and how everything ended up how it was. First book has a bit of the obnoxiously written romance stuff but not much, and I'm gonna post a spoiler here so you don't just throw down the book.Spoiler:
Worth a read if you are looking for something in the genre, but I'd go with Confessions of a D-List Supervillain, in Hero Years, and the 2 Ex books by Peter Clines first.
As for reading anything Sanderson would write in the genre, he's publishing Steelheart as one of his 70 books he'll put out this year. It sounds cool and I can't wait to see what he does with the genre.
Awesome, thanks for all the suggestions. Now I can't wait for Steelheart! I think I got a little bit of chub just reading about it.
Hard Magic has been on my list to read already, but is it actually a superhero book? It always sort of looked like a Garrett Files type to me. I realize it has magic in it, but I was sort of thinking more fantasy vibe, not superhero.
Ok cool, that gives me yet another reason to read it. Thanks for the info.
Finished Hard Magic the other day, and really enjoyed it. I am not usually a big fan of "historical" fiction (this is set in the 1920s and 30s), but it didn't really interfere with the story at all, and the alternate history part of it was actually fairly entertaining. I'll read the next one I'm sure, but I decided to give his other series, Monster Hunter, International a shot, and I'm really, really liking that one. It isn't superheroes at all, but I thought I'd mention it for anyone that has read Hard Magic. (By the way, it is pretty obvious that the author is a COMPLETE gun nut. He lovingly describes just about every gun used in both series.)
Steelheart is due to come out the end of September, and depending upon my free time that might be my next "superhero" book, aside from Spellbound (Hard Magic sequel). Regardless of what I read before then, I can pretty much guarantee I'll be reading Steelheart the day it comes out.
So I'd been meaning to read the first Shadow Ops book (Control Point) for a while. The author is a regular poster on the reddit /r/fantasy subreddit and I've heard lots of good things about the book.
Can read the synopsis at the link but mine is better.
It's set in present day America, except there's people that can use magic. The government rounds these folks up as soon as they manifest their power, by force if they don't self-report. The folks with the right powers are recruited and trained by a military arm trained specifically to deal with them, Supernatural Operations Corps(SOC). The right powers are basically folks that can manipulate the 4 elements(aero/terra/pyro/hydromancers) and physiomancers, who can manipulate flesh and are used essentially as super-medics. Some of the blacklisted powers are people who can raise and control the dead, whisperers who can control other living things, elementalists who can summon constructs of the elements that have their own will, teleporters who can open gates to another world and back, and renders who are basically evil physiomancers. When the SOC finds these people they take them down.
Our hero is a non-power strike force leader in the SOC. Obviously he discovers he has magic powers. One thing leads to another and he ends up at the SOC base getting trained. This is a very cool premise, modern fantasy from a military perspective. It's a cool pair of worlds, there's some great characters, and the military structure is pretty cool.
Now for the problem: The main character, Oscar, is a wishy washy spastic bipolar indecisive rash fuckwit. He jumps to conclusions constantly. Every day in camp he flip flops from some emo "OMG I can't do this!" pussy to "OMG I did good today this is great!". He's like a teenage girl. He alienates his squadmates regularly. He's...he's just an insufferable shitwit. Almost every bad thing that happens in the book is directly attributable to him making some stupid rash decision that he thinks is right. Spoiler alert, it's fucking not.
Soooo...I dunno. If the setting and story interest you maybe give it a try. There's a sequel coming out soon. I'll end up reading it. And I'll end up hating it if the writer hasn't significantly changed the main character. Or changed to another character in the same world, that would be best...
Lame. It sounds awesome except for the main character. I don't think I could stomach it, so unless you tell me the sequel is awesome, I'll probably pass.
Finished In Hero Years...I'm Dead last week or so, and fucking loved it, as I figured I would given your review of it. Stackpole could probably write the phone book and it would be at least moderately interesting.
Wild Cards, the first dozen or so at least. That is all I read in the genre but really enjoyed them.
Got around to reading Ex-Communication, the 3rd in the Ex-Heroes series.
Good book, but the scale was not very ambitious. It's back in LA, and JUST LA. Other than flashbacks it only covers like a week, and barely ever leaves the walls of their safe area. In the first two books they covered the main character's "origins". There's 2 more here and the backstory is good for both. Corpse Girl especially has a cool section, where it's written as her diary and done really well. But after having all these characters explained, and the 2nd book expanding the scope a bit with the military base, he really didn't take it any further.
1st book is all about survival and making a safe place to live. 2nd book is expanding that foothold, planning for the future, and learning how it all happened and came to where we are. 3rd book is....more survival I guess. Some minor character building.
Not bad, but didn't remotely live up to my high expectations for it. Instead of building on the groundwork he's laid and expanding the story he just sort of threw in a story in the setting. If it was fewer pages it would have been considered Ex-Heroes 2.5 instead of 3.
Thanks for the review Grimmlokk. I think that these will be my next series I read, because the concept sounds pretty interesting to me the way you've described it. I understand you've sort of tempered my expectations for it, but that might be a good thing.
Here's a dark take on the super hero genre. It's a novel I wrote. It's available for free in its entirety here: http://www.wattpad.com/story/9138426-catalyst
If you want it as an ebook file or a pdf or whatever, pm me and I'll give you one for free.
Any feedback would be appreciated.
P.S. I can noes makes avatar. : (
I received two private messages in response to my post in this thread. I replied to one via email and the other via pm. I hope you guys got my replies. Thanks for expressing interest.
4th book in Peter Clines' Ex series comes out in a few days, Ex-Purgatory, comes out in a few days. Hopefully it's better than the 3rd one. 1st two were pretty awesome. Superheroes and zombies, fuck yeah.
Thanks for the heads up. I'll definitely read it soon after release. Pretty good series overall, which is surprising really.
I second hard magic/spellbound/warbound. Very entertaining plot and characters for the most part.
Just read a book from VE Schwab called Vicious, somewhat dark but thought it was pretty good.
One not mentioned - Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis. Its been a few years since I read it but I recall it being quite good though I never got round to reading the rest of the series
First book is very cool. WW2 era Nazi engineered superhumans vs. British intelligence warlocks.
Book 2 is cold war era and gets a bit weird. Still quite enjoyed it. I haven't read the 3rd book yet but I'm pretty sure it's back in WW2 times.
Then I started the Jim Butcher penned Spider-Man book, The Darkest Hours, that Nebuchadnezzar mentioned last year. Good stuff, never realized how similar Peter Parker and Harry Dresden are with constantly escalating threats and constant wise cracks, including their internal monologues.
edit: After finishing, it is very much a Dresden book in Spidey's clothing=P Good quick read, it's under 200 pages.
I just finished the serial Worm, and I have to say, I was blown away by how good it was overall. I highly recommend.
The start was ok, enough to get me interested a bit if not convinced, but it gets better, and then better, and then Leviathan shows up and shit gets real.
It's long enough for a series of books, and I've really enjoyed almost all of it. Given it's free, I highly recommend to anyone remotely interested in superhero genre.
It starts off more or less about a teenager with the power to control insects who decides to become a vigilante superhero. In what is a deliberately outrageous understatement, things do not go according to plan ;p
Meh. Someone else do it. I'm incredibly lazy.
Read the 2nd Shadow Ops book by Myke Cole. Way better than the first. Spends less time on Oscar Britton, the waffling cunrag protagonist of the first book, and is much more enjoyable for it. Got better as it went on as well, and set up for a potentially awesome 3rd book.
At this point I would recommend the series, you probably won't hate Britton as much as I did and even if you do the setting and style is good enough you can overcome it to enjoy the second book, where he's really only the primary character for about 25-30% of the book.
Finished the latest Ex-Heroes book, Ex-Purgatory. Still good but it really feels like he's treading water with the last two books. First half of this one really starts to drag, once the basic premise is established and we sort of know the big "secret" about 20 pages in it carries on in that vein for another 150 pages or so. Ridiculous and unnecessary.
It's still an awesome premise, heroes vs. zombies, but there's precious little of it in this book. Which makes some sense, the zombies aren't much of a threat at this point it's other super powered people that are. It just takes way too long to get to that point.
If the scope of the next book doesn't significantly expand in to the world I'll be really disappointed. LA is established, it's about fucking time to find out what the hell is going on with the rest of the world. I wouldn't even mind if he just sort of reset in another city and started with a new set of protagonists. It's fertile ground, it will be interesting to read how someone with a different set of powers handles it.
Also finished the 3rd and final book of the Milkweed Triptych, Necessary Evil. I enjoyed the shit out of it. Old man version of Marsh is back in time and sort of dueling with Gretel the clairvoyant to try and save at least one timeline from the hell they unleashed in his own. It's a string conclusion to the series and I recommend all three books. Nazi super powered people vs. British warlocks unleashing evil to save the world, what more could you want?
I was left feeling a little unfulfilled with Ex-Purgatory as well. I mean, it was interesting enough I guess, but as you said, there isn't a lot of actual superhero vs. zombie stuff anymore, or expansion out into the rest of the world to keep it fresh. I like most of the characters well enough, but I need to see them do something different. This one was a little fun because you got to see a different side of the heroes, but I am ready for some bigger shit.
I guess I need to read the Milkweed stuff, I've seen enough mention of it. Finishing up the 3rd Grimnoir book right now, Warbound, and while I wasn't a huge fan of the setting at first, the books are really growing on me. Obviously I don't know how this one ends yet, but talk about upping the ante, he's definitely taken it the opposite direction that the Ex-Heroes guy has, and I like it.
I was pretty much pissed at ex-Purgatory...It was clever in a contrived TV show sort of way. It was like a Heroes episode of the ex-Series. I really hope the next one gets back on track...There are lots of great plot lines in the world that we shouldn't have to suffer through crap like this...
Milkweek was great, but I'm glad that I read them over time...I'm not sure that would be a good binge series, too much duplication of formula.
It's a bit more generic then the stuff mentioned since it's a 1930's tale of Superman and Lex Luthor but It's Superman by Tom De Haven was a pretty good read.
Read the prequel to Confessions of a D-List Supervillain, one of my favorites in the genre. Origins of a D-List Supervillain is, unsurprisingly, about the origins of Cal Stringer/MechaniCAL from the first book. And really it should probably be read before that one now that it's out.
Anyways, I really liked it a lot. Once again in first person and once again handled well. You get to really know why Cal feels like he does about a lot of the characters from the first book and you get in to just how he actually decided to become a bad guy. It's entertaining and does a good job expanding the world that was already pretty impressively built in such a short book before. This one is a bit longer, and his writing seems a little bit more refined. Or maybe he got a better editor or something.
If you haven't read the first one by now I'd say to start with the second...which is technically the first now. The series is even numbered that way, with Origins being book one, Confessions 2, and the recently released Secrets as book 3. I'm really looking forward to it. After reading Origins I immediately re-read Confessions and the new book picks up from there.. Really eager to see how the new paradigm in their world plays out.Spoiler:
Wow, I loved Confessions and had no idea there were two others. Thanks for the heads up, I'll definitely be getting to those soon.
Probably some spoilers to follow...
3rd book, Secrets of a D-List Supervillain, is kind if a disappointment. It was pitched as moving the story forward with his new team but over half of the book is him telling Stacy/Aphrodite the story of getting the team together, filling the gap between him getting the idea for the remotely controlled suit(s) and them showing up to finish off Ultraweapon towards the end of Confessions. This is all spread throughout the book between current time segments. And honestly the flashback stuff is not bad, it's more of the usual Cal problem solving etc. The real problem is the actual current stuff, Cal is happy and with the woman he loves. And the dialogue between them is just...brutal. It's not as bad as the dialogue in Ready Player One, but it's not much better. Happy Cal is just dropping "clever" quips non-stop and she comes back at him equally "cleverly". It is....tiring. Very quickly.
It might be a problem going forward. But they end the book by setting him up with a new nemesis which should mean a motivated and angry Cal some. Hopefully one with less dialogue stolen from a 14 year old internet poster. The character is a dick, but he's been our dick so far. Making him happy and winning really took a lot away from my enjoyment of him I guess.
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