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Review: _Soon I Will Be Invincible_, by Austin Grossman
Bar Harbor
alexx_kay
This is the latest entry in the smal subgenre of literary novels inspired by superhero comics. It's not a parody or a satire, though it has lots of humor in it. It's just set in a world where the conventions of the superhero genre happen to be true, and those elements are played straight.

The plot, such as it is, could have come from any superhero comic from, say, 1970-1990. The villainous Doctor Impossible escapes from prison and builds a doomsday device; a group of superheroes called The New Champions comes together to thwart his plot. There's a few twists along the way, but most of the physical events are by-the-numbers.

It's the *emotional* events where this book shines, the interior life of these larger-than-life characters. The chapters alternate between two viewpoint characters, Doctor Impossible, and the newest member of the New Champions, a cyborg named Fatale. The contrasts between how villains and heroes see each other versus how they see themselves are fascinating.

Grossman uses one of the classic weaknesses of the superhero genre to magnify a basic weakness of many normal human beings: their inability to escape their own pasts. All of these characters have had a deeply transformative experience in their Origin Stories -- but none of them can move past it. They remain forever stuck in their new definition, and cannot change again. For the most part, anyways. One apparently minor character does manage to redefine themself multiple times, and in so doing becomes, to my mind, the central character of the book. All the rest are trapped in tragedies of their own making.

(The author, Austin Grossman, is a professional game designer, and once worked at Looking Glass. It was before my time there, but we share some friends in common. Speaking as one myself, there are more than a few connections between his depiction of the life of a Mad Scientist, and the life of a real-world game designer :-)

I read the hardcover, which has gorgeous design work by Chip Kidd. kestrell read the audiobook, and reports that they got two excellent readers to do the alternating chapters.

Recommended. For fans of Astro City, *highly* recommended.
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I was not aware of the Looking Glass connection...but rscott built the website for the book. You can get your own superhero badge there.

Web site? Badge? *Googlepoof*

(Deleted comment)
Oooh -- the audiobook sounds right up my alley. Where did she get it from?

I believe that she downloaded it from Audible.com, though I see that it's also available on CD.

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