Friday, January 6, 2012

Book Review - SUPER HUMAN by Michael Carroll

If you want to know what this book is about, read the synopsis on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Then come back and you'll know what I'm talking about. 

There were three things that I really liked about SUPER HUMAN.

Thing 1: This is a book about superheroes. I LOVED that, because superheroes are awesome. It's classic comic-book storytelling: good guys, bad guys, military involvement, secret organizations, regular folks just caught up in the mish-mash, the C.D.C., secret identities... it's got it all. It reminded me of the good old days sitting back reading Marvel comics and being wowed by sheer cool.

Action, particularly superhero action, can be really hard to do in prose. But the author did a great job. I was calling this a comic book without pictures... but I think a better way to say it is 'A comic book that doesn't need pictures.' (Although a graphic novel version would be sweet.)

Thing 2: In today's world of dark, edgy YA, Michael Carroll has managed to create a story where the line between good and evil is pretty clear. Another reason why it felt to me like such a classic superhero story. The characters themselves are flawed - some good people do bad things, and some bad people do good things - but it had this old-school cleanness and clarity to it that I loved. There was zero sex, zero innuendo. Nothing risque or racy. It didn't need it.

Even in the violence (and it is a violent book - in places it bothered me, especially in the first scene because I don't like it when violence is glorified and the scene came pretty close to doing that) it had that same sort of clarity as I read on. The good guys didn't relish the violence, and there were lines they wouldn't cross. Not in a preachy way - they were simply merciful, reluctant combatants. The way I think you or I would hope to be if we were in their spot. Now... the bad guys LIKE the violence, and they feel happy about killing and hurting when they're doing it. Just don't identify too much with the bad guys (duh!) because that would be yucky.

Thing 3: There are no new super-powers. All the good ones have been thought up. Okay, so maybe that's not strictly true... I'll say that the invention of a new and cool super-power is an extremely rare occurrence. But an imaginative writer can re-think the old super-powers and give them a spin with... super... results. This book does that, in several wow-that-was-good instances.They're practically new powers once he's done putting his twist on them - you'll be impressed.

If you're looking for a deep journey following a character's inner struggle with himself and the great questions of the universe... um... this is not your book. Sars, friend. You probably already knew that. The plot is simple, straightforward, linear. And the ending, fair warning, felt really abrupt to me, and it didn't feel as resolved as I wanted it to. Like maybe there's going to be a sequel. But if you want an easy, adventurous read and you love superheroes... or even more, if there's a teenage kid in your life who doesn't like reading so much but loves X-Men etc... consider this book.

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