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A Once Crowded Sky: A Novel Hardcover – July 10, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


"Beyond postmodern, complex in conception ...relevant to the graphic-novel, videl-gaming generation."
--Kirkus Reviews

"An original, assured debut . . . Impossible to put down.”
--Library Journal

An exciting post-millennial conflict allegory, which echoes the terror of Alan Moores writing for Watchmen while sidestepping its shadow.
--The A.V. Club

One of the Best Graphic Novels of the Year. The mythology and backstories that author Tom King constructs and weaves together are done like only an old-school comic book fan could. For those who enjoyed the human drama contained in such hero-based series as Astro City and Watchmen, this is a book that's most definitely worth a read.
--USA Today

A Masterful Story About Humanity. The tale moves quickly and fluidly, making A Once Crowded Sky an incredible page-turner. It is Kings careful character development that drives the story. A Once Crowded Sky isn't just for comic book aficionados. Its message is universal and guaranteed to be appreciated by most readers.
--The Charleston Post and Courier

Everything we love about comics origin tales, a worthy villain, team-upsconspiracies, super technology, disgraced heroes, redeemed villains its all here; and its a fun read. There are surprises galore and I really didnt see them coming.

King gives us a rare glimpse into the spandex, muscle-bound, testosterone-driven world of Superheroes, written in a style that mirrors the sensibilities and style of comicbooks in such a way that glorifies the medium rather than diminishes it. Clearly King is a fan of the genre, and his love of the medium is reflected in not only his respect for the field, but his desire to add to the mythology rather than deride it. Ultimately, A Once Crowded Sky delivers to us a story that is not predictable as to its potential outcome, which makes it read much better than the comicbooks it purports to mirrorSo, if you are looking to read a new chapter in the mythology of superheroes, you would do yourself well to seek out and read, Tom Kings book, 5 Stars.
-- The Washington Examiner

In a summer swimming in comic book inspired blockbusters, perhaps the most visionary tale in a generation won't be found in either a multiplex or the local comic book shop but rather nestled in the shelves of your local book retailer.

A philoshpical gem on heroes, sacrifice, and the meaning of life in a corrupt world.

Masterfully developed, incorporating versions of the archetypal superhero into a fantastic modern prose story. I loved the authors entertaining writing, the occasional humor, and the connections to the myth, history and literature. I breezed through a lot of the book, not wanting to put down such a well-written, epic fantasy story. By the way, I dont think Ive ever read a comic book in my life.

Ultimately a story of wonder, and of redemption. At its core, this is a story about humanity, told from the perspective of simultaneously the most and least human of us all.
--Spencer Daily Reporter, IA

From the Author

(Excerpted from an interview with 
SFS: How did A Once Crowded Sky come about?    
Tom King: I left the CIA shortly after my son was born. The type of career I wanted at the agency did not fit with the type of father I wanted to be. Prior to 9/11, I'd always wanted to be a writer, and after leaving the CIA, I decided to go back to my original plan. I wanted to write about my experience, not in terms of what I'd actually done, but in terms of the emotional and physical impact of such a life, a life spent in pursuit of an endless enemy--the joys, the frustrations, the moments of bravery and cowardice. I wanted to explore the virtues and follies of a world of violence.                                                                                                                                                                                      
The lives of comic book characters, lives dedicated quite literally to quests without ends, seemed like an obvious metaphor. The basic idea of Crowded Sky then is what happens when that quest ends, when all the powers and villains are taken from these heroes, how do they go on, how do they fall.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (July 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451652003
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451652000
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #893,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom King is the author of A Once Crowded Sky, a postmodern super hero novel named by USA Today as one of the best Graphic Novels as 2012. Prior to becoming a novelist, King served in the CIA as an operation officer in the Counterterrorism Center. While in college at Columbia University, King interned at Marvel and DC Comics. He lives in Washington DC with his wife and two children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Eric on July 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Usually, comic books are not novels, novels are not comic books. King has done something UNusual by mixing the two genres. For the most part, he does so without sacrificing the power of either one, which is impressive. Imaginative and carefully done, the book is both literate in the dense and self-reflexive world of superheroes and complex enough to offer long-form character development. You need to know comic books to really get everything out of the book, but it works on other levels too. King seems well-read in many kinds of literature and has come up with fresh sets of characters and ideas. It's a terrific first novel, and I'm curious to see its effect on literary conventions. But mostly, I think readers will like reading it.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By James Joyce Fan on July 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
My husband is one of those lucky comic book nerds who found a fellow comic book nerd to marry. Long before I met my hubby, I was turned on to Watchmen a couple years after its release when I was about ten or so. It was easily the smartest piece of literature I touched until high school, by which time I'd read Watchmen twenty times. I've been trying to amass a collection of comics and graphic novels--or any literature for that matter--which sets out to deconstruct the genre, and I've sadly concluded over the years that all of these works generally do little more than expound on Moore's original work, AT BEST. I think that the Incredibles must have done more to introduce comic-deconstruction themes to a mass audience than most comics since Watchmen.

AT LAST, we have another work to look deep into the meaning of comics and the idea of metacomic writing in Mr. King's work. For the first time since my read of Watchmen all those years ago, I find myself reading this title, now for the second time since I got it yesterday and blew through it in one night. I'm happily finding new insight in both the storyline and the greater themes that King must have considered at length before he wrote word one of this novel.

And, not for nothing, it is an exciting read, with well thought out and believable characters, particularly with regards to one of the characters (Soldier). I judge most of what I read in any fiction by my ability to believe in the motives of the main characters, which accounts heavily for my high rating.

Happy reading!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon LLon on July 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's hard to believe that this is a first novel by this young writer. It has the wit, fluidity, and page-turning intensity that one generally gets only from veteran literary writers. I truly enjoyed every minute of it, and when I had to put it down a few times to take care of some business, its characters haunted me. I couldn't wait to get back to it.

If you are looking for depth and complexity, for literary muscle, King's novel, which turns Dante's Paradiso on its head, has plenty of all of that, but the most thrilling thing about this book is that its depth and complexity and literary muscle don't weigh the book down a bit. For all its abundant intelligence and literary playfulness, the book reads like a summer thriller. It is truly a joy. I also love the little pieces of graphic novel that blend perfectly into the text now and then.

I hope somebody in Hollywood picks up on King's story. It would make a great film. I'd love to experience it as a movie. These are great characters battling a world gone completely wrong, learning how to fight all over again. In this sense, the book is a metaphor for King's own experience. I understand he applied to join the CIA the day after the World Trade Center was attacked on 9/11, abandoning plans to go to law school, and then served as an undercover CIA agent in some of the most dangerous places in the world doing what his characters in this book do: learning to fight an unexpected and deadly battle with tools and fortitude they never imagined they would have to use.

It's a wonderful book, deep and meaningful but truly entertaining. I hope this guy keeps writing. He is somebody to pay attention to.
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Format: Hardcover
You are a superhero. You are the side-kick to greatest superhero in history. You want to retire. You want to be with your wife and live a normal life. So you do.....
You are asked by your fellow superheroes to come to one last battle, one last event, one last hurrah, but you ignore it....they always say "one last time", and it's never one last time. You're a superhero...there are no you don't show.
They hate you. You didn't show up.
They did in fact have one last battle, and it was to give up all their super powers. But you didn't show. You didn't show.
Pen Ultimate, the side-kick to Ultimate, didn't show up. And now he is the only man on the planet with super powers. The burden, the heavy burden. He didn't want to play the "game" anymore and now he is the only player alive. All the villains are dead, mass suicide. The "Blue" force took it all.
This absolutely unique take on comic book superheroes is a fantastic novel from the brilliant mind of new comer Tom King. It isn't a comic book, it isn't a graphic novel, it is a legit novel, with the comic book twist spun into a chronological web, chaptered in comic book digests, along with great artwork to help you along and to give the reader a better look at the characters in the book.
The characters are well thought out and gritty men and women, all frustrated with the loss of their powers and there mundane new lives, powerless. Soldier of Freedom, the secondary hero in the book, a poster boy (older man, actually) ala Rambo for the USA, who's lived over a hundred and fifty years fighting all the major US Wars. Prophetier, the man who has been prophesizing the heros battles and falls, since childhood in a notebook similar to his own comic book.
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