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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice but somewhat slow.
***Disclosure - I received an Advanced Reading Copy from a Goodreads giveaway.***

I'd give Only Superhuman 3.5 stars. It's a nice book, but the pacing is a bit slow. It's interesting, but not exactly innovative.

I don't have too much experience with cyberpunk, but I'd say this book is part cyberpunk, part comic book super hero story, and part hard...
Published 22 months ago by King of the Wood

versus
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for everyone
Only Superhuman is - as it says on the back cover - a hard, science fiction novel of superheroes. That was enough to get me into reading the book, although the content inside of it may not sit well with everyone.

The plot is more of an interplanetary political conspiracy about control over the state of humanity, primarily about whether or not it should evolve...
Published 19 months ago by Kendal Lewis


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice but somewhat slow., October 17, 2012
This review is from: Only Superhuman (Hardcover)
***Disclosure - I received an Advanced Reading Copy from a Goodreads giveaway.***

I'd give Only Superhuman 3.5 stars. It's a nice book, but the pacing is a bit slow. It's interesting, but not exactly innovative.

I don't have too much experience with cyberpunk, but I'd say this book is part cyberpunk, part comic book super hero story, and part hard science fiction.

All the main characters owe their super powers to cybernetic enhancements. And the main plot line is a struggle for power over the surrounding space colonies.

A lot of the chapter titles allude to comic book tropes (origin stories and cross-overs). The main characters are all super powered (but with cybernetics and bio-engineering). And the main character belongs to a group called the Troubleshooters of which each member has a code name claiming motivation from comic books.

I say the book is a bit slow, though it does have a good bit of action and quite a bit of sex. There is a lot of "political" and social manipulation from some of the characters and, for the first half of the book, every other chapter is an "origin story" (essentially flashbacks) which slow down the pace. I was somewhat relieved once there were no more "origin stories" and we stayed in the book's present time.

Perhaps one more mark against the book for me was the ending. It seemed a bit rushed and anticlimactic for how much build up there was to get there. I may have to read the last chapter again to see if I missed something, but it just seemed like the main conflict had a lot of impetus but then suddenly ends very quickly (virtually on one or two pages) with not much opposing force.

One of the most interesting parts of the book, was Zephyr, the main character's sentient ship. There is a nice little section of a chapter explaining Zephyr's past as a disembodied AI program making the desicion to become connected with a space ship. It was a cool character detail and idea.

Another cool thing about the book is that it has a glossary and table of locations in the back. These type of extras are always cool in books and add more depth and realism to the story.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for everyone, January 5, 2013
This review is from: Only Superhuman (Hardcover)
Only Superhuman is - as it says on the back cover - a hard, science fiction novel of superheroes. That was enough to get me into reading the book, although the content inside of it may not sit well with everyone.

The plot is more of an interplanetary political conspiracy about control over the state of humanity, primarily about whether or not it should evolve into something more and the ways it goes about doing it. Whether through technological singularity or biological enhancements, you get much of the whole package of idea that in many ways parallel to our world, but on a more far reaching period from today.

The main character, Emerald Blair, is a member of a group of superheroes who dub themselves the Troubleshooters, who's job is to go out and stop trouble when it happens. She is an interesting character, very aggressive, promiscuous, has a troubled history that you explore in depth, a falling out with her father, yet she refuses to take a life or allow one be taken if she can help it. The plot places her and the Troubleshooters in the middle of this conspiracy as their organization is put under control of Gregor Tai as he seeks to guide humanity to a path that he sees fitting against the ideals of Elliot Thorne, who seeks similar ideals but on a different path. I don't want to spoil all of what goes on for those interested in reading the book, so let's go down with pros and cons...

The worldbuilding is very impressive, as you get detailed descriptions on the space colonies in the solar system, the people who live in them, the physics of the space colony, and plenty of other elements that sound very plausible. The social issues presented are another addition to this: not everyone agrees on how to take that path of humanity's evolution, if they even want to evolve at all. You have Earth and her cislunar colonies which have banned such transhuman elements while those in the asteroid belt have no such rules, you have a colony of human-animal therianthropes called the Neogaians who believe that humanity should return back to nature, and you have people who have no such issues and are trying to live life as they can. In a way, I would love to see this come out of the book and into a film of some sort.

The descriptive action scenes are equally detailed as the fight scenes occur in places like underwater, zero-gravity, in addition to the ground (or what could be considered such). All in all, Bennett has done a lot of research and he shows it in both areas. The physics are taken into consideration instead of being broken for the sake of an interesting story (as it is hard science), the world - or solar system - is very detailed, and you could picture the action as you read it.

However, there were some parts that I felt detracted from the story. Primarily the sexual aspects put into it. I see nothing wrong with sex in novels (although reading them is much different than watching them), and there are a few decent moments of sex in the novel. However, there are those that seem to get in the way of the plot. I'm very aware that Emerald is promiscuous, and I see nothing wrong with that in the character herself, but the despite the novel being told from her point of view it seems to be done in a male gaze as the descriptions ogle the characters. Such would be the case in Chapter 1 when she's fighting a Neogaian panthress named Bast and the book feels a need to tell us that Emerald is "wearing tiger print panties". Then there is the sparing session between Emerald and her friend Kari, and it is described in a kind of girl-on-girl scene than a sparing session. A lot of the parts that were made to be sexy seem to have a heavy male audience in mind than a more well rounded audience of readers, and I find them to be annoying at times. Sometimes it's done to show a character is perverted in the head (such as one Neogain primate character named Hanuman), and other times it shows a character using that as a weapon such as the case of Psyche Thorne, Elliot's daughter. These I don't have too much of a problem with, although sometimes the sexual features are brought up way too much. Rest assured, female readers may not like these elements in the novel, although if you don't mind, it may not be a problem. The way it ogle the female characters in the narrative can be a bit insulting depending on who you are.

Further into the book, the dialogue can be very wordy to someone who isn't interested in the characters talking whole paragraphs. Those who enjoy learning some new things connected with the plot be it history or mythology may not particularly see any problem with this. Rest assured, I did not, but I could see others becoming annoyed at the wordiness of the character's dialogues.

Lastly, the plot is almost predictable. There are a number of twists and turns you may find surprising, but there are many others you could see coming a mile away. You could already see a problem with Tai getting acquainted with the Troubleshooters, you can definitely see how Psyche weaponizing her sexiness would be a problem, and as soon as you reach the point where the betrayal becomes clear to you as you read it, you can already see who the other antagonists are. Only one antagonist came out as a twist that I found surprising, and I will not spoil that either.

In short, if you're a fan of hard science and you don't mind the sexual aspects of the novel, I would recommend it. If you're not that into hard sci-fi or you dislike narratives treating women more as fan service than actual characters, I would not recommend this for you as it you may find it offensive.

I find it so-so. I actually had a decent read coming across this novel. Not the best, but not the worst. Was my first hard science fiction book, and if there was a sequel I would love to read it as well (although I would hope that the sexualization is toned down more).

I'd give it a 3.5 stars.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Green Blaze fights crime, has lots of sex, and talks too much (3.5 stars), October 27, 2012
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This review is from: Only Superhuman (Hardcover)
Superheroes endure in the imagination because they speak to our desire to empower the powerless, to be inspired by the iconic. Superheroes in science fiction have gained new life by the trendy notion of transhumanism, the use of technology to enhance human abilities. The current breed of supermen aren't born on Krypton; they're genetically or mechanically engineered. While paying tribute to comic book superheroes of the twentieth century (particularly a certain webspinner who likes to talk about the responsibility that comes with power), Christopher Bennett's Only Superhuman transforms the costumed superhero into a plausible (if unlikely) inhabitant of the future.

The novel opens in 2017. The hero upon whom the story focuses is a Troubleshooter named Emerald Blair, a/k/a the Green Blaze. Bennett gives her a melodramatic origin story (a tradition for superheroes) and sets up a background in which most transhumans hail from the asteroid belt, genetic engineering having met with disfavor on Earth. The Troubleshooters are a union of uniformed vigilantes who strive for justice, except when they don't. The Troubleshooters are only one of a number of competing transhuman groups. The most significant of the others are the Vanguardians and the Neogaians (human/animal hybrids who oppose restrictions on human enhancement that deny humanity "its right to evolve"). The Vanguard is most prominently represented in the novel by Eliot Thorne and his daughter Psyche, a woman with genetically enhanced empathy and an engineered ability to manipulate others. A helpful appendix identifies the different groups that have taken up residence in the various asteroid belts.

While the story has its share of battles between costumed characters, the plot is driven by political treachery. Emerald must decide whether the leaders of the Troubleshooters are using improper means to achieve the wrong ends and eventually comes to question her long-standing assumptions about the group's righteousness. Should she ally herself instead with the Vanguardians, the organization her father abandoned and where her relatives still dwell? Emerald improbably blames her father for her mother's death, and what she learns with the Vanguard requires her to confront that anger.

As you might guess from this synopsis, much of the story is too obvious to succeed as good storytelling. The reader knows that Emerald will learn Valuable Lessons and will resolve her feelings about her father. At the same time, the heart of the story -- the betrayals and political intrigue -- is reasonably strong. Only Superhuman also showcases an interesting debate about the ethics of genetic enhancement, the possibility of saving and improving lives versus the use of babies as guinea pigs. More of that and fewer obvious life lessons would have made this a better novel.

The story's pace is uneven, in part because too much of the writing is expository and in part because it is so filled with relationships and betrayals that a reader might need to diagram them to make sense of it. Too much anguished conversation interrupts the story's flow. All the superhero sex becomes a bit tedious (the Green Blaze is easily aroused and Psyche, who uses sex as a weapon, has a full arsenal). Emerald's histrionics are tiresome. The novel keeps going long after it should end as the various characters engage in extended talk therapy with each other. In short, some good ideas and likable characters kept me reading, but a tighter, less predictable story would have earned a stronger recommendation. If I could, I would give Only Superhuman 3 1/2 stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gets better and better the further one reads., February 4, 2014
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This review is from: Only Superhuman (Kindle Edition)
This seemed very straight forward at first, but the plot, the characters and the world develop more and more as the book continues. A nice reveal! So it starts out as a simple tale of superheroes in the frontier solar system, but later, it raises questions about what exactly superheroism accomplishes, the nature of power, utilitarianism contra humanism, and deals with loss, grief, and actions that we can never take back... with-out ever getting pretentious.

There is a lot of nudity and casual sex; which might fit in with a world where disease is under control and pregnancy is optional, and is relevant to the story; but I can see it being a bit much for some readers. But if you can live with that, it's a good read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good book with an interesting premise, January 26, 2014
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Cap'n Crunch (Oakdale, TN USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Only Superhuman (Kindle Edition)
I agree with some other reviewers that this book isn't for everyone. However, I do disagree with others about it being to slow. I felt it had a good pace and was very gripping all the way through. I've only read the authors Star Trek novels, but this more than met my expectations. I haven't read much original science fiction, but this is definitely a good place to start. It has a very interesting premise that weaves together "superheroes", genetic engineering, and space based hard sci-fi. If you're into any of those, then get this book, it's one of the best I've ever read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superheroes and Hard Science Fiction, January 25, 2014
This book sets the stage for perhaps some very good later books in this setting. The Sol System in the not too distant future. Political and military strategy were not sacrificed to situational tactics although as the female protagonist is still an adolescent, some strategy could develop in the future. The biotechnology and nanotechnology are interesting. Eugenic issues are developed and I look forward to other discussions of reproductive technology. Perhaps humanity won't be ready for stellar exploration until we take control over our reproductive technology and manage the human genome in the context of other ambient species. "Only Superhuman" helps to illustrate what might happen in the transition from planetary civilization to solar system civilization to extra-stellar civilization. The characters in the story have a certain daemonic energy about them and are anything but sheltered. Characters may be a cluster of associations around a name-theme and then develop from there. I read the e-book and acquired the hardcover for reference too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard S/F and sexy superhero prose!, January 20, 2014
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This review is from: Only Superhuman (Hardcover)
As a reader, I can tell that a lot of time and imagination went into this novel. As an established fan of Mr. Bennett' previous work, I can tell you that this one doesn't disappoint. As an Amazon customer, I can say that this novel is well worth the price. Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Well Done Adult Super Hero Sci Fi Read, January 20, 2014
If you are looking for a pedestrian and tame science fiction novel, this one isn't for you. Telling the story of Emerald Blair, a super hero 'troubleshooter', Bennett takes us on an adult adventure. Why adult? Let's get it out of the way early - it's because of the sex. It does not get in the way of the story, it isn't pornographic, but it is more graphic than the average sci-fi book. If you tend to be on the prudish side, I'd say avoid it. If you don't have an issue with it, then dive right in. Being the first of what might become a series, Bennett does a very credible job of setting up all the characters, explaining how and why space colonies have been set up, and giving us a different look at all the different races we can expect to see. Perhaps other readers don't like that, but for me, it was a welcome addition to the story itself. I want to know whats going on, who the players are and not continually asking questions. In a nutshell, the story revolves around genetic enhancements, the ethics behind it, and a little political intrigue. Blair has to make some decisions that she struggles with (I don't want to give any of the story away) and learns that everything isn't as it seems. The read is quite fast (I polished it in two afternoons sitting beside a pool). Definitely, there are spots in the book where you can see what's coming a mile away, but there are enough twists to keep it interesting. Summing up, I liked the book. It does a good job setting us up for further adventures of Emerald. And, as opposed to many of the other readers out there, I am happy to see her sexy side. I wouldn't tame down anything. Just give us another good story to go along with it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Genre Blend Of Hard Sci-Fi and Superheroics, December 22, 2013
This review is from: Only Superhuman (Kindle Edition)
The first aspect of Only Superhuman that needs to be discussed is its genre. Mr. Bennett was exceedingly ambitious in his primary concept which is a down the middle blend of hard science fiction and superhero. For non-genre readers, this creates a nearly impossible task for a novel, because hard sci-fi readers are notoriously difficult to please, as are comic readers. There are certain tropes and “rules” that both need to follow, and if you deviate, you get some less than positive reaction in my experience. In this genre blend, I feel like Mr. Bennett very much succeeded in creating a hard sci-fi world and problems with superhero characters and resolutions, and nods to both genres in the process. The attention to detail is beautiful. A lot of reviews I’ve seen have harped on aspects where it’s “too juvenile” (i.e. too superhero in genre) or “too boring (i.e. too hard sci-fi in genre). Which tells me he rode the line in between genres perfectly. If you like good genre mixing, you’ll probably enjoy this.

Only Superhuman takes us into a world a couple hundred years from now in which humanity’s colonized the asteroid field, mars, and created orbital habitats everywhere in between. He does a great job of setting up a very intricate geopolitical environment as well as giving us detail about how these habitats exist. The primary world building element that’s right in our face though is genetic modification. All of the politics in the story, and all of the characters are shaped by genetic mods and their reactions to it. It’s really well done, very detailed, and lends plausibility to the superhero concepts that come from it.

Our hero Emry is in a group called the “troubleshooters” who act as police in some of the outer asteroid worlds, using their superhuman talents to bring justice. It’s a fairly simple concept but it ends up being pretty complicated as the story progresses. It’s very political and makes you think about the consequences of genetic modifications, and of course the old moral of “with great power comes great responsibility.” I thought the plot built nicely, forced the main character to have to make moral decisions on every step of the way and left her changed over time.

As far as characterizations, I can give pretty good marks at some points in the novel, not so good in others. Early on in the book and toward the middle there’s points where the characters fall a little flat. A lot of it is because of the heavy focus on action and sex (which I’ll get to later) that don’t give the tertiary characters a lot of dimensions other than their purpose for the plot. There’s surface level work given to many of the Troubleshooters, but it’s mainly cosmetic more than depth. That said, I do care what happens to Emry by the end of the book, so the main character doesn’t so much suffer from that. She’s perhaps got a perfect genetically altered body, but she’s struggling with some real issues that make her fun. I also enjoy the change in Eliot Thorne over the course of the book. As much as the world building and backstory set ups were beautiful and some of the most intricate work I’ve seen in novels, I wish more work was spent here , which is why I ultimately give the book 4/5 stars. There was enough to keep me reading and going for the main character, but not much beyond that.

Now to the sex issue. You can’t turn a page in this book without a character thinking about or engaging in sex, ranging from mild to extreme. It’s not just a “make my mother blush” sort of situation, but it’s to the point where it distracts from the story. I think a choice was made in this book at some point where it was seeming “too juvenile” so this aspect of the world was upped to an extreme to try to counter that. I don’t think any purpose was served by turning every character into a sex addict or sex pawn as it may be. There’s one character who utilizes pheromones and other genetic alters to manipulate people by seduction, and I think that character would have been FAR more impactful if everyone wasn’t engaging in that. There were points because of this where I almost put down the book, but I suggest a reader gloss over that and look at the meat (no pun intended…) of this beautiful world.

The prose is pretty good. There’s a lot of superheroic fighting banter which I think really gives a nice nod to mainstream superhero comics. Puns are EVERYWHERE and I love it. The “tech” words sound great, realistic. And I don’t usually comment on things like this – but I really loved the attention to detail of the chapter titles. They were really cool, and I usually don’t pay attention to those.

Overall, the story was pretty fun. High action. It enters you in action, and departs in it so it’s very high energy. The backstory is imparted over time in chapters titled “Origin Stories” another nice nod to superhero comics which made me smile. A good first effort for an original novel, and this world is so in depth that I really hope Mr. Bennett visits it in the future.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My Humble Review, November 29, 2012
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This review is from: Only Superhuman (Kindle Edition)
I've never posted a book review before, but since I had made some posts on Facebook saying "I'm looking forward to this," I thought I should.

Only Superhuman is written by Christopher L. Bennett and is a hard-science take on superheroes, in a science fiction setting. Without giving too many details away, the main plot is about Emerald Blair, a member of the Troubleshooters Corps, a group of modified humans who maintain law and order in the colonies established in the asteroid belt region beyond Earth. When a conspiracy is discovered to enslave all of mankind, Blair's loyalties are questioned when all is not what it seems to be.

This is Bennett's first original novel, a project he has been working on for twenty-plus years, and I'm happy to see him have his pet project come to fruition. Until now, Bennett's novels have all been media tie-ins, mostly for Star Trek. His stories always have a hard-science slant to them.

First the good. Blair is a likable character, fun and funny. She sometimes uses puns, both amusing and groan-inducing, but it isn't Bennett being funny. It's Blair corny sense of humor and she knows her jokes are bad. It's all part of the fun. The characters are distinct, and while they may not have the over-the-top powers of their comic book counterparts, each Troubleshooter has their own unique power or ability. You do get some of the archetypes: the super strong one, the hyper intelligent one, etc., but I never felt these were copies or rip-offs of existing characters. The science in the book is plausible without bogging down the story in explanations or too many scientific terms (a pitfall of some of his earlier works). The pacing is fast, which is good for an action story and their are plenty of nods to superhero characters, especially in some of the names. Bennett is very good at world building and he knows Blair's universe and how it works.

Now the bad. For my personal taste, there was too much sex and nudity. Bennett has spent most of his time writing Star Trek novels, which seems to have strict rules about nudity and sex, as in, there is almost none at all. While it gets hinted at and talked about in the two Department of Temporal Investigations novels by Bennett, nothing really happens or is shown. With Only Superhuman, Bennett seems to be making up for those restrictions. While I have no problem with Blair being sexual or sexually aggressive, I do feel it was too much, shown too many times. After several intrudes in the book, I was thinking "Okay, I get it! She likes sex! Let's move on." It didn't have to to with Bennett's writing ability, it just seemed sometimes unnecessary. And while I have no problem with Blair as a character being comfortable being naked, there were a few times when I felt it was, again, not necessary for the story. Sort of like in horror movies, where the first victim takes off her clothes with her back to us, hears a sound, turns around so we cane see her nude, then gets in the shower. Really? Was that shot necessary? Nine times out of ten, no. Like I said before, it seems to me Bennett was making up for all the sex he couldn't put into the Star Trek books. The sex scenes and nudity aren't graphic, just too many of those kinds of scenes.

Another thing I didn't like was not knowing how strong Blair was. They always said she was strong, enhanced beyond the norm, but we never learn how much. It is implied she can bench press a ton, but we never see that. I know Bennett wants to keep things realistic, but this was half comic book as well as SF, and the former half wasn't really shown. Descriptions of lifting things, bending things, showcasing Cowboy's gun skills, are never showcased. That's part of the appeal of a good comic book novel but was sadly never written in this one. But, this is also part of Bennett's pitfalls, he is not good at physical description. He mentions plasma guns and other weapons but never what they look like.

However, I do recommend this book. The good points outweigh the bad. The characters are funny, well-written, Blair's history is thought out and detailed, and the world building spot on. I'm hoping for a sequel.
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Only Superhuman
Only Superhuman by Christopher L. Bennett (Hardcover - October 16, 2012)
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