Most helpful critical review
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Not for everyone
on January 5, 2013
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.