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Burn Baby Burn: A Supervillain Novel (WHOOSH! BAM! POW! Book 2) Kindle Edition
|Length: 213 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Top Customer Reviews
Maxey writes with a sense of fun and a deep appreciation for his characters, their foibles and tragedies, and what drives them. These are real, modern people dealing with real, modern issues... they just happen to have superpowers and costumes. What really stands out for me here is Maxey's grown-up treatment of his themes and subject. There's something earthy, frank and human in his approach to every aspect of this story--no matter how many extra-dimensional wormholes or plasmatic explosions might be called for. There are jawdropping plot surprises and deftly told megabattles, to be sure. But the story delivers moment after moment of real sadness, humor, peril, victory, defeat, betrayal and joy as well.
Well worth the time invested for those sick of the same old same old. For me, this is the most genuine fun I've had with a superhero story since watching The Incredibles.
Sundancer and Pit Geek are more than just super-villains--they are examples of people left out of the world find each other and the writing around their relationship is masterful. If you are a writer and you want to know how to write a truly timeless relationship, this is what you need to read to get it right.
James Maxey's superhero universe is as creatively disordered as any comic book universe. There are aliens. There are supergeniuses who have literally remade the world. There are wormholes in space, powers that literally bend time and space with the potential to do so on an apocalyptic scale, fifty foot tall babies with guns for a head, a race of supergenius chimpanzees created as a byproduct of a supervillain's science experiment, and so on.
The problem with superhero novels is that it's very hard to capture the tone of a comic book, with its epic four-color smackdowns and blend of advanced alien civilizations, ancient pagan gods, vampires, magic users from another dimension, mutants, gadgeteers with ultra-tech weapons, and whatever else fits a particular character concept, without being very silly on the page. But James Maxey does it. <i>Burn Baby Burn</i> starts out relatively tame - Sundancer and Pit Geek, former minions of Sundancer's father, the nearly omnipotent Rex Monday, are living life on the lam. Sundancer, who has incredible flame powers, is a bitter, angry terrorist who believed in her father's vision of burning down a corrupt civilization. Pit Geek, who can literally eat anything, and also regenerate from any damage, has no memories of his previous existence.
They make an odd, scary, violent, yet somehow likeable (if you can ignore all the killing) couple.
When Sundancer gets the bright idea to rob banks, she thinks big. She doesn't just take money, she starts a campaign of terror to convince people that their money will never be safe in a bank. Creating a run on banking institutions, she and Pit Geek begin destabilizing the economy in a matter of days.
At this point, the government reluctantly accepts the help of a semi-outlaw band of superheroes called the Covenenant. They consist of Raildancer, daughter of Dr. Knowbokov, who was Rex Monday's old arch-rival, Ap, a young man who can literally code new powers for himself, or receive new ones coded for him by his eager online fans, and Servant, an invincible Superman-figure.
Chapters alternate between Sundancer and Pit Geek and the Covenant. All of them turn out to have complex backgrounds and the author takes advantage of the novel form to make them all more interesting and complicated people than can be developed in a comic book. Ap is gay and spent some time on the streets as a teen prostitute; this causes friction with Servant, who is born-again Christian. Except Servant, it turns out, just might be a literally born-again superhero, as in his previous life he was a drug-dealing supervillain, now supposedly dead.
While there are chapters spent on revealing secret origins, the purpose of the story is of course to bring these two groups into superpowered conflict, and their fights are literally Earth-shaking. After Sundancer and Pit Geek get away the first time, they flee to the island nation of Pangea, ruled by super-intelligent chimpanzees. This does not sit well with the Covenant, who scheme to find a way to retrieve the wanted terrorists, notwithstanding Pangea being a sovereign state.
On Pangea (which was a development that seemed to come out of almost nowhere, yet it fit into this superhero world just fine), we learn a bit about chimp culture, and the chimp factions, before there are more villainous plots exposed, a tragic secret unearthed about the fate of Pit Geek and Sundancer, and finally, another battle, this time to save the world.
If this all sounds very epic and exciting and highly improbable, it is. But the charm of <i>Burn Baby Burn</i> is that, unlike many other superhero novels I've read, this one doesn't dial down the scale of superheroics or the absurd science or try to make everything strictly "realistic," yet it still reads as plausible on the page, within the context of this universe, if you can suspend your disbelief that far. It is very much like reading a comic book without pictures, yet it manages to be just as fun. The final chapters are as epic as they are ridiculous, with Sundancer and Pit Geek teaming up with the Covenant to stop a hundred naked headless Sundancer clones, unleashed by an evil chimpanzee mad scientist, from destroying human civilization. And then, there is a sad and surprisingly touching coda to the relationship that has evolved between Sundancer and Pit Geek.
<i>Burn Baby Burn</i> will not appeal to those who don't have an appreciation for the aesthetics and logic of superhero comics, but if you do, I'd rate this (and James Maxey's previous book, <i>Nobody Gets the Girl</i>) as among the better superhero novels out there. This second book, in fact, was significantly better than the first, both in terms of character and plot development, and in more polished writing. 4 stars, but more like 4.5.
Every chance I get, I recommend and gift James Maxey's works, but his WHOOSH! BAM! POW! novels were the first I read of his and hold a special place in my heart. These books provided a fabulous segue into Maxey's other worlds. His voice is impressively developed, his worlds refreshingly imaginative, but he's careful not to hide the human condition behind the frequent over abundance of whimsy and deluded sense of perfect morality commonly seen in the super hero genre and that of trashy fantasy. Simply put I have loved all of his tales.
Keep 'em coming James! Your stories bring joy to my life.
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