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Dispensing Justice: Nova Genesis World Paperback – January 24, 2012
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From the Inside Flap
Launch to Destiny
"Now you can go kick some ass," Penny said from her seat at the command console.
"Thanks, I plan to," I said.
I stepped into the waiting capsule. It dropped, and moments later it shuddered to a halt. I triggered the suit's shock balloons and in an explosive 'ca-rumpf' they expanded out from their hidden compartments distributed around the suit. They locked me into place at the bottom of one of the largest air cannons in the world. A chill ran down my spine and my palms grew sweaty.
"Fire when ready," I radioed Penny.
"Roger, three second count down. Three. Two. One."
It was better than the best amusement park ride. Ever.
The sound baffles flicked past and I popped out of the mouth of the cannon like a champagne cork with about as much noise. The shock balloons enveloping me collapsed and were sucked back into their hidden compartments ready to be deployed again. I rose silently into the twilight sky, the now familiar lights of my darkening neighborhood spreading out below, the distant towers of the Galacticity downtown redly reflecting the setting sun. My heart felt as if it was in my throat, rising in a crescendo of anticipation.
I triggered my jetpack, and accelerated upward on its stream of compressed air.
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Our main character is Michael Gurick, a genius teenager who recently watched his father, a superhero called the Dispenser, get killed on national TV by a bunch of cyborg supervillains called the Demolition Squad. He’s surprised, however, when his dad then shows up to take him home from school — the government has assigned a lookalike agent to his family so no one will realize there’s a connection between the Dispenser and the rest of his family.
Michael’s mother isn’t reacting well to the crisis, so the Dispenser’s fellow superheroes in the Nova League take it upon themselves to help her adjust mentally and emotionally, leaving Michael with more time to spend with his friends, Kimball Kinnison, a normal kid who’s started to develop psionic powers, and Penny Riggs-Armstrong, daughter of another couple of superheroes, with her own high levels of associated kickassery. Added into this mix are Cleo Fox, blind daughter of Michael’s martial arts instructor, and Achilles and Andy Riggs-Armstrong, Penny’s twin siblings, who love to spend time finding new ways to torture Michael.
And complicating all of this even more? Michael has decided to use his own superpowered intelligence and his father’s old equipment to avenge his father’s death. Can he handle a task that his father couldn’t? Will his friends be able to help? Or is this all going to end really, really badly for everyone?
Now lemme warn you, the first thing you’re going to think when you look at this book is: “Holy hamsters, that thing’s really long! And it’s got over 100 chapters!” But whoa, whoa, calm down, cowboy, most of those chapters are only a couple pages long, which helps the story and the action move along at a nice, brisk pace. It’s real easy to sit down at lunch, plan to read only a few pages while you eat your sandwich, and end up burning through 50 or more pages and completely forgetting about your olive-loaf-on-rye.
The characters are entirely grand — Michael, Kim, and Penny seem like fairly realistic teenagers, Achilles and Andy are quite funny every time they appear, and the banter and rivalries among the superheroes in the Nova League are handled very well.
The setting is also a huge amount of fun. While it’s somewhat familiar, the differences that crop up — “Karate Kid” as a movie about learning how to use superpowers, a home with a flat-screen TV in the mid-1980s, “Ghostbusters” being made with computer-generated special effects, and a vast number of geek-friendly board games that I wish we’d had when I was a kid — give you plenty of moments to be surprised by how the setting has been changed from the world we lived in.
And while the action takes a while to get started — Michael and his friends are pretty formidable, but they realize that they can’t go out and start fighting crime without getting some level of training, along with something that’ll bounce bullets, first — once the superheroes and the supervillains get down to fighting, the action is fast, furious, and entirely excellent.
There is a lot going on in this novel, and there’s no way to cover all the material in a fairly short review. There’s plenty of mystery about Cleo Fox as well as an incident with a visit to Congress and some mind-controlling federal agents, too. And lots more besides that. There’s a lot going on in this book, and it’s all pretty fun to read.
The narrator, Mike Gurick, is a great protagonist. He is competent, but not overpowered. He is ultimately like a young Bruce Wayne with some Hank Pym and Tony Stark thrown in for good measure. I liked that he was an intelligent inventor of gadgets that I would love to see on television or film.
I’m a child of the eighties, so I truly appreciated the pop culture references from 1984/1985. Much of the world changed after 1947, but I knew exactly what Mars Wars was and how the villain looked.
There are a pair of kids, the terror twins, who are overzealous in becoming superheroes. They have a single focus, but their actions show what would likely happen to a pair of eleven year olds like them is accurately depicted.
The gadgets are cool. I must say it again. I liked what many of them did and how they were described.
There are very weird chapter transitions. I understand it’s a YA book, but many chapters (there are over 100 total) literally break in the middle of a conversation and picks up with the response in the next one. I’m not talking about an explosion followed by a “Noooo!” chapter break, “I’m alright.” It was often just answering a simple question of what to do after school. It was very jarring and odd. Or, perhaps I don’t read YA books enough to see how normal this is.
I may have missed why, but everyone uses first names. Kids call their parents Liz and Diana. I guess it may just be a unique transition after 1947, but it felt very weird and didn’t make sense to me.
The story is very slow. There are only two action scenes, but most of the story seems to jump around. Some scenes don’t seem necessary. This can be fine, but I need more action to justify it. I just really wish a superhero story had more heroics.
The story is written in the first-person POV.
The story is a stand-alone adventure, but it literally ends with the words: To Be Continued. If you want a full story, I believe you get it, but some people will see those words and translate them to: Do Not Read.
There is a glossary of terms at the back of the book. I didn’t have a problem with understanding the acronyms and slang, but if you want a reference, you’ll have it.