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Ordinary Superheroes Paperback – February 28, 2014
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In particular, I finally finished Christopher Lansdown's Ordinary Superheroes. I must apologize to Mr. Lansdown. He sent me a free review copy of this book quite some time ago. The delay in this review is through no fault of the book. It is merely because August was one of the busier months of my entire life. Merging two already-functioning businesses together is a lot of work.
Quite to the contrary, this is a pretty fun book. As the title and the cover might suggest, it's a young adult book and should be approached as such. With that said, however, there's a lot here for adults and parents to like. For one thing, this is a pretty clean book, which is not at all guaranteed in YA these days! As a parent, I'd have no objection to even pretty young children reading this. For another, there's genuine humor in the superhero banter, much of which will actually leave young readers thinking. The characters are fun, and Mr. Lansdown fleshes them out well.
But the best part of this book is its villain: The Bureaucrat. Seriously, how can you not love that concept? The name alone makes me want to punch him in the face - and it's rewarding when Mr. Macho, one of the book's trio of protagonists, finally gets the chance to do so. What's his beef? He hates living. Not his own life, but all living. Basically, he's like any other small-b bureaucrat. He just has a lot of superpowers to go with that. I'll refrain from spoilers here, but the ending isn't quite what I expected. That's a good thing. And I liked how the characters found their way into it smartly, thinking their way through.
My biggest complaint about the book is that it bogs down a bit in the middle. If you find this happening, like I did, then note that it's worth pushing through to the finish. You won't stay stuck in that bit for long. The short, quick nature of the book helps alleviate this quite a bit.
I give this book four out of five stars. Most adults will enjoy it. But if you've got a young teen who likes superheroes, this one is for them.
On the surface, it is a science fiction novel with fantasy elements aplenty, but it's much more than that. While it has enough high-tech gadgets to keep avid sci-fi buffs happy ( mystic energy shields and laser-firing eyeballs, for example) it flows well beyond those fields. It is, in the end, an unabashedly moral tale, but one in which the author allows the reader to fully absorb that element after the eventful conclusion; he allows that aspect to emerge through character conversation, not through authorial intrusion. It reflects a subtle touch respectful of the reader.
While it is an exciting tale of good versus evil, the reader is kept entertained by a synergistic whole that combines fast-moving plot lines with humor and the deft use of language. There is even a touching dollop of romance that both surprises and satisfies. The evil force is named "The Bureaucrat;" I particularly found this both amusing and appropriate. There are apocalyptic dimensions to the story and apart from the plot it triggers the question - at least in me - of what is the more ominous, the evil mind behind nefarious philosophies or the willing bureaucrats who execute (often literally) these wicked schemes. One also detects the pleasant whiff of Orwellian and Bradbury-like tones as the pages go by here. The "Bureaucrat" passes muster as a formidable and fearsome bad guy here!
The scientific and technological elements of the work seem appropriate but do not overwhelm the reader (such as this reviewer) who is largely unfamiliar with such matters and does not regularly drink deeply from the wellspring of science fiction, but sips only occasionally.
The very title conveys a Chestertonian paradox and the story doesn't disappoint. Ordinary collegians facing the eternal questions of youth are endowed - or perhaps in a sense, burdened - with extraordinary power. These young folks sense, however, and soon it is confirmed to them, that wisdom does not flow simply from the congruence of formal education and technology. This team of heroes is a threesome on a journey that includes self-awareness along with playing integral roles in the triumph of good.
The story romps through the planets of our galaxy - Venus, Mars and Jupiter assume prominence - and lovers of space travel, and certainly those of us weaned on Star Trek as grade-schoolers, will enjoy the interplanetary "travel." Also, any reader familiar with the Doc Savage adventure novels of earlier decades, featuring Doc and his cohorts, might also appreciate both the interplay between these three superheroes and the essential need for cooperation among them.
Overall a pleasant and rewarding reading experience!
My only downside is that plot started to leave one of the characters behind and I didn't think it needed to. I enjoyed the guidance of the "Old Man" and thought he should have been more involved in the discovery.
The resolution is very good and left me glad I read it.