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Shades of Gray by [Kessler, Jackie, Kittredge, Caitlin]
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4.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Caitlin Kittredge has been an unrepentant geek since the age of twelve, when she first saw "Star Wars." When she's not writing about super-powered dystopias, she blogs, goes to the movies, reads books and comics voraciously, collects vintage clothes, and turns her music up too loud. She lives in Olympia, Washington, with a garage full of comics and two pushy cats.
 Jackie Kessler is the author of the Hell on Earth series, a sexy, funny dark paranormal about a succubus-turned-stripper who ran away from Hell (devilish antics ensue).

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One


The biggest question my brother has about the extrahumans is whether they are heroes because they are told they are heroes or because they believe they are heroes. My only question is how to control them before they realize they don't have to be heroesat all.   --From the journal of Martin Moore, entry #103   

  Jet was positive there was nothing in the Squadron Policies and Procedures Manual that covered how to take down rabid members of the Squadron itself. Even so, she'd looked. Twice.  

In the past, she supposed as she fended off a blow from Slider, there might have been a subsection that covered such a topic. But once Corp-Co started brainwashing its elite extrahuman fighting force to be the good guys, there'd been no need for the manualto cover what to do when superheroes went insane. So Jet had to wing it.  

Light, she hated improvising. But at least she'd caught a break in that Slider had lost it here in Grid 13, which was mostly deserted this early in the morning. Jet had been able to manipulate Slider into an alley. If the speedster had gone rabid in thedowntown district of New Chicago, the casualty rate and property damage would have been horrific. And with Jet's luck, the mainstream media would have been televising the fight like some pay-per-view event. Ever since nearly all of the Squadron had effectivelydeclared war against society two days ago, it seemed like the vids had been capturing every move she made, just in time for the evening news. 

  The world had gone mad, and the media was having an orgasm.  

Slider spun around, her roundhouse kick in perfect form. But even at double speed, she'd telegraphed her move. Jet ducked beneath the woman's leather boot as it zoomed by.  

"Come on, Slider," Jet said, letting two Shadow creepers fly. "You don't want to fight me."

   The red-clad woman screeched as the black bands wrapped around her legs, pinning them together. "Want? Want? I want my life back, that's what I want!"

   "And you can have it. Come on, this is me," Jet said, commanding the creepers to move up Slider's body and bind the woman's hands. "You can talk to me, Slider."  

"You're one of them!" Slider snarled, her upper lip curling. "You're Corp's lapdog!"  

"I was." The admission hurt, but Jet was honest. Her voice soft, she said, "But they can't tell us what to do anymore."   "Liar!" Slider struggled to free herself, even beginning to vibrate. But she wouldn't be able to move fast enough to escape her bonds. Once the Shadow had you, it didn't let you go.  

Jet knew that all too well.  

"Babe?" That was Meteorite, whispering in Jet's ear thanks to her comlink. "You all right? Your heartbeat just galloped past 130."   "I'm fine," Jet murmured.  

"Just checking. And heads up: You've got a normal headed into your sector."  

Terrific. The way things were going, it would probably be an Everyman looking to take down one of the extrahuman "freaks." Jet took a step toward the bound woman. "Listen to me . . ."  

"Lucy," Meteorite supplied.   "Lucy." Meteorite had always worked well as Operations, providing Jet with much-needed information. Thank the Light that Frostbite had jury-rigged a closed-network version of Ops for Jet and the others to use. The earpieces no longer broadcast subliminalmessages about serving Corp, but they did still work beautifully as communication devices.  

Jet lifted her gauntleted hands into a soothing gesture, trying to calm Slider like she would a spooked horse. "It's going to be okay, Lucy. I know what you're going through. You can get past it."  

"Liar!" Slider shrieked again, bucking. She overbalanced and crashed to the ground, then writhed on the broken pavement, slamming her head on the ground. Her cheerful red helmet cracked from the impact. 

  "Hey now," Jet said, kneeling. "Come on, Lucy. Don't hurt yourself." She reached over to comfort the fallen hero, then yanked her hand away as Slider tried to bite her. 

  Damn it to Darkness. Jet didn't want to blanket the woman in Shadow, not if she could help it. The last time she had done that, she'd nearly killed a man.  

And the time before that, she had killed a woman.   It had been an accident during a life-or-death situation. Even so, Jet's vision blurred as she saw Lynda Kidder's still form lying in the filth of the sewers, the reporter's body monstrously warped from a serum she'd been forced to take . . .  

Pain wrenched her out of the grim memory. Cursing, Jet pulled her gloved fingers free from Slider's clenched teeth.  

"Sorry, Lucy," Jet said. Then she released a ball of Shadow. It unfolded as it hit Slider's face, wrapping its ends around the red-clad woman's head. Slider slammed her head on the ground once, twice . . . and then was still.  

Sighing, Jet called the Shadow back into herself. It wasn't supposed to be like this.  

Meteorite's voice: "Normal approaching in five, four, three . . ."  

Jet pulled out a pair of stun-cuffs from her belt and slapped them onto Slider's wrists. Still kneeling, Jet turned her head to face the mouth of the alley. It took only a moment for her to blend into the shadows, making herself all but invisible. 

  A man lumbered into view, a black ski mask covering his face like a parody of the Shadow blanket Jet had just used on Slider. He sported a black bomber jacket over a slim frame, black jeans, and boots. And he toted an oversized, bulging sack in his glovedhands. He was too busy looking over his shoulder to notice that the alley was not deserted. 

  Behind her optiframes, Jet's eyes narrowed.  

The man lurched to a stop and yanked off his cap, revealing sweat-plastered mousy hair and a very plain face. He grinned ecstatically as he opened the bag.   "I sincerely hope those are presents for the local orphanage," Jet said.  

The man squawked, jerking around to see who'd spoken. His gaze slid right over where Jet crouched and fastened on Slider's unconscious form. His eyes widened, and his mouth worked like a landed fish. He stepped back, nearly tripping over his bag. 

  "Citizen," Jet said, standing slowly, calling back her power so that she no longer was one with the shadows, "what do you have in the bag? Stolen goods?"  

The man squeaked, "Take it, it's yours! Please don't hurt me!"

   A breeze whispered down the alley, bringing with it a hint of ozone. Jet's black cloak swirled around her legs and boots. She allowed herself a small smile. "Hurt you? Now, why ever would I do that, citizen?" 

  The man whimpered, cowering behind the large, swollen sack.  

Just as Jet was about to launch into her standard Crime Doesn't Pay speech, Meteorite hissed, "Incoming!"  

A crackle like lightning, followed by a thunderous boom.  

Jet created a Shadowshield reflexively, protecting her, the criminal, and Slider as one of the alley walls crashed over them. The man screamed and started praying in a screechy voice, which didn't help Jet's concentration at all. Sweat trickling beneathher cowl, she pushed her shield forward, forcing the debris away.  

The broken wall warped the shape of the alley, turning its opening lip into a sneer. There, backlit by the morning sun, stood two Squadron soldiers. One of them, a man with shaggy brown hair, Jet knew all too well. The other, a woman wearing enough spanglesto blind a casual passerby, Jet knew mostly by reputation.  

Were and White Hot. Former comrades in arms . . . and now, based on the glow of power around White Hot's gloves and the growl in Were's throat, rabids.   Some days, Jet thought, it just doesn't pay to get out of bed.      

Chapter Two


   Imagine a world without pain and suffering, a world without fear. Imagine your children growing up free of disease and the pain of age. Imagine your future. It could be so bright.   --Article by Dr. Matthew Icarus, submitted to The New England Journal of Medicine (rejected)   

  Iridium almost let the kid get away with it.  

The day had been too long already, tinged with smoke from the fires downtown and full of the wail of police sirens as their hovers crisscrossed Wreck City, searchlights cutting through the smoke and fog like the long fingers of a giant. So when Iridiumturned the corner and saw the metal security door of the check-cashing branch bent inward, as if by a fist, and heard the alarm whooping, she almost walked right on by.  

With New Chicago in its death throes, it wasn't her problem if some guy was ripping off another, equally crooked guy.   "Hey!"  

The voice spun Iridium around. She was jumpy already from the rampant anarchy that had spilled out from the implosion of the Squadron, trickling down from extrahuman to criminal gang to street thug like a virus. "Yes?"

   The owner of the voice lumbered forward--bald, tattooed, a ring through his nose and surgical horns atop his bald pate, all of which marked him as a Death's Head--and jabbed his finger at the check-cashing shop. "You gonna do something about that, Princess?"  

Iridium narrowed her eyes. "How, exactly, is one of your friends lining his pockets my problem, Princess?"  

The Death's Head turned and spat a wad of something noxious and bright green into the gutter. "Fucker ain't one of ours. He ain't local. Just some punk kid with powers who swoope...

Product Details

  • File Size: 929 KB
  • Print Length: 434 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra (June 17, 2010)
  • Publication Date: June 22, 2010
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0036S4AUY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,403,235 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Baskin on August 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
Fans of Black and White will love this engaging sequel, Shades of Gray.

Shades of Gray helps answer many of the questions proposed in Black and White. This is sensational for fans of Black and White who were left with many questions at the end of the first book. Because of this readers who haven't read Black and White should do so before trying to read Shades of Gray if they want to understand what's going on.

Like Black and White Kittredge and Kessler have done an amazing job creating the world of New Chicago and its multidimensional characters. Jet and Iridium are amazingly well written and fans of the series really will get to see what makes each of them tick in this new book.

One of my favorite parts of Shades of Gray were the inter chapters where you get to see the past and what the old heroes were like. It was really interesting to watch the transition between hero and villain and what when through Archlight's and Night's minds. But even more impressive than that was the way everything was so eloquently pieced together. From the introduction of the new heroes, to the tidbits from the journal before each chapter, to the alternation between characters in the past and present. All of it was done beautifully and Kittredge and Kessler really outdid themselves when creating this book.

My only complaint was that it's not over. The mysteries are not all solved and there's even more questions now. But it was well written, filled with great action sequences, and an incredibly engaging book. All in all a must read for any fan of superheroes or anyone just looking for an engaging science fiction/fantasy book.

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Format: Paperback
In New Chicago, Jet and Iridium know their relationship is still changing. Once the pair was the best friends forever; soon afterward they became the best of enemies forever; recently out of desperation they teamed up to defeat the Night (see Black and White) though each believes this changes nothing between them.

However an unintended consequence of their victory over the rogue superhero is in destroying the brainwashing transmitting gizmo that controlled Squadron loyalty has posed a new threat. With no one pledged to Corps-Co any longer since the transmitter failure, the Squadron members are outraged, divided and confused. Extrahumans wants revenge while normal humans are turning catatonic as an old enemy of superheroes Everyman has surfaced with vengeance in mind. While Doctor Hypnotic has escaped incarceration using his mesmerizing power to cause further mayhem for everyone especially the former BFFs who still want to remain on the side of the law though that is increasingly turning impossible as their former allies, their enemies, even a dad, and the humans they pledge to protect are after them.

This is a great work of speculative fiction that rotates past and present through the viewpoints of various characters. Fast-paced with plenty of action as seemingly everyone residing in New Chicago wants to either kill or ate least kick the butts of Jet and Iridium. With a nod to The Watchmen, fans will relish the second Kessler-Kittredge superb superhero world as the heroines learn an inconvenient truth about the past and unintentional second and third order effects.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Shades of Grey improves upon Black & White in nearly every way. The plot is better, better told, and much tighter than the first book. The problems with Jet's character in the first book are largely gone and her parts of the book are almost on par with Iridium's segments. If you liked the first book, I think you'll like the second at least as much.

Other reviews have covered the plot in detail so I'll just summarize it:

Jet, Iridium, and their allies are dealing with the fallout from the destruction of Corp-Co's mind-control system while also trying to deal with the escape of a powerful enemy from their parent's generation. Heroes, (former) Villains, and their human allies must band together to save New Chicago from their rabid/rogue brethren as well as from threats to extrahumans from the Every Man group. Additionally, a group of previously unknown minor powers contemplates entering the arena to help defend New Chicago from all threats. As if that weren't enough, Corp-Co has negotiated with an independent extrahuman group, Squadron: India, to come in and restore order. Will they be an additional threat for the protagonists to deal with or welcome allies in a common cause? A background to all of this are the Then chapters detailing the lives of the parents of Jet and Iridium as well as their contemporaries, Night and Doctor Hypnotic. It seems that Jet and Iridium's generation weren't the only ones manipulated by Corp-Co.

This leaves the authors with a lot of things to juggle simultaneously but for the most part they handle it well. The downside to having this many different plots to service is that the book doesn't have a lot of time to spend with any single one of them.
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Format: Paperback
When I received this book as an ARC I was thrilled and nearly out of my mind with joy. I totally adored the first book, Black & White and I couldn't wait to read this one. I completely lost the memory of any other books and jumped head first into the world of superheroes and supervillians again
I will try to keep this review spoiler free but it will probably contain a few spoilers from book one, so stop reading if you haven't read that one. You should go to a bookstore and redeem this mistake. *wink*

The first thing I really loved about this book is the, for lack of a better word, organization. You've heard me bitch about some books with multiple POVs and now I tell you that's the thing I adored in this book. Each chapter has the name of the hero it's about at the start and I never felt lost. Again we also have the NOW and THEN parts and I was so happy to get a glimpse at Arclights and Nights background. We also get a new part in Shades of Gray: between the NOW and THEN parts are interludes. I won't tell you anything about them just that OMG I hope we get more about them. Cryptic much? I know.

The NOW chapters are all about Jet and Iridium again. We see what happens after the Fall of Night and the destruction of the Corp Co commlinks system. The superheroes are free, more or less, and the reaction to this varies extremely. Jet and a few fellow heroes try to get the mess sorted out but they are just not enough to go against the uprising rabids. This is Jet's chance to show them what she's really made of. I liked Jet more in this book. I can't even say why, but she didn't seem as pitiful in this book. I learned to understand her more and I really wanted everything to work out for her.

I still adore Iridium with her witty and bitching comments.
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