Saturday, March 15, 2014

Recommended: Revisiting the previously reviewed

Librarians read, and librarians talk, and librarians recommend books to one another, as well as to you. So inevitably, at some point, more than one of us is going to read the same book, and if we each like it, we're each going to want to share that with others. Daryl reviewed Vicious, by V. E. Schwab, here a few months ago, and since then has tried on several occasions to get me to read it. Since I'm not really a comic book superhero lover (in fact, I have little or no interest in such), it took him awhile, but finally, last week, I was in the mood to be persuaded, so I picked it up and took it home. I confess that I read everything else I had checked out first, delaying the inevitable, but a couple of days ago, I finally came up against it--nothing else in the house to read--and began. So here is MY review:

This was a confusing, frustrating, sensational book. The hero/protagonist was definitely not a hero, not likable, had no redeeming qualities, and yet you root for him. The villain terms himself the hero, and you see his vulnerability and his delusion and want to like him, and yet you can't. The secondary characters are all compelling--fully fleshed out, insinuatingly engaging, and also impossible to pigeonhole.

On the surface, the premise is a comic book--ExtraOrdinary people (EOs) who have special abilities--but there the comparison ends, because they go around using their abilities, not for good, but for their own advantage and to others' detriment, unless they are in the mood to be lenient or merciful, or the person is useful to them. This isn't what we've been taught to believe "superheroes" would do, but…why not, really? If you woke up from a coma and discovered that you could tell everyone around you what to do and they would do it, would you refrain? If you were able to heal from any wound, no matter how grievous, would you still act like a normal human being fearful of death, or would you take any risk, pull any stunt, knowing you couldn't be hurt?

It's a fair question. No one ever says, What impulse supplies the moral certitude of a Superman to always do good, never evil? Where is the moral ambiguity in these tales? We have seen it in, for instance, X-Men, but even there the people with powers seem pretty one-dimensional in where they fall on the good vs. evil, dark vs. light spectrum. But not here, in Vicious, by V. E. Schwab. This book is a revelation, and it is true science fiction, because the job of science fiction is always to ask, What if? and then try to supply the answer, and Schwab has done a superb job of going where seemingly no one has wanted to go before (at least to my admittedly limited knowledge). Bravo.

Praise, also, for the writing, and the construction of the tale. It's both well plotted, and well plotted. Read it and you'll know what I mean by that.

Okay, Daryl, you were right.

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