Monday, 10 June 2013

Absolute Power [Review: Superpowers]

Five college flatmates suddenly develop a range of superpowers and form a costumed vigilante group. Yes! David Schwartz’ novel Superpowers is yet another attempt to reinvent the superhero mythos – more on that story later. The plot of this novel has a superficial similarity to the film Chronicle and does cover some of the same ground, however the climax - and perhaps the point - is very different.

As the title suggests, the novel is all about the powers themselves. All five superstudents go through similar superpower angst: Mary Beth, gifted with superstrength, breaks everything she touches – her toothbrushes are doomed, as are the ribs of any potential boyfriends. The self-styled All-Stars learn to control their powers, up to a point, but they are isolated and lonely, and their situation divides the group more often than it unites it. Also, having a power will only take you so far – you can read someone’s mind but you might still not be able to influence them. In the end they are hopelessly unprepared for the crisis that is coming.

The cast are pleasingly diverse. That’s SOP for novelists now, ever since Ben Elton daringly wrote his novel Gridlock which features a traffic warden hero. The ethnic diversity is also a pointer to another aspect of the book. The term “superpowers” has another meaning, and the issues faced by the All-Stars can be read as a metaphor for conflicts played out every week on the international stage. The Earth’s most powerful countries routinely have to decide how and when to use their economic or military strength, and whether to intervene in the affairs of other countries – and in the resulting pressure, mistakes can be made.


Maurice Mitchell said...

I took a peek at the preview on Amazon and he has an interesting writing style. He's pretty good at foreshadowing, so I can imagine this book is full of plot twists and revelations. A good review since I would have written it off as "Chronicle."

Big D said...

Hmm, Sounds interesting.

Sci-Fi Gene said...

Thanks for your comments - while I do think that superheroes in general are getting a little tired, this book was definitely smarter than I'd expected.