Fantasy Book Review
This is a review of the series that Tom Reynolds has written so far. I thought there was a chance he would be tying it off after three books and making it a trilogy. After finishing the third book, that’s clearly not the case. You can see why though: the books are selling. There’s still a lot of interesting situations that he can throw his characters into and, if anything, he seems to be just finding his stride.
I’ve tried to understand why these books are interesting when the whole superhero thing has become so overplayed. Marvel has something like three movies a year coming out and most of them are surprisingly good. Superheroes have evolved dramatically from the black and white Superman character to these deeply flawed, incredibly interesting everyman characters that each have their own twist.
Each superhero story has become this Freudian battle between the hero’s super charged id and their super-ego. This battle was phrased most clearly by Uncle Ben in Spiderman with his, “With great power comes great responsibility” quote. Spiderman was still pretty clean cut however. Luckily, these internal demon battles have become far more nuanced and a lot more interesting. Netflix is doing some of the most groundbreaking stuff with their superheroes in NYC. Talk about your superhero screw ups just trying to make their way in the world.
The ego, which tries to be based in some level of reality, plays the role of secret identity or ‘alter ego’ if you will. The stories that get it right make the ego identity just as interesting as the superhero one. When done well, you find yourself wanting to find out how each side of the identity coin is going to weather the inevitable shit storm they are thrown into.
The villains are getting a lot more attention too. In the good stories, the villains go one of two ways. The first is a villain that is so loathsome that you love to hate them. Their debauchery and maliciousness is both creative and innovative. When the author spends the time truly making you hate these characters, their comeuppance becomes cathartic. The second approach is the misunderstood villain. These villains are the byproducts of bad choices. These are bad choices that you or I could have easily made. Now they find themselves in situations where every choice is filled with regret. These are the villains we feel sorry for because we can relate. We also feel thankful that we aren’t them in much the same way that we derive pleasure from these poor idiots that make asses out of themselves on reality TV.
So where does Reynold’s Meta fit in? It’s been pretty fun to watch the evolution of this character. It is definitely YA fare but Reynolds has the gift of building an interesting plot. Our hero starts off whiter than Wonder Bread fighting one dimensional villains. By the third book the character is decidedly more interesting. He gets put into situations where there aren’t the build your own adventure good and evil choices but instead choices that make him question his own morality. It has almost become a coming of age story and I think that’s why it’s interesting.
Our main character is Conner Connoly whose super powers literally drop from the heavens in the form of meta bands. These meta bands are the source of all of his powers and are what transform mild mannered Conner into Ultra. Ultra is very similar to Superman but is heavily reliant upon the charge of his meta bands. So basically Superman with a battery. iSuperman.
These meta bands aren’t new to the world. Conner, aka Ultra, is the first of a second generation of metas. The world saw a stew of these superheroes about 10 years ago. The first generation of metas died out when the top superhero dragged villain numero uno into the sun. Once that happened, all the other heroes saw their meta bands go defunct and the first generation of heroes vanished.
Having your super powers drop from the sky is not much of an origin story. I saw this as a huge weakness in the first book because the origin story is typically the best part of any superhero drama. However, Reynolds reveals that there is quite a bit more to this genesis in the third book. This was refreshing background information that drew me back in.
The fact that the story has gotten more interesting as it has progressed brings a lot of hope for the series as most of these YA series seem to lose steam after the first book. I will definitely continue to read the series and I recommend giving it a shot.