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Meta Series

Fantasy Book Review

Fantasy book review Fantasy Book ReviewFantasy 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.

Firefight (Reckoners Book 2)

Science Fiction Book Review

Science Fiction Book Review

Let’s start by saying that I read pretty much anything that Sanderson puts out.  This includes all of his novellas, those lollipop sized servings of delicious plot and concepts that keep you engaged until you realize that you took the requisite three licks and chomped your way through to the end.  I consumed the previous installation of this series, Steelheart, with a singular focus that found me growing increasingly irritated with those elements of real life that got in my way of finishing the novel, those things like kids and, you know, work.

The first book, Steelheart, had every element of Sanderson’s unique take on a genre that definitely needed one.  Even though superheroes have become increasingly complex and interesting, especially as depicted by stronger and stronger directors in Hollywood, they are still very formulaic.  Sanderson breaks the formula, twists it around, adds his special brand of voodoo and puts you in an entirely unexpected place.  The joy of his world is that the only heroes in it are definitely not super.  While writing Firefight, Sanderson even did us all the wonderful favor of putting out a little ‘tweener novella, Mitosis, that kept the cravings going.

This made it all the more disappointing when I did finally dive into Firefight.  Don’t get me wrong, the book is still good, with Sanderson’s mastery of the language blazing through every page with a plot relentlessly getting the reader through to the thrilling climax.  But it’s not Sanderson good.

The main characters move location from the shiny Steel Chicago to an over-the-top, hippy version of New York that also happens to be mostly underwater.  This lends to some pretty cool visuals but ultimately becomes a little limiting in what the characters can accomplish and too often reminded me of that disaster of a Costner movie, Waterworld.   The reason for the shift becomes immediately apparent as the primary villain is a high epic with water powers.  It was she who flooded the place and she who sets the rules.

Our protaganist, with the newly minted moniker of Steelslayer, still uses his encyclopedic knowledge of Epics to formulate a plan with the rest of his team to do their very best to take down these over entitled super-pricks.  They even use new Epic charged toys to execute the plan.  What I found disappointing was that it was nothing extraordinarily new.  Even the big reveal at the end didn’t push the envelope to anything groundbreaking.  Sanderson has set the bar sooo high on all of his books that I’ve grown to expect something mind-blowingly new every time I read one of them that just getting a continuation of the previous installment felt like a letdown.  It almost felt like Sanderson himself got a little bored with the concept.  Pure conjecture on my part but I couldn’t still that niggling thought as I made my way through Firefight far slower than Steelheart.

Will I read the next and most likely final installment of the Reckoners series?  Absolutely.  Will I go into it with the same super high expectations I take into every Sanderson book.  Absolutely.  Here’s to hoping that he meets those expectations like he did with Mistborn and The Stormlight Archive.

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