Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Great Reread Project Mark III - The Letter G

After such a success with The Eyre Affair I found myself at the G’s. I have a surprising number of G authors that I actually enjoy rereading. I’d reread Parke Godwin’s Firelord (great take on the Arthurian legend, and if you haven’t read it, you really should. Arthur as he probably never was, but should have been) a couple of years ago and last time around I did Mira Grant’s Feed (another excellent book. I describe it as the zombie book for people that don’t normally read zombie books), my eyes lit on Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman. Austin Grossman is the twin brother of Lev ‘The Magicians’ Grossman, and I actually saw Soon I Will Be Invincible before I’d heard of Lev or seen The Magicians. Of the two brothers I prefer Austin’s books to Lev’s. I was taking a bit of a chance with Soon I Will Be Invincible, as I’d only read it once and that was a few years ago when it first came out, and while I could remember enjoying it, I’ve had my memory play me false (or my tastes have altered) a few times during this reread project.

Soon I Will Be Invincible is one of the earlier entries into the burgeoning super hero sub genre. I still think of the books I’ve read in that vein that it’s one of the best. It reads a little bit like a crossover between two eras of superherodom. There’s the Golden Age characters mixing with the more modern type ones. It’s a bit of a love letter to comics, which for a former hard core collector like me, is awesome.

It’s written in first person, from two different points of view, the chapters alternate between old style super villain Dr Impossible (and it’s really refreshing to see a book written from the view point of the villain) and rising new heroine Fatale. Like Austin Grossman’s other books (he’s written 2 since Soon I Will Be Invincible: YOU and Crooked, also both excellent, particularly Crooked) it’s a fake autobiography. It mostly centres around the disappearance of the world’s most powerful and most loved super hero; CoreFire, and he’s also Impossible’s greatest nemesis, and for that reason everyone suspects Impossible of being behind CoreFire’s disappearance/death, even though he was in custody at the time.

Impossible, in particular, spends a lot of his time in the book going back through time explaining his origin and the connection between he and CoreFire. Fatale’s relationship with the missing hero is different, she never met him, even after she had the implants that turned her into a cybernetic crime fighter, she was a fan and finds it hard to fit into the team he left behind and find her own place within it.

I don’t know how much Grossman based on known heroes, but I get a lot of the Superman Lex Luthor story from the struggle between Impossible and CoreFire. The main differences are that Impossible has super strength and seemingly some invulnerability to go with the big brain he never tires of telling people about and that he was ironically responsible for creating CoreFire, or rather turning him from a good looking jock to the world’s mightiest hero.

The first time I read Soon I Will Be Invincible I polished it off over a weekend, it’s that sort of book, you just keep on reading to find out what happens next. I didn’t read it quite that quick this time, but it had the same effect on me. I often read more than I intended just to read that little bit more. I didn’t remember many characters apart from Impossible, Fatale, CoreFire and Damsel, but this time the character of Elphin really fired my synapses. She was the last remaining elven or fairy warrior on Earth, possibly the only one of her kind anywhere. That was reminiscent of some of the characters I can remember Marvel using, like Hercules and Thor, they also had an actual elemental being in Meggan in Captain Britain (that was a majorly weird, but very good title in its day) and DC also dabbled in mythological heroes with Wonder Woman and her Amazonian background. I don’t think Austin Grossman does sequels (he hasn’t yet), but I’d definitely be up for some more stories about some of the more peripheral characters in Soon I Will Be Invincible, especially Elphin.

Let’s hope H can live up to F and G.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Great Reread Project Mark III - The Letter F

I was definitely in a bit of a rereading slump (the last 3 letters turned into DNF's effectively), so I decided to go back to an old favourite.

Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair has been one of my favourites from the first time I picked it up when it was originally published. I've read it a number of times and I even gave my original copy to a friend when she went overseas. I have since replaced it.

To be honest I don't think I'd ever encountered a book quite like The Eyre Affair. It's fairly extraordinary, especially as a debut novel. It's a love letter to literature. It isn't necessary to be widely read to enjoy The Eyre Affair, but it does help and if a reader doesn't at least have a decent working knowledge of the plot of Jane Eyre, then they're not going to get one of the book's main jokes.

Being a child of the 80's I quite liked and saw the fun of Thursday Next's alternate 1985. How alternate? The Crimean War is still raging nearly 130 years after it ended in our reality, extinct animals like dodos have been cloned and make good house pets, and these people love their classic literaure: performances of Richard III are like repeat screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in our world (I think the audience participation screenings have largely died out now, but they were big in the 80's).

The plot is pretty out there. Arch villain Acheron Hades has stolen Jane Eyre from her book and os holding her to ransom from a literature loving public, and it's up to feisty LiteraTec operative Thursday Next to get her back. She will travel through time, into Wales, and the world of fiction itself to save Jane and her uncle Mycroft.

It was a wonderful and original excursion, and it never pales on subsequent rereads. Fforde was quite prolific for a number of years after writing the book. He wrote 6 further Thursday Next novels, the related Nursery Crimes duology, 3 volumes of the YA series The Last Dragonslayer, and the first book of a planned trilogy Shades of Grey. He hasn't published anything since 2014, but is supposed to have 3 books scheduled for release in 2018, including the long awaited second book in the Shades of Grey series (I've heard about that one before, so I'll believe it when I actually see it).

If G is anywhere near as good as F, I'm back in business in this reread and will have temporarily banished the suck fairy.