I just finished reading Soon I Will Be Invincible.
I'm including this under my Summer of Science Fiction because this a story about an evil genius who attempted multiple times to conquer the world through science. However, there are also aliens, fairy, and magic, all of which had the potential to be a fantastic novel of superheroic proportions.
It failed. Dismally.
Superhero Fiction is a delicate niche -- I mean, it has to be. It's hard to take people running around in spandex seriously.
I think the problem with this novel is that it takes itself too seriously in all the wrong ways. Doctor Impossible continues to try to conquer the world in cartoon, devilish ways. Robots, fungus, moving the earth's orbit to create an ice age, that sort of thing. Seriously, if you're gonna have a villain taking over the world two things need to happen in order to make him a villain instead of a two-pence clown with delusions of grandeur: 1. Have a half-decent reason that doesn't include vengeance when life deals the villain a rotten hand in his childhood. 2. Make the schemes actually plausible. Bonus points if the villain doesn't end up ruling a post-apocalyptic earth
The villain of the story, Doctor Impossible, is obviously crazy but not in the bone chillingly way. More in the shake your head and cluck softly, you poor thing way.
It also felt a bit like Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (which isn't his fault since Grossman wrote the novel before Whedon wrote DHSAB). Doctor Impossible even had a freeze ray and a death ray. There were even attempted witty retorts which fell flat most of the time (it's okay, Grossman, not everybody can be Whedon).
The thing is, Whedon did it better. Doctor Impossible wants the girl and take over the world. Dr. Horrible is conflicted between being a villain and pursuing Penny -- a conflict that doesn't really bother Doctor Impossible.
In some ways Corefire, who is often hinted at being a jerk (seriously, that's prime material there!), resembles Captain Hammer -- they are both heroic tools. However, Doctor Impossible goes into monologues in which he says that the good guys are supposed to win, end of story, that's the way it's done: I'm supposed to try to take over the world, they're supposed to stop me, I'm supposed to lose, they're supposed to win.
This. Irks. Me. It's like...predestination, like everybody's just reading the script. Doctor Horrible didn't stop trying and doesn't fool himself with the angsty I'm supposed to lose nonsense. "It's not about making money, it's about taking money," he says.
Doctor Impossible had no vision beyond his character's role.
Doctor Horrible did.
The ending wasn't even worth the time it took to even read the novel. Since Doctor Impossible never let the reader forget that he was supposed to lose, it really wasn't that surprising when he, well, lost.
The characters of the novel were very unsatisfying and one dimensional. They were all either extremely smart or they were lucky. Heck, one was the daughter of an Alien Princess. This bugs the heck out of me. Superheroes aren't supposed to make the privileged even more privileged -- it's supposed to be the empowerment of the average Joe as it explores philosophical issues, the spectrum of evil to good and all that grey in between, and -- I can't stress this enough -- about the people.
This wasn't about the people. It wasn't even about the ramifications of good or evil. Sure, mentions were made that people who had super powers often tended to be mentally unbalanced in some way, but it wasn't enough. In essence, Soon I Will Be Invincible did not deal with Asimov's rule: it didn't explore how these people reacted to their own powers (angsty drivel doesn't count, sorry). It didn't really go into how the public saw these heroes. They were just kind of there. I honestly think that every superhero story needs a person who is human so that it can explore their reaction to all this Super as well. Soon I Will Be Invincible touched on it, but then the ordinary girl overshadowed by the Supers became super herself. Sigh.
Another disappointing aspect of the book was the style of the writing. Seriously, I can't help but wonder how this got published.
There are two alternating point of views within the novel -- not something I would choose, but hey, to each his own. The problem is that they both sound exactly the same. Seriously. They both go into long, boring, repetitive monologues, they both push the rewind button as they constantly deviate from the main plot of the story to enlighten the reader about various characters, their back stories, etc.
It was like a little kid constantly interrupting their older sibling as s/he tries to read a book.
Intensely annoying and rather amateurish compared to someone like Neil Gaiman.
But not everyone can be the Gaiman. But that fact shouldn't deter them from trying to outdo him in their own way.