Author: V. E. Schwab
- Imprint: Tor
Date Published: September 24th, 2013
Format: Paperback. ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy)
Source: From the publisher for an honest review (More specifically, grabbed it at the BookExpo of America 2013)
A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and superpowers, set in a near-future world.
Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.
Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?
In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.
Number of Days It Took to Read: 1
I love this cover. Looks even better in person and Victo Ngai is a genius.
The Writing Score: 5 out of 5
Recommendation: Must Read
Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable
Rating: 5 out of 5
I got this book at BEA (BookExpo of America) this past May and waited an hour (or was it two?) in line to have the lovely V.E. Schwab sign it (I also got her to pose with my Batman plushie which felt fitting given the theme of the book). I read it. I loved it.
Love feels so…limiting. It feels mundane. It feels too abstract when this particular love was how I felt right after seeing The Avengers and The Dark Knight. It’s the same feeling I get whenever I listen to The Avengers by Alan Silvestri (The Avengers movie’s main theme). I get blurry eyed, salty droplets run down my face and this oddly warm ball of…hot fudge? erupts from my belly and into my chest (not actual hot fudge because that would be gross. Figurative hot fudge). I love superheroes and everything related that I’ve read so much on them through novels, comics, short stories, academic papers etc.
They’re my kryptonite.
Being so versed in the superhero genre means more work for the authors to impress me. This is not said from an egotistical standpoint but from someone who’s read so much from a particular genre that patterns form and so does the number of eye rolls. I like my superheroes and want them to be respected but I also expect them to be challenged in new ways. In Vicious, we have a story that isn’t about superheroes. It’s a story that challenges what we know about heroes and the super powered. I could say this was a story about supervillains but that’s also not entirely true and it would be far too simple.
Are you a villain when you do something bad in general or are you still one when you do something bad to bad people? What happens when doing the right thing happens to align with what you wanted to do for your own interests? Are you a hero then? A villain?
Vicious makes it’s home in the grey and manages to tug, and not drag, the superhero/villian genre along with it since the very concept of superheroes is very grey as well (see post on Superhero vs Vigilante). Let’s get past the fact that we have a well written story that’s both engaging and has made great use of it’s structure in regards to the ordering of time. This story has two great female supporting characters who have a great complex relationship with one another. The main protagonists make us doubt our belief in good and evil or, at the very least, in finding a “good” character designated in the story. There are none. At least not for the entire book and maybe not in the ideal sense of good or right.
Vicious is an outstanding book because it’s taken the extraordinary and made it something within our reach without diminishing the fantastical, high flying element. It’s avoided making the mistake of turning the “relatable”, in a world of the super powered, into the mundane and everyday. These individuals have superpowers. There’s no way this’ll ever be “realistic” and that’s the trap that most Hollywood types fall into. The realism and relatability happens with the character development. Who they are as people as opposed to their physical abilities or what is “possible” in the limiting sense within the external world. WHAT WILL THEY DO ONCE THEY HAVE THIS POWER? That’s the central question of the book and a question readers should as of themselves if put into a similar situation.
I can honestly say that this is one of the best books of 2013 in my very humble opinion and it’s out today for your consumption. So check it out and form your own views on good, evil and their very grey edges.
A. A. Omer
The opinions expressed here are mine and readers are welcome to disagree. In fact, I encourage it! I never believed in putting particular books or authors on some sort of universal pedestal but you’re free to put it on your individualized pedestal because I most certainly will.