Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Book Review: Blaze of Glory by Sheryl Nantus

Pros: very interesting premise, fun characters, partly set in Toronto 

Cons: characters learn things remarkably fast (eg: new aspects of their powers), don't study the NYC attack to learn about the aliens, just try same techniques

When Jo Tanis, aka Surf, and her sidekick Metal Mike, are called by the Agency to help fight aliens over New York City they know something is wrong.  First, they weren't scheduled for a fight today and second, A-List supers are dying.  This isn't a staged fight but Jo heads out because defying the Agency would force Mike, who's also her Guardian, to detonate the bomb in the back of her neck. 

One of the few survivors of the battle, Jo heads home to Toronto and forms an underground team of supers to take care of the aliens and stop the Agency's control of supers around the world.

The story is told from Jo's point of view, with occasional flashbacks to explain her relationship with Metal Mike.  She's a feisty woman with the power to control electromagnetic waves, giving her the ability to fly and shoot lightning bolts.  

The team she puts together is formed of those who answer her call for aid and consists of one villain who can melt things, a telepath, a guardian with inside Agency information and a guy who can control animals.  It's impressive what the team accomplishes considering their powers aren't formidable.  The animal talker especially surprised me, showing significantly more versatility than expected from such a 'lame' power.

The characters have incompatible personalities, making for some fun dialogue and scenes.  Their villain likes porn and coarse language, the telepath doesn't like crass behaviour.  And Jo's stuck in the middle trying to make things work.

Jo's a strong character, who shows weaknesses at the appropriate times (ie, when her team can't see her break down).  She's not given time to mourn the loss of those who die in the NYC attack and given little time to rest before getting right back out there.  This made her feel genuine.  She asks for help when she needs it but maintains control of the group through tough talk and leadership skills.

I loved the set-up that the superhero battles were all manufactured for TV, with the populace believing they're real.  I can definitely see a government agency contacting people who develop superpowers and not giving them the chance to say no to joining the program.  This also causes Jo problems as she has to explain to her former friends what happened to her, what the battles really were and why she couldn't contact them after her powers developed.

There's a minor romantic thread running through the book.  I was afraid the author would take things too fast, given the events in Jo's recent past, but she didn't, which I was thankful for.  I suspect the romance elements will be stronger in the second book of the series.

As for the problems the book has, the alien plot gets solved rather... easily all things considered.  There are some good fight scenes, but the ultimate resolution is pretty cliche.  

Jo, who had just started training how to carry someone when flying, manages to carry 4 people, without any practice.  Her jump in skill is testament to her determination, but also felt somewhat fake given she's never managed to carry 1 person before, let alone more.

I'd expected them to research the NYC battle before facing the aliens again, trying to learn what the other supers did and what powers / defences the aliens have.  Nope.  They just ran back into battle with the aliens, trying a lot of the same things and hoping they'd work this time.

Ultimately, I loved seeing Toronto featured in a science fiction book and thought the story was a lot of fun, flaws notwithstanding.

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