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Off the Shelves: Superhero tale shows not all are invincible
0411BookReview

‘Soon I Will Be Invincible’
By: Austin Grossman
Price: $14.95 (paperback)
Rating: Five out of five bookmarks

What is it about superheroes that fascinates us?

Even for those of us who aren’t engrossed with comic books or video games, we still flock to movies, watch television programs and occasionally for Halloween we dress up as our favorite mega-powered warriors. Maybe we like superheroes for their colorful campiness or their exciting action-packed adventures that we wish we could experience. Or perhaps it’s because the reader always knows that in superhero worlds, good always wins over evil — an aspect we often wish was a staple of real life.

But in Austin Grossman’s novel, "Soon I Will Be Invincible," the reader gets a different side of the classic comic book clichés and sees how being a superhero or a supervillian would be if things were a little more steeped in reality.

The story switches back and forth between two principle characters: Doctor Impossible, an archetypal evil genius who is concocting his grandest scheme yet while trapped in prison, and a cyborg heroine named Fatale, a new recruit to a famous superhero team, the Champions. Both of these characters, while always playing their "roles" in public or in front of fellow super-beings, are grappling with their own personal insecurities and trying to figure out how the roads of their lives have led them to being what they are today.

We also meet a whole cavalcade of superheroes and villains, including the members of the Champions — who seem to gradually be falling apart as a team — and fellow villains from Doctor Impossible’s circle, most of whom have gone underground or have been forced into "retirement" from villainy. The novel puts a different spin on things, so we meet both villains who really aren’t all that evil and are just as human as the rest of us, and superheroes who, while displaying a chivalrous façade, are in fact complete jerks.

Maybe this is just the natural geek in me, but I found "Soon I Will Be Invincible" to be one of the more fun reads that I have found in a while. There are still the thrilling fight scenes, the cheesy catch phrases and the wonderful array of costumed characters, all with different superpowers that I loved watching in Saturday morning cartoons as a kid. But I found the "human" aspect of this story to be equally if not more engaging, including the tattered love relationships, the feelings of loss and betrayal and the mixed emotions found behind every figurative mask, which leads to each character hiding behind a real mask.

There are not many stories where you find yourself truly sympathizing with the villain, or finding a cyborg to be more in touch with her feelings than the non-mechanized heroes, but humanity is oftentimes found in the least likely of places.

While this novel is more directed toward those who love science fiction, I believe Grossman’s book has something for everyone to enjoy. The plot at its core is familiar, but it has humor and heart. It had enough twists to keep me guessing, and it touches on the common feelings we all have as we grow up. We want to remain in a childhood fantasy of costumes and capes, and even as we grow "too old" for imagination, we still wish we can either save or take over the world.

Alison Reeger Cook is a Gainesville resident whose Off the Shelves book review appears every other week in Sunday Life. Know of a good book to review? E-mail her to tell her about it.

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