Audiobook Review Bites: Heroes & Villains
Twelve years prior to this story, Calamity appeared in the sky and burst, gifting astonishing powers on ordinary people. Instead of people using their powers for the betterment of mankind, these people–called Epics–use their powers to dominate their fellow man. Two years after Calamity appeared in the sky, David Charleston’s father is murdered by an Epic named Steelheart who takes over the city of Chicago, dubbing it Newcago, and ushers in a new age of terror. David makes it his mission to study Epics and learn their one weakness (which is the only way to destroy them) in order to avenge his father. David joins the Reckoners, a group of ordinary humans who assassinate Epics, and convinces them to embark on an ambitious plan to take down Steelheart.
This was like reading a novelization of a comic book arc. It’s fast paced, fun, and teeming with action and cool gadgets. It manages to be touching and smart, and while it’s fairly straightforward, it does present a couple of quandaries–one of which is considering the ramifications for the citizens of Newcago if they should defeat Steelheart. David is a likable character–intelligent, brave, brash, and bit of a nerd. His awkwardness makes him easy to like and to relate to. The Reckoners are a motley crew of characters who have banded together to form something of a family. I wished there had been more character development for a few of them, but I like them all the same. MacLeod Andrews provides the voice of this series. He brings exactly the right amount of youthful exuberance you’d expect.
I probably would’ve rated this higher, but the romance angle annoyed me so much for most of the book. It always felt inconvenient and out of place when it showed up. I did not care how tight Megan’s shirt was or how curvy she was or how pouty her lips were. I just wanted to get to this fighting Epics business. It stalled the story from getting to the point at times. However, the romance did start to feel more natural toward the end. This book probably won’t work for people who enjoy grimmer hero tales. It’s not all sunshine and roses, but it’s more fun than dark.
Prior to reading this novel, I’d been having some problem completing a Sanderson book. It’s not that I think he’s a bad writer or anything. His writing just never engaged me before this book. It could’ve just been the particular reading mood I was in before, but I think it has more to do with the fact that this gets on with the story and doesn’t dawdle around. I certainly plan to read the rest of the books in this series, and I think this book has convinced me to give his fantasy books a second chance if the payout is equal to the enjoyment I gained from reading this.
Narrator: MacLeod Andrews | Length: 12 hr and 14 mins | Audiobook Publisher: Audible Studios (September 24, 2013) | Whispersync Ready: Yes
Gary Karkofsky is an ordinary citizen living in a city filled with heroes and villains. After receiving a magical cloak that once belonged to the city’s most beloved hero, Gary does what any self-respecting ordinary person would do when gifted such power. He becomes a supervillain. Except he’s not very good at it. However, that doesn’t stop Gary. He has his ambitions set to becoming the city’s most notorious villain as long as it doesn’t require him to kill anyone or inconvenience anyone less fortunate than himself. He just wants to make money. Aided by his wife and a few villain friends, Gary sets down the path of making the city tremble at its knees one bad pun at a time.
This is a by the book hero–ahem, I mean villain–story. It crams all the superhero and villain cliches in it that you could ever want. Everything is over the top and exaggerated in a way that can be a little exasperating at times. Gary is a bit bumbling in his quest, but no one can ever accuse him of lacking the proper motivation. He often finds himself at odds with other villains in the city such as the Typewriter who wears a–wait for it–large typewriter on his head and spouts phrases from bygone eras. In other words, this book is extremely campy. What I really enjoyed about this story was Gary’s relationship with his wife. Early in the book, he makes this statement: “Supervillainy seemed like the sort of thing you needed to be upfront with your spouse about.” His wife sets down ground rules of his reign of terror which includes only stealing from people who deserve it, no killing, and not bringing his work home. It was fun to see a positive relationship being portrayed in a heroic story, as Gary sees his wife as one of his biggest allies.
Given the way this is written, and this is a criticism that I could level at most superhero stories, this does come off extremely immature at times. The characters aren’t developed that well and had a tendency to disappear when they were all used up, but this relies more on its quips and Gary’s clumsy adventures in supervillainy. So, I can’t expect this story to be a shining example of character. Parts of the story just seemed to drone on about things that didn’t seem important to the plot at all. Jeffrey Kafter fit the part of Gary well, and the quips rolled off his tongue with ease. Some of his voices for the characters weren’t distinct enough, but overall, he did a fine job.
This isn’t a bad story, but I was expecting something more. However, the premise for this was an excellent one, and I did find myself smiling at Gary’s misadventures. I’m curious enough to continue this adventure and see how Gary’s story progresses. I waffled on whether to rate this a 2.5 or 3, but decided to go with a 3 since it did manage to make smile a fair bit.
Narrator: Jeffrey Kafer | Length: 6 hrs and 42 mins | Audiobook Publisher: Amber Cove Publishing (June 8, 2014) | Whispersync Ready: Yes
I’m a big fan of GraphicAudio‘s audiobook productions, and I have reviewed a few for this site–Marvel: Civil War by Stuart Moore, Marvel: The Death of Captain America by Larry Hama, and Disarmed & Dangerous by Tim Waggoner. I’m continuously impressed with the production value of these books. They’re always full cast no matter the length with high quality sound effects. You’d think the audiobook format wouldn’t fit something as visual as comics, but the comics play out like radio/podcast dramas.
No Normal is an origin story. Kamala Khan is a typical girl trying to survive the grind of being a teenager and all the drama and insecurities that come along with it. One night after defying her strict parents, Kamala sneaks out of her house to attend a party. After leaving the party in frustration, Kamala’s powers emerge and she manages to save one of her classmates from drowning. Now she’s on a quest to learn to control her powers while learning to accept that her differences are what makes her powerful.
Kamala has a couple of things that stand out in this comic. Her family is Muslim, and while her parents aren’t overbearing, they are strict. Their rigidity is something Kamala rebels against because she feels if she were a boy the rules wouldn’t apply to her. Because of her religion, Kamala suffers from teasing from her classmates who make jokes about honor killings and Kamala smelling like curry. Despite this ridicule, Kamala still wants to be like them. She wishes she was the blonde-haired blue-eyed girl that seems to have everything going for her. This was fitting as people of color often struggle with race and religion when everything around them tells them that the norm is pretty white people. Readers/listeners get to experience this through Kamala.
Kamala’s religion plays a strong part in her life. I think listening to this as I read made scenes such as Kamala having a visual of the Faith appearing as Iron Man, Captain America, and Captain Marvel, much more poignant. (The Faith appeared that way because they can take the form that appeals to the person, and Kamala is a huge Avengers fan to the point that she writes fanfiction.) The audiobook employed the use of prayer in the background during these scenes. If there’s one criticism I think I can level at this it would be that it feels like Wilson was a bit stereotypical in her presentation of Muslims. However, perhaps she was trying to be straightforward for readers who wouldn’t be familiar with the faith.
I did have the comic on hand when I was listening to this, and that made the experience much richer since the dialogue is taken from the book line by line while adding depth of detail for the audio format. I’ve been enjoying the art for the Marvel titles that are geared more toward Young Adults. They’ve managed to be fun, lighthearted, and vibrant much like the characters they follow. Listening to this book affirmed one thing for me. We need a Ms. Marvel cartoon or animated movie. Her story lends itself so well to the idea.
Narrator: Full Cast | Length: 1 hr and 30 mins | Audiobook Publisher: GraphicAudio (August 17, 2015) | Whispersync Ready: No