Sep 21 2008

Maybe SIWBI’s heroes weren’t that bad

Many readers felt that the heroes of Soon I Will Be Invincible were whiny, insufferable failures.  For example, one review said that “the most [the main character] ever manages is some uninspired teenage-esque angst that her character seems much too old for.”

Our review noted that characters like a mutant tiger and a billionaire mogul tended to use uncharacteristic phrases like “this is all geek stuff” and “we haven’t seen a serious threat for almost a year– I’m almost bored.”

In chapter 6, we get this passage that describes the heroes trying to convince police officers to let a supervillain go.

“Do it. We’ll walk him out,” [says Damsel.] She’s impatient. “The cops are going to be pissed off is all,” [says Fatale.] We do it. The police sergeant starts to say something, but Damsel gives him a look. He’s playing out of his league and he knows it. But I can’t help feeling the gaze of those marksmen on the back of my head. I’m not like Damsel– a bullet in the right place will finish me off. Damsel doesn’t seem to care. She’s been a superhero all her life, and it’s obvious she couldn’t care less what the civilian police think.

Passages like this annoyed Jacob because they made the heroes seem boorish, stupid and arrogant.  “The heroes should at least pretend to care about what mere mortals think,” he concluded.

But what if the author meant the characters to come off as aloof and power-warped pricks to make a statement about superheroes?  It’s not clear that the characters are meant to be sympathetic.  In fact, the author takes several unusual steps that suggest otherwise: most of the story is told from the villain’s perspective and the “heroes” are not actually involved in the fight that takes down the villain.  The “heroes” get slighted so much in the finale that it’s almost comical.  When they try to beat the villain, the author doesn’t even bother depicting the battle.  He just cuts to the next scene, which is them languishing in the villain’s prison while someone else takes the villain down.


No, SIWBI’s heroes really were that bad.  If the author had meant to show that traditional superheroes are ditzy and helpless idiots, then his main character should not have been a ditzy and helpless idiot.

By the end, it was obvious that the author had lost control of the story.  SIWBI’s conclusion was a kick in the balls, particularly how it shafted Fatale.  Much like the first 250 pages of the book, Fatale does nothing.  As Jacob mentioned above, she isn’t even in the final fight against the villain.  That mistake was caused by a poorly selected premise, which appears to have been “Lois Lane [Lily] is the world’s greatest superhero.”  I like that premise, but it makes absolutely no sense in a story where Lily only appears in a few chapters and isn’t one of the eight main heroes.

So why did the author make Fatale the point-of-view character rather than Lily?  Probably because he was banking on a twist ending to save the story.  If Lois Lane had been the POV, she couldn’t have surprised readers by announcing that she had superpowers all along. It was without a doubt the worst twist-ending I’ve ever read.  Essentially, the author told us that we had been reading about a red herring (Fatale) for the last 250 pages.  Thanks!

I would have rewritten the story in the following ways.

  1. There were far too many characters.  I would have deleted most of the New Champions (Fatale, Elphin, Feral, Blackwolf and Rainbow Triumph) and all of the other superheroes (Galatea, Bluetooth, Phenom, Go-Man, Lightwave, Regina and Stormcloud).  These characters were just a distraction from the Lily-Corefire-Impossible relationship.  If the author wants to show that traditional superheroes are obnoxious, he can use Corefire and maybe Damsel.
  2. I would take away the arc where Corefire is (supposedly but not actually) dead at the start.  For his absence to be meaningful, we have to know something about him before he disappears. Instead, all we know that a thinly-developed Superman knockoff is missing. Why should we care?
  3. I would have started the book earlier, right before Lily, Corefire and Impossible get their superpowers. SIWBI tried to describe their origin stories as backstory and the plot bogged down.
  4. I would have given more chapters to Impossible and made Lily the other POV character.

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