Apr 19 2012

Writer’s Review of Bob Moore: No Hero

Published by at 10:37 pm under Writer's Reviews

Bob Moore: No Hero is a superhero novella about a private investigator looking into a baffling series of (possibly) missing superheroes.  Here’s what writers can learn from it and why you might want to check it out.

 

What Worked:

The characterization is unusually strong, particularly for the main protagonist. His development arc was unexpected and fresh. The book has hardly any romance (besides two brief conversations between the main character and his ex-wife), but the relationship definitely added something to the main plot which would have been otherwise missing. As for the main antagonist, he’s not one-dimensionally evil, but he’s definitely a problem that the protagonist needs to deal with.  If you’re struggling with how to write a not-conventionally-evil antagonist without making the stakes less urgent for the protagonists, No Hero  is a good example.

 

The ending sequence was eerily effective. The author (Tom Andry) made an unusual decision to end the book with a conversation between the protagonist and his ex-wife rather than, say, a conversation with his assistant or anybody else that’s actually present in his life.  In retrospect, I think it really effectively showed how the character had evolved and made his previous decisions in the climax both more interesting and morally questionable.

 

-I would strongly recommend this book to anybody who wants to make a disagreeable protagonist more likable.  Notably, the book doesn’t gloss over his disagreeable actions and other characters (mainly his ex-wife) call him out for it in reasonable ways and he responds in a mostly reasonable way.  I think that helps readers stay on board even if they aren’t taken with the character’s occasionally hard-boiled approach.

 

There was curiously little superhero action.  On the one hand, I loved that the author didn’t spend 50+ pages on superhero brawls with pretty much nothing at stake*. However, it makes it hard to describe the plot. I would say the book’s genre is something like detective/drama.

*If you’re writing a climactic battle between a hero and villain, if there isn’t serious doubt about whether the villain can win, the battle will be boring.

 

–I found it very refreshing that it’s a superhero story about somebody besides a superhero or a superhero’s lover. That’s an unusual hook and the character fits very well into a world with many superheroes even though he doesn’t have superpowers or major-league technological support.

 

I would highly recommend this book to any author that is struggling with a slow-burning plot.  This book is structured very unusually: the inciting event (being called onto the main investigation) happens about 50% through the book and the main character first realizes that a crime has actually been committed around 75% through.  The author effectively used intermediate goals to keep me interested early on.

 

The main character feels like a private investigator.  The author put more thought and research into what a private investigator would actually do in high-stakes situations rather than just going with what Hollywood has done with PIs.  In contrast, I’ve seen a lot of characters (especially soldiers and police officers) who sound dumb enough that they’d get shot to pieces on their first day (e.g. trying to bumrush a rifle-armed goon without being bulletproof).  This character is a hardboiled PI without superpowers or a gun and somehow that makes him even more badass.

 

What Could Have Worked More Effectively:

The book’s introduction misrepresents the book as juvenile. For example, early on a superhero in far-too-tight spandex gets far-too-excited about pictures of lesbians forming a, uhh, superteam.  However, it’s a misleading portrayal of the book, which is generally far more sober/serious than puerile. I’d recommend writing an introduction that’s thematically and tonally similar to the rest of the work–otherwise, some of the readers that would have enjoyed most of the work will put the book down because they got thrown off by a misleading introduction.

 

The minor characters could probably have been used to more effect (or pared down). For example, I doubt the plot would have changed much if the main character’s assistant had been removed.  The main character’s lawyer could also be removed–I think she added at least a thousand words to the story which contributed very little to the plot or character development.

 

The setting could have been a lot more memorable. As far as I can remember from reading the book yesterday, the only aspects of the city that came up were that some parts are richer than others.  I think the author could have done a lot more with description (e.g. sensory imagery, interesting observations, interesting historical snippets, etc).

 

The book cover could be stronger. The concept was a bit bland–superheroes can be more visually interesting than visual silhouettes flying in the background.  Additionally, an action shot might help (e.g. the protagonist slyly taking a photograph of a superhero while hiding behind a bar table stocked with hard alcohol).  The execution was also lackluster–I think the artist hesitated too much when doing the face. The lips and eyes look strange.

Other Notes:

–Personally, I prefer stories where the setting is somewhat realistic (rather than where there are so many superheroes that extraordinary events become routine and banal). However, I thought that this novella was better-executed than Alan Moore’s Top 10, which I think is the most notable story in that mold.

 

–The content after the book is ridiculously entertaining. If you ever need to write an About the Author section, I’d check out his because it adds something to the book. Additionally, I was definitely interested by the author’s discussion of a few of the writing decisions he made. I’ve never seen anything like that included with the book–I wonder if it might help a few dedicated readers become very dedicated?

 

–The book is free. Download it today!

12 responses so far

12 Responses to “Writer’s Review of Bob Moore: No Hero”

  1. Tomon 20 Apr 2012 at 5:17 pm

    Brian,

    Thanks for the review. I really appreciate the time and thought you put into it. It’s great when, as a writer, someone takes the time to really analyze and dissect your work. You’ve definitely given me a lot to think about. More importantly, after over a year of reviews of this book, you’ve made some points that I’ve not heard before.

    I urge you to check out the full length sequel to No Hero. Bob Moore: Desperate Times is a 105k novel (No Hero was 35k words) and is, in my opinion, a much tighter and better constructed story. In addition, I’m currently editing the next Bob Moore book entitled Bob Moore: Hostile Territory due out…sometime. Ugh, editing is the pits. While No Hero was, as I explained at the end in the Author’s Note, a sort of experiment to see if I could finish something, the next two books are really much more mature as far as my writing goes.

    Also, thanks for the comment about my Author’s Note section. I know that many writers out there are terrified of the Big 6 (or is it 5, I can’t remember) and feel cowed into not writing because of it (that was certainly me before writing No Hero). Self Publishing, while still sort of a fringe section of publishing, at least gives writers a way of getting their work out there and just “testing the waters”. If they receive a good response, then their confidence grows and they feel empowered to write more. Maybe even submit a novel or two to one of the big publishing houses.

    Again, thanks for the review.

  2. B. McKenzieon 20 Apr 2012 at 6:37 pm

    I’ll definitely check out the sequel, thanks.



    If you submitted this to professional publishers but were unable to get it published, I think it’s less of a quality issue than a marketing one (i.e. “can we expect to sell 10,000 copies of this?”). If you’ve had thousands of readers, I think that could only help you make your case if/when you pitch next to publishers. For example, your book has 33 ratings on Amazon and 78 on B&N, so I would infer that you probably had somewhere between 11,000-22,000 readers from those two sources (estimating that somewhere between .5%-1% of readers leave a rating).

    The book was highly-rated (it averaged 4 stars out of 5 on both Amazon and B&N), so I’m guessing a lot of those readers will be back.



    On a sales note, if your goal is eventually to move on to a Big 6 publisher, I would recommend that you start charging for No Hero, perhaps packaging it as a bundle with Desperate Times for $5 or $6 rather than just selling Desperate Times for $4. Your sales/readership figures will probably be somewhat more persuasive if you have, say, 10,000 paying readers rather than 15,000 free downloads.

  3. steton 21 Apr 2012 at 8:45 am

    Well, if it’s 35,000 words, none of the big publishers will have known what to do with it anyway, no matter how good it is.

    It sounds very fun, Tom. Tough to rack up the big sales online in a genre that’s not pretty female-oriented, I suspect, but sounds like you’re doing a great job. Very interesting that you have twice as many B&N reviews as Amazon. I’m not sure I’ve seen that before.

    And hell, I’m gonna buy the thing just for the About the Author, now!

  4. Trollon 21 Apr 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Everything about “No Hero” interests me except for that bit about the beginning, I was just wondering how explicit the beginning was, because I share a Kindle library with my family & I don’t want to offend any of them and I personally don’t like reading stuff with mature sexual themes?

  5. B. Macon 21 Apr 2012 at 3:28 pm

    I would say that it’s PG-13. If you’re concerned that it’s too mature, you can delete it from your Kindle. (The book is free, so there’s no cost in trying it out).

  6. Trollon 21 Apr 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Okay, thanks.

  7. steton 21 Apr 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Oh, it’s -free-! Sometimes I’m so old and baffled. It’s embarrassing. Well, I’m not going to buy it for the About the Author, then. But I’m gonna read it.

    Is this the business model? A free novella, then charge for the longer installments to come? I like.

  8. B. McKenzieon 21 Apr 2012 at 5:07 pm

    “Is this the business model? A free novella, then charge for the longer installments to come? I like.” I assume that’s the plan. The book’s been out for a year, so the $0 price probably isn’t a one-time promotion… I hope that is effective for the author’s goals*, but in terms of just the revenue, I suspect that he’s leaving thousands of dollars on the table by charging $0 rather than even $1.

    *Granted, revenue may not be the main goal. Additionally, I could see a rational argument that building up an audience base matters more over the long-term than a few thousand dollars right now.

  9. Tomon 22 Apr 2012 at 9:22 pm

    Stet – Yep, it’s a business model. I suppose. When I wrote No Hero, I planned on giving it away. Because, at heart, I’m a cheap bastard. And I’m all about all those free books on iBooks and Amazon. And Brian’s got it dead on. Hopefully they’ll like what they read in the free book and come back for the second (and third and fourth…etc.). So far, it’s working pretty well (though I’m far from quitting my day job).

  10. MoguMoguon 20 May 2012 at 5:39 pm

    I recently finished reading it and I loved it. I’m thinking about buying the sequel sometime.

    The character I enjoyed the most was Doc Arts.

  11. Vice Versaon 11 Jun 2012 at 3:11 pm

    I finished reading No Hero today and downloaded Desperate Times about five minutes ago. I really loved it, and thank you, B.Mac, for recommending it! I found it funny and a fresh take on the genre that was really interesting to read. The Author’s Note at the end was very funny and genuine and it inspired me to dig up an old copy of my unfinished superhero novel and start over again. I liked the way Bob dismissed ideas like a frictionless suit in the way comic book readers would and how he took all the weirdness in his stride, although pointing . I’ll be honest- when I heard what it was about, my first thought was that it was too good to be true and that it would be a wasted idea. However, it was skilfully pulled off and I found myself sympathizing with Bob although disagreeing with his actions. He was definitely the badass type of protagonist that I like to read about. So, basically-thank you, B.Mac, for recommending this book and thank you, Tom, for writing it!

  12. B. McKenzieon 11 Jun 2012 at 4:26 pm

    “However, it was skilfully pulled off and I found myself sympathizing with Bob although disagreeing with his actions. He was definitely the badass type of protagonist that I like to read about.” Agreed–Bob (and, to a lesser extent, the lead antagonist) definitely made the book for me.



    “So, basically-thank you, B.Mac, for recommending this book…” You’re welcome. Please let me know if you come across any other solid works.

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