Tuesday, 11 September 2012

'Seven Wonders' - Adam Christopher

Seven Wonders, Adam Christopher's second novel, is a bit of a rarity. It's a super hero novel. Not something you see every day, but I wish there were a few more out there. After his success with Empire State it's safe to say my expectations have reached a new high. As always, a big thanks to Angry Robot Books for providing me with a review copy of Seven Wonders.

I did not have to turn many pages before Seven Wonders reminded my of Kurt Busiek's master piece, Astro City. It's a similar setup with a city where spandex clad supermen, and women, are a part of every day life. What made Astro City so special to me was how for the first time the heroes felt like real people, with real problems. I love it how the citizens of both cities can take it in their stride when supermen, and women, bring destruction and mayhem to their lives. Dodging the impact of invulnerable super heroes on your way into work is not much different from dodging a pack of pigeons as they fertilise the area they fly over. Seven Wonders also has the same amazing mixture of different heroes, and often we don't even get to know anything about them apart from their name, which is all I need to get my imagination going. The Gin Fairy, need I say more?

I'd better talk a little bit about the plot before I forget and just talk about how it compares to my favourite graphic novel. You really need to read Astro City though.

Tony is what you could call a loser, stuck in a dead beat job, pretending otherwise to his parents, and he is terrified of the city he lives in. Being constantly frightened and without much money makes it harder to attract attention from the fairer sex. Then it happens, that thing that only happens in fiction written by men, a smoking hot member of that fairer sex does notice Tony. Notice is a understatement, it's more of a home run than first base as well. Not a bad confidence boost for our frightened rabbit, but then our delicate little mammal wakes up one day with super powers.

Tony is not the only one with super powers though, the city is protected by the super hero team called Seven Wonders. They are in a stalemate with the only super villain left in the world, The Cowl. The world's last super villain really is super, his powers range from invulnerability to psychic abilities which can boil a man's brain in an instant, and not even the combined might of the Seven Wonders is enough to take him down. The Seven Wonders are not exactly kittens themselves, their leader draws is power directly from the sun, and their weapons and armours are forged by an ancient god.
While Tony is having his 'Chronicle' like experience playing with his new powers, The Cowl is plotting to strike a final blow to the Seven Wonders.

One of the things I loved the most with Empire State was Adam Christopher's ability to keep surprising me with the twist and turn of the story arcs, which is sadly not the case in Seven Wonders. An attempt is made, but the result feels rather disconnected from the rest of the story, and a little bit too sudden to really fit it. Luckily, it does not in anyway ruin the experience, but it's definitely a a bump you can feel. The biggest problem in Seven Wonders is how some of the characters have rather drastic personality changes. These are even more sudden and really quite unexpected, at least in Chronicle you could see it coming. In Seven Wonders it even happens more than once. Sadly, this takes away a lot of the credibility of the characters, and in most other books it would have made it a poor reading choice. While Adam Christopher might have missed the mark with some of the characters, the atmosphere, and the world building, is spot on. The super powered fighting also has the right comic book feel to them, but with a more adult touch to them, where there is actual bloodshed. Adam Christopher has once again brought something new to a old genre.

You'd be a super fool if you didn't read Seven Wonders.

Seven Wonders weighs in at 416 pages and is published by Angry Robot Books.

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