Much has been made of how the introduction of the ebook has changed publishing.. By cutting down on production costs, publishing houses have a lower overhead which allows them to publish a larger number of books by a greater number of authors. No longer is there the need to maintain large warehouses containing the print runs for each novel, nor the headache of trying to accurately decide how large a given print run should be. With ebooks, one server and everyone’s needs are filled. Of course, ebooks haven’t completely replaced the hardback, and all the logistics I just mentioned are still very much present–but for any aspiring author this is a fantastic opportunity. Unfortunately, with the increase in quantity there must be something of an associated decrease in overall quality.
Exhibit A: The Miranda Contract by Ben Langdon, published in 2014 at 358 pages. This is the story of Dan Galkin, a former super-villain teen in Melbourne who is given the task of protecting a Pop Star from the schemes of his criminal genius grandfather, the Mad Russian. Sounds like a reasonably interesting plot doesn’t it? This book has a lot of great ideas but it’s very poorly executed, and just screams for some better editing. This is Langdon’s first full-length novel, having already published several short stories on superhero fiction. His publishing house, Kalamity Press, was founded in 2013 with a focus on neo-pulp and superhero fiction. Maybe it’s because this is his first novel, or maybe it’s because his publisher has only recently opened itself and thus doesn’t have experienced editors. I don’t know how much work went into this book, all I know is what I got out of it and that was frustration. As I previously mentioned, there is a solid foundation for this story, it’s the execution that’s lacking.
Dan Galkin lives in a world where “uberhumans” are a common yet small portion of the population. Most of these uberhumans have power sets that are fairly useless except to set them apart from the rest of humanity. Dan’s mother is one of these – She’s blue – That’s it. This dynamic of regular vs uber is interesting in and of itself, but the novel really doesn’t expand upon it. There’s a subplot where the Pop Star, Miranda, is strictly using uberhumans as backup dancers for her international tour, and there are protests due to the perceived exploitation. Yet, other than mentioning this, the author doesn’t really delve into how the tour is affecting uber-human relations. Also in this world, Indian has gathered an army of uberhumans and annexed Pakistan!! But other than one single line describing this event there is no mention of how the international community reacts to this huge development, or how uber-human relations have changed as well. That is a story I’d be excited to read, unfortunately it’s not in this book or anywhere else for that matter. Instead we are left with a hodgepodge of interactions between various characters, some of which are excellent and others that are worthless. Sometimes the motivations of a particular character seem crazy with no real understanding about why they’re doing or acting that way. There’s also this great social rehabilitation program that, as a former super-villain, Dan is court appointed to be involved. He now works community service for the government on a part-time basis using his powers for good, thus the bodyguard gig. Of course his handler is very corrupt. Again a great plot and story idea that isn’t fully developed to my satisfaction. Annoying.
Anyway, I’ll quit haranguing and finish up with just two last thoughts. Many of the scenes in the book are actually great, which probably comes from his Short Story experience, so if you do decide to read this it’s not a total disaster and there are some great ideas here. Finally, what criminal genius has his base of operations in Melbourne, Australia? No offense to Australia, which I’ve been to and love, and I’m not saying America has to be the home base of every super villain. But if you’re going for South Pacific, wouldn’t you rather find another smaller nearby island and go for your own country? At least then you’d get diplomatic immunity.
Rating: 1 Star – Andrew did not like it.
Andrew McBride is the newest THN Love Slave. He is too stuffed with stuffing to make jokes at this time.