Author: Andrew McBride

Book Report: All My Friends Are Superheroes

A Caricature is an image that exaggerates a particular feature in order to draw attention to it. I’ve been frustrated with Google because I am unable to find a similar word to use for this novel and it’s use of exaggeration of features into superpowers to serve the author’s needs. All my Friends are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman, published in 2004 by Coach House Books at 104 pages, is a caricature in the literary style rather the visual one. It’s an attempt, a fairly enjoyable one, to tell a love story using superpowers to take the relationships and interactions to an absurd level. Most characters, other than the narrator, have superpowers and each superpower reflects some important facet of their own personality. At times it can be over the top, but, given how short the book is, on the whole it works and the author is able to clearly make his points about human relationships in an effective way. This is the story of Tom and how he has one plane ride to convince his wife, the Superhero known as the Perfectionist, that he is real. The Perfectionist has been hypnotized by her ex, Hypno, to believe that Tom is invisible. It’s been six months since she was hypnotized on her wedding day and now she has decided to leave since she can’t find her husband. What follows is Tom reliving...

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Book Report: Steelheart (Reckoners Book 01)

Full Disclosure: Brandon Sanderson is probably my current favorite author. I was first introduced to him when I heard that he was taking over the Wheel of Time series upon the death of Robert Jordan. (Side note: This is an epic long-form fantasy series that was fantastic.) After devouring his Mistborn series, I quickly read everything else that he had written and now wait excitedly for any new book to be published. For a quick understanding of what I love about his work, look no further than his website and his blog posts, particularly those on his Laws of Writing with Magic Systems. Don’t be afraid if you don’t read Magic or Fantasy books, they are equally relatable to any science fiction story or any Superhero story, especially comics; the link above is specifically how they relate to strategic thinking. They are manly about what makes a good story and how to structure a successful climax given your premise such that the audience doesn’t feel cheated, i.e. avoiding the Deus Ex Machina. I’ve found them extremely enlightening and highly recommend them. The First Law simply stated is that an author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic. The Second Law is that Limitations provide greater story opportunities than Strengths or Powers. The Third Law is use what you’ve already established before...

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Book Report: Ready Player One

This is your Christmas present. I’ll take a quick break from the straight superhero fare in order to review something else in the nerd genre. I’ll be doing this a little more often in the future, but for now, here you go. This is where you want to spend your Christmas and Hanukah money. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline was published in 2012 by Broadway Books at 384 pages. While this is his first novel, Cline wrote the movie Fanboys, as well his own sequel to Buckaroo Banzai: Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League. Ready Player One is the story of Wade Watts, a young teen living in a near future where the world has gone to crap. But a ray of light appears. Multi-billionaire James Halliday, a Steve Jobs combined with Richard Garriott analogue, has died and left his vast fortune to the lucky gamer who finds the hidden Easter Egg in his greatest game: a virtual reality called the OASIS. The catch is that the winner will have to know a LOT about the 80s and nerd culture in general. Thus begins a fast-paced adventure thrill ride with references to everything I loved in my childhood: comics, games, movies, TV, music, toys. I don’t want to say too much about the plot, because I firmly believe that every person who even sees or hears about this...

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Book Report: Gladiator

We’re going historic for this review. There is a scene in the final issue of Alan Moore’s Supreme run, V2 #6, where Supreme meets the giant disembodied floating head of Jack Kirby. Yes, this actually happened. This was a fantastic end to a spectacular run, which is my pick for both best Creative Turn Around and Best Ret-Con/Reboot. In this scene Kirby describes Supreme as a “Wylie” since he is a basic Superman archetype. He also states that Dark detectives are “Gibson’s” and warrior princesses are “Moulton’s”. Hopefully none of you need the links to figure out why these two are the listed character type creators. But I had never heard of Wylie and set out to remedy that lapse. Gladiator, written by Phillip Wylie was originally published in 1930 by Knopf Publishing, 8 years before the first issue of Action Comics. This is the 332 page story of Hugo Danner, modified in the womb by his scientist father using “Alkaline Radicals” to improve the human body giving it the proportional strength of an ant and the jumping ability of a grasshopper. Since this story is 84 years old, I’m going to go ahead and spoil most of it. Feel free to read it yourself if you want to immerse yourself in the proto-Superman, but here’s the basic synopsis. Hugo’s father tests his radical theories about the human body,...

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Book Report: The Miranda Contract

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...

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