Sometimes it’s just inescapable. An author simply must tell his
story. You pick up the book, and as a reader, you can feel the pull of
that insistent voice, and it's a voice you enjoy hearing. No matter what
happens in the novel, no matter what else is said and done, the first
pages of a book can literally speak to a reader, start a conversation
that the reader will feel compelled to finish.
Part of the appeal of such novels is that they do seem a bit like a conversation,
a two-way conversation, in which the reader has a part as well as the
author. The author may do all the talking and the reader all the listening,
but still – the reader feels included. Whispered to.
Austin Grossman's first novel, 'Soon I Will Be Invincible' whispers to
the reader, but not in a quiet sotto voice. Told from the perspective
of both a supervillain and a superhero in a world where such extraordinary
beings are common, 'Soon I Will Be Invincible' is written with a commanding
prose style that transfixes the reader for nearly all of it 290ish pages.
Doctor Impossible, nicked again, is sitting through another jail term,
his twelfth, for attempting to take over the world. He's a brilliant
genius, "the smartest man in the world" who nonetheless is
consistently foiled by a now-squabbling squad of superheroes. Of course,
no jail can hold him. Fatale is a new-kid superheroine, who tells the
other half of the story in a similarly compelling voice. When Doctor
Impossible makes good on his promise to escape and the actually invincible
superhero Corefire disappears, she's in, and the reader is hooked but
There's a lot to like in 'Soon I Will Be Invincible'. Grossman's prose
is the main attraction. Whether he's writing from the perspective of
Doctor Impossible or Fatale, he's got a fun, involving style. The jokes
are constant and consistently funny, but what seals the deal is Grossman's
ability to back off from his smirking and throw in more than a dash of
poignant pathos. Doctor Impossible's passages are generally funnier than
Fatale's, but not so much as you might expect. And by giving the Doc
a good-guy female counterpoint, Grossman has nearly doubled his potential
Of course, Fatale and Doctor Impossible are not the only characters here.
The "New Champions" make up most of the secondary characters.
These include Blackwolf, a one-time gymnast who has used his riches to
turn himself into a Batman-like figure, Elphin, the lone surviving Faery
warrior, Damsel, the daughter of some superheroes from the thirties, "born
to superpowers", Feral, half-man, half-tiger, Mister Mystic, a magician,
Lily, once evil, now good, a woman from an alternate far future, and
Rainbow Triumph, a snotty teen idol and science experiment. One of the
things that Grossman does with absolute confidence is to create a sort
of science fiction and fantasy backdrop to what ultimately proves to
be a sort of alternate history. You get every damn thing here; I'm surprised
he didn't include Kitchen Sink Man, but we've not yet seen the sequel.
And you'll hope for one. Grossman knows all his science fiction quite
well, and he's an adept enough writer to make his superhero-laden world
When you're reading this book, it's pretty easy to ignore the obvious
inspirations because Grossman is so damn funny and witty. He's also got
a great visual imagination, so the prose special-effects set pieces verge
on breathtaking. As we learn more about the world, and the origins of
the characters, the novel becomes pleasingly more complex. Sure, there's
more than a whiff of BAM! And POW! here, but the previously mentioned
poignant moments seem increasingly common and powerful. There's more
than a bit of sadness that our world has no such heroes fighting for
truth, justice and the American way.
Ultimately, there are probably a couple of fights that go on more than
they need to, though, again, the prose is still so funny that you’re
consistently tempted to read it aloud. Grossman has concocted an intricate
plot centered around the origins of his crew – good and evil – and
their day-to-day lives. He's cracked every joke you could ever have imagined
about superhero entertainment and more than a few you couldn’t.
He's entertained you and moved you. This an easy book to read and an
easy book to like. Grossman is a talented writer, the sort of fellow
who summons an insinuating, whispering voice that positively commands
you to read it. He makes something remarkably difficult appear effortless.
Just like taking over the world.