Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Review: Heroine Addiction by Jennifer Matarese

Heroine Addiction by Jennifer Matarese is a really fun superhero murder mystery, with great characters, a fairly over-dramatic evil villain plot and a marvellous main character.

Vera Noble is the owner of a small cafe in a quiet town that finally accepts her bisexuality without spitting in the street when she walks past. She's got major break-up issues with her last girlfriend, and crush on the writer guy in the corner. Sure, she hasn't spoken to her family in five years, but that's mostly because Vera's one of the most balanced members of the family. Oh, and an annoying case of supervillains, especially the guy her dad's secretly dating, who likes to drop by and upset her customers and her.  Otherwise, everything's pretty good.

Except - did I mention? Her parents are two of the most powerful superheroes in the world. And they're living a brittle show for the cameras, that somebody is bound to exploit sooner or later. And this being a superhero universe, it's not going to be something as prosaic as blackmail.

And by 'superhero universe' I mean that Superhumans exist, and always have - right back to the guy who flew the Mayflower across the Atlantic, upsetting the puritan colonists as he did (who happened to be one of the powerful and arrogant Nobles and Vera's ancestor). Aliens, mad science, zombie outbreak, other worlds, kidnappings, and all the vast array of standard comic fare hijinks are equally standard for this universe.

 Here, superheroes are licensed, there's courses and degrees and official jobs, insurance and an entire costume industry... and a lot of paperwork.  Lost? Imagine it as a sort of Marvel/DC/The Incredibles universe, after everyone's gotten the registration issues sorted out. It also strongly reminds me of the webcomic Evil Inc, which features a corporation for supervillains and a villain/hero couple who have to keep their relationship secret.  It's not goofy - it's all pretty matter of fact, if a little dramatic. Anyone who reads superhero comics should feel fairly at home.

One of my favourite bits of world building was definitely the superhuman morgue - where they hold the bodies of deceased supervillains and heroes until they are Very Very Sure that nothing is going to burst out of them, and the background levels of radiation are acceptable. And it's rude to pry into the background of Immortals - you certainly don't ask them for a birth date! There are plenty of contemporary references to modern culture - including some kryptonite-style green meteorite that became part of the landscape and inhibits powers. It's called baconite. Because bacon is awesome, I assume.

Vera is a sexy lady who really commits to her 1940s era style (I think it's the forties, anyway!), and dresses to her figure - despite, or because of, a history of her mother trying to fit her into skinny modern fashions. She's confident in herself and her sexuality, but not ridiculously oversexed, joining a small but growing selection of positive bisexual women. Sure, she's checking out a new guy, but she doesn't spend her time ogling the abs of all the mysteriously hunky men around - or peering down ladies' shirts, despite the frequent presence of her ex-girlfriend in the story. In fact, there's no major relationship drama at all on her part (there's more than enough from her parents!), as is quite realistic when you spend the whole time caught up in a villainous plot and being the only person who seems to care enough to try and unravel it.

Published directly through Amazon, it's her first novel and could have done with one last proofread for missing letters, but there aren't that many mistakes considering (most look like they should have been caught by a spellcheck program, though).

Plotwise, everything holds together very well, especially considering the sheer number of random occurences and plot twists and faces. The action is fast paced and steady, with Vera always moving from one situation to the next (or being jumped by one), and I was eager to see what happened next at every step. there was a point about two thirds of the way through when I was starting to lose track of what was going on, and who knew what, and how come these people happened to be involved?, in the whirl of changing faces, but the extra characters weren't dragged into the final showdown, and everything fell into place fairly well after that.

So, read this book. The power of mind control compels you.

You can pick Heroine Addiction up on Amazon in both Kindle ($3.99) and paperback ($14.99) format.

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