Dom introduced me to a new book this week, Wearing the Cape. Actually it’s the first book in a new, self-published series. And evidence that self-publishing can produce some pretty great stuff.
It’s a superhero story and if Dom hadn’t talked it up so much, I’m not sure I’d have picked it up. Although I watched Heroes and was a fan of the first two seasons and I love The Incredibles, I’m not usually a huge fan of the genre. But this novel does what those did well and then goes a few steps further. While The Incredibles imagined the family life of super heroes and even thought about what happens when a super is sued in court by people mad about collateral damage, it didn’t imagine how the sudden emergence of super powers would change the entire geo-political landscape. Not to mention what it does to pop culture– Heroes would option television shows and movies and comics, of course while villain culture would replace gangsta culture, even including villain rap. What I liked best about the book is the world building, the way Marion Harmon has thought through all the details to create a new and believable world.
As the novel opens a bridge falls on the heroine, Hope Corrigan, and the trauma causes a “breakthrough,” catapulting her into a new life with super powers. She’s an 18 year old girl about to begin her first year at college and suddenly her life is overturned. Dom noted that there were times when the teen-girl vibe was a little overwhelming, but overall he loved the world building so much that he was willing to go along with Hope for the ride. She’s not flat, but her back story feels a little thin. I wanted more about her friendships, more about her mother’s foundation. So she’s not the most developed character ever, but we both liked that she’s Catholic, a practicing, believing, Mass-going Catholic and her Catholicism colors everything she does. She consults her parish priest for spiritual advice, she prays before she goes into action and during action too. And her Catholicism affects her actions too several times in the book. Dom says in a later novel there’s mention of a papal encyclical addressing the pastoral problems of super heroes. Now that is Catholic geeky cool!
One thing I really liked was how he dealt with the acquisition of powers, which tend to fulfill some kind of subconscious need in the person who gets them and which seem to have the limitations that the person expects they will have. And they aren’t just comic book super hero powers. They include various kinds of magic too. So a vampire’s rules about sunlight and garlic and crucifixes seem to be dependent on that vampire’s knowledge of the rules. One character exclaims against Anne Rice and her vampires. And I like how the understanding of the powers seems to be culturally conditioned, understood differently in New Zealand or China or India than they are in the US.
All in all a pleasant read and I’m looking forward to diving into the next book.
You can read the first few chapters, about a hundred pages, for free here: Wearing the Cape: The Beginning.
Or, if you like to jump right into it, the first ebook is only $3.99: Wearing the Cape