During a random and rare search of interesting WordPress blogs, I happened to stumble across the blog of author Victoria (V.E.) Schwab and her motivating post titled “Just. Keep. Writing.” I had never heard of Schwab or her work but found her post to be pretty inspiring. She wrote about her own experiences with publishing and how her one mantra during her career’s ups and downs was to just keep writing, something I take to heart as I pursue my own writing career.
In the post, Schwab mentions her “pet project” of a novel, Vicious, published by Tor Books in 2013. Intrigued by what little I knew about her, I went ahead and purchased the eBook, adding it to the growing backlog of virtual books that lined my online bookcase. After going back and forth with some books I probably shouldn’t have purchased, I decided to jump into Vicious, what with it’s cool cover and interesting concept.
Vicious tells the story of two friends who together unlock the secret of super powered individuals, or EOs (extra ordinaries) who seem to acquire abilities through near-death experiences. We’re introduced to once best friends Victor and Eli after their falling out, and slowly get the complete story of their intense hatred through a series of flashbacks. Like the novels Steelheart and Firefight written by Brandon Sanderson, Vicious attempts to instill some fresh perspective to the familiar concept of superheroes. There aren’t any capes in Vicious. No elaborate hideouts and large public displays of power. The “heroes” in Vicious aren’t really heroes at all, more scared individuals who cling to what sense of identity is left to them after nearly dying and coming back with strange abilities. This turn on the popular genre is kind of refreshing. While Vicious is in no way a perfect novel (what is really) the book moved really well and the writing was great.
Let me reiterate how much I enjoyed the writing. Some of Schwab’s sentences are phrased so well they give the narrative a quickness of pace and wit that really makes the novel a fun read. Her characters don’t work in straight black and white but straddle a comfortable grey where their actions are neither right nor wrong when viewed through their skewed lenses. They just are, staying true to their personal moral code.
I was put off at first by how the story bounced back between the past and the present, switching time frames in every chapter. It somehow made the story feel disjointed since each time I got into the pacing of one chapter, it then shifted time frames in the next. Eventually though, once I became accustomed to the constant shift in perspective, the technique helped to add context and depth to the main story we were following as well as add to the urgency and stakes involved. What at first felt somewhat disjointed quickly turned into a really interesting and successful plot devise. By framing the events of the present (the inevitable show down between Victor and Eli) with both of their origin stories and the stories of their companions, Schwab builds the tension to a boiling point where by the end, the reader isn’t sure who will win or if either deserve to win at all.
My only real con would be that the novel left me wanting a lot more. More world building, more explanation. Maybe even more science since the main vehicle for how these super powered individuals are created is never really explained in depth. It’s not a bad thing to leave your readers wanting to know more about the world you’ve written about but at the end of the novel, while I enjoyed the trip, I was left feeling just a little flat with those questions rolling through my mind. It is a testament to her great writing though that I didn’t even realize I had these questions and thirst for more until the very end. If you enjoy reading new authors, reading stories about people with super powers and want something with a fresh feel, then I would suggest picking up this book. It’s a fun and quick read that will leave you curious about the world the novel takes place in and the young author who wrote it.