Vicious by VE Schwab REVIEW

BOOK REVIEW Supervillain smackdown

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Vicious by VE Schwab book review .

As Stan the Man once wrote, “With great power there must also come - great responsibility.” In reality, unfortunately, great power is usually the preserve of total pricks. That's certainly the case with this stark, cynical novel about powered “ExtraOrdinaries” – superheroes to you and me.

College students Victor and Eli set out to investigate the emergence of EOs, and discover a link to near-death experiences. Realising that they can gain powers of their own, they embark on a series of almost-suicides, Psychomania style. They succeed in getting powered up, but an accident leads to a jail sentence for Victor, and a bitter feud follows. Ten years later he breaks out and goes looking for revenge…

There's something of The Social Network in Victoria Schwab's portrayal of conflict between gifted but socially maladjusted students, jealously squabbling over an idea. Neither Victor or Eli are particularly likeable leads, but Schwab makes them compelling all the same. You wouldn’t want to know them, but you understand – and fear – them.

The novel hops back and forth between the past and the present, and the plot rapidly builds up a real momentum as it heads to disaster. The powers are standard comic fare (healing, electricity etc), and they’re effectively conveyed. Most impressive is Schwab's urgent, insightful prose. Vicious? Yes, that certainly applies. We’d also add dangerous and surprising.

Will Salmon

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