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The Superpower Project (Kelpies) Paperback – 18 Feb 2016
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'An extremely readable story'
- Growing the School Library
'Hugely original, buzzingly energetic from page to page and cracking along at the sort of pace that will leave you gasping for more at the cataclysmic climax.'
- ReadItDaddy blog
'Fun, excitement and danger and adventure await! The entire plot is delightfully evil. It cracks on at a terrific pace, with battles against transforming robo-sculptures escalating nicely and comes to a satisfying climax. There are excellent illustrations by Luke Newell, including a short fully-illustrated comic-book prologue, and they complement the book and fit the tone perfectly. Vivid and funny.'
- Chimney Rabbit blog, John K. Fulton
'Kids with superpowers, maps and quests, robots! A recently exploded grandma! It really has all the elements for a fantastic middle grade book that will entrance any reader... Can't wait to read whatever Paul has planned next.'
- Powered by Reading
'The story and the characters are both well thought out making it easy for the reader to become fully immersed in the adventure. You will be rooting for the heroes hoping they will defeat the villain with there being just the right amount of drama and tension to hold the reader's attention.'
- The Book Girl's Book Blog
'A perfect mystery adventure for any superheroes fan! [...] Twists and turns make this book an adventure never to forget.'
- The School Librarian
'I really do think that the Kelpies imprint should be better known and appreciated. And if you want to try one, this charmer is a nice choice.'
- Goodreads-Pop Bop
From the Inside Flap
With the help of a wisecracking, steampunk robot, two accidental superheroes discover that they have inherited some amazing, if unusual, abilities. Computer whiz Megan can fly (mostly sleep-flying, but she's working on it) while her best friend Cam can (in theory) transform into any animal, but mostly ends up as a were-hamster. Together they must protect the source of their ancestral powers from a wannabe evil mastermind and his gang of industrial transformer robots who've disguised themselves as modern art installations on their Greenock estate. It isn't easy to balance school and epic super-battles, not to mention finding time to search for other super-talents and train with their Mr Miyagi-esque were-tiger coach. Can Megan and Cam beat the bad guy, defeat his robot transformers and become the superheroes they were born to be? Kelpies Prize shortlisted author Paul Bristow creates a hilarious tongue-in-cheek superhero mash up with a dangerous twist!See all Product description
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It's not just films and TV (taking comics as given). The world of books has picked up on the trend and has managed to put its own spin on things. Just looking through my previous reviews, I can see Othergirl and My Brother is a Superhero from the past year - The Black Lotus, too, while ninja-based, definitely has its sensibilities tuned to the superhero paradigm. Last year's Kelpies Prize winner is Mark Smith's Slug Boy Saves the World, featuring Murdo McLeod, the world's worst superhero.
So when an author takes on superheroes, they have to do something a little bit different to stand out from the crowd.
Which is where Paul Bristow's The Superpower Project comes in. Originally a shortlisted entry for the 2014 Kelpies Prize (it lost out to the brilliant Lindsay Littleson with The Mixed-up Summer of Lily McLean, so no shame there) the folks at Floris Books obviously didn't want to let this title slip through their fingers.
It's the story of Megan and Cam, two completely normal First Year schoolkids from Greenock, best friends since Primary 1. Or perhaps not so ordinary… Megan receives a letter from her recently-deceased Gran saying "Dear Megan. I know why you can fly."
And she can. How did her Gran know about her superpowers? And what's she supposed to do with the map her Gran left her? Where did this steampunk robot come from? And what is the sinister Mr Finn doing, setting up strange robotic sculptures all around town?
Megan and Cam are launched into a quest to discover the origin of the Greenock superpowers before they can fall into the wrong hands. Fun, excitement, danger and adventure await!
Megan is the sensible, no-nonsense leader, while Cam is the comic relief, albeit with hidden depths of his own. The supporting characters, especially Tin Jimmy the steampunk amnesiac robot, are vivid and funny, and Mr Finn the diabolic schemer behind the entire plot is delightfully evil.
It's refreshing to have a book set somewhere other than London, New York, Los Angeles or their comic-book analogues - and The Superpower Project uses Greenock and its environs like an extra character.
I enjoyed the echo of Iain Banks in the first line, too - Mr Bristow confirmed on Twitter it was a deliberate homage to The Crow Road's famous beginning "It was the day my grandmother exploded". You'll get no complaints from me - my forthcoming short story in Shoreline of Infinity issue 3 is an extended homage to Banks.
The Superpower Project cracks on at a terrific pace, with the battles against transforming robo-sculptures escalating nicely, and the story comes to a satisfying climax with a post-credits scene that sets us up nicely for a sequel. Because this is, like many superhero tales, and origin story - and there's plenty of scope for more adventures from Megan, Cam, Tin Jimmy et al.
This book is a fine example of what I mean. The plot is antic - weird superpowers, a steampunk amnesiac robot sidekick, a villain with robot goons that transform into modern art sculpture pieces when off duty. It goes on and on. But the main appeal isn't so much the nutsy antics. These books have tremendously engaging characters - the heros, the villains, and even the secondary and just passing through characters are memorable, appealing and entertaining.
And best of all the books are briskly paced and totally deadpan funny. Our heroine Megan is independent, resourceful and quick-witted. She is always ready with a frosty rejoinder or a snappy one-liner. Our hero Cam appears a bit more hesitant and reserved, but his passing comments and thoughts regarding the action are sneaky-funny. None of this is whacka-whacka humor. These are all zippy asides, sharp cross-talk, throwaway observations, and prickly commentary. Often the dialogue feels like that of a well rehearsed double-act.
You'd think that a "much-loved" imprint would be a bit warm and fuzzy. But a lot of the humor is child level edgy and just a bit astringent. Our heroes don't stand for nonsense or lollygagging and don't suffer fools gladly. As a result there is very much a gung-ho carry-on kid level feel to these books, with enough subversive humor to let kid readers in on the joke. (In other words, sometimes teachers, policemen, parents and other authority figures are the butt of the joke.)
So, I know this review sounds a bit effusive, but I really do think that the Kelpies imprint should be better known and appreciated. And if you want to try one, this charmer is a nice choice.
(Please note that I received a free advance will-self-destruct-in-x-days Adobe Digital copy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)
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