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Last year I read 'You' by Austin Grossman - a great book about game development that really resonated with me. I may have only done hobbyist game development, but a lot of what he describes matched my own feelings perfectly. This evening I finished 'Soon I Will be Invincible' by the same author. It's a complete shift in terms of tone, nuance and writing confidence, but it's also an early contender for 'most fun book of the year'.

The plot is so (intentionally) cliche that it's not worth recounting, but it's basically the story of a few own-brand Lidl versions of famous super-heroes and the battle they have with an Aldi version of Doctor Doom. What's interesting about it is that it tells the story as a pair of interleaved narratives, one from Dr Impossible (the supervillain) and one from the newly recruited superhero Fatale. In doing this, the book manages to delve a little into the purported psychology of villainy, as well as the social interplay of personalities available in a Justice-League style supergroup. In doing *that* it emphasises just how incredibly weird comic book conventions are, and the impact on the real world that such personalities would have - how society is changed by their mere presence, regardless of their actions.

Fundamentally a very simple book with some really clunky writing in parts, but really enjoyable and well worth checking out.
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on 25 November 2014
A supervillain who uses words like 'recherché'? But the problem isn't that this is overwritten. It's that the geeky material doesn't match up - either that, or it should have been MUCH more tongue in cheek.There's a fight between a cyborg and a fairy, if you please, but this is not comedy. Grossman went on to write the great You, my book of 2014 - now THAT'S worth a punt

I will say, though, that the cover pictures of the two editions I own, especially the paperback, are nicer than that of the Vintage paperback shown
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on 16 July 2008
Grossman very carefully avoids parody or mockery of the superhero genre itself, or of its central tropes. This is a good thing. Instead he gives us a psychoanalasys of the stock characters. What drives a man to turn his genius to evil?

The story's two lead characters, Doctor Impossible (Villain) and Fatale (Heroine) are wonderfully self-aware and often second guess their own motivations. The former, having been imprisoned twelve times for twelve different world-domination schemes seems in little doubt that he will fail again. In fact, he seems to take it for granted while still lying to himself - surely, this time he must win? No, and he knows it. Doctor Impossible does what he does simply because he must. He at once strives to live up to society's expectations of a supervillain, while at the same time belittling those expectations.

Fatale, the cyborg superheroine protagonist exists in a state of uncertainty between the paragons of the superheroing golden age and her self-defined rust age reality. She doesn't seem to believe that either is real, but they're all she has to define her world. Again, the character lies to herself while fully acknowledging the facts.

This is one of those rare books that's precisely as deep as the reader wishes - it can be a throwaway pulp adventure story or a thought-provoking study of satre-esque philosophy.
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on 30 March 2017
The superhero genre transcended the comic book world some time ago and can now feast upon itself. The idea of flying men and invisible women is so matter of fact to a modern audience that the need for an origins story is moot. Media has moved away from traditional good versus evil storylines to explore many different aspects of humanity. The latest ‘Wolverine’ may not be an all-out action film, but an exploration of age; or a film could have a normal person thinking that they are superhuman. ‘Watchmen’ explored what it was to be a person behind the mask and ‘Soon I Will Be Invincible’ does the same, but with perhaps a slightly more irreverent stance.

During the opening moments ‘Invincible’ promises to be a fantastic book for superhero fans. It opens with Doctor Impossible and is told from his point of view. He is a supervillain whose intelligence is so high that he cannot consider not being evil. Stuck in prison after his latest botched attempt to take over the world, we follow him as he attempts his escape. The opening moments are brilliant, Austin Grossman is able to voice how Dr Impossible is thinking and you get a real sense of how the villain must feel in a comic book.

Unfortunately, the truly great stuff is short lived as you introduced to Fatale, a Cyborg who hopes to become a superhero. Now the book flips between hero and villain. We are not only inundated with Dr Impossible’s inner monologues, but those of Fatale as well. If it was just one character you could forgive the incessant internal machinations, but Grossman spinning so many plates that the action gets lost. By introducing Fatale’s POV as well you have twice the amount of navel gazing and the book’s pacing really suffers.

Grossman has essentially set out to show the fallible side of superhumans and explore the moments that would usually land on the cutting room floor of a movie or comic. A novel gives you far more time to explore a character, but Grossman goes too far. Every superhero in the book is a little annoying as we learn too much about them. Why stop at two characters when you can jump into the past of another three or four? The plot as it is, is swamped under the weight of characterisation.

Released in 2008, ‘Invincible’ was one of the earlier attempts to dissect the burgeoning superhero movie market, but any fan of superheroes; film, book, or especially comic book, would have seen something similar to this before. This does not mean that Grossman’s exploration of the humanity behind the inhuman is not valid, just that it feels a little vapid. The book is worth reading for the Dr Impossible elements alone. Here the monologues shine as Impossible is a character who you feel has a slightly different voice than you are used to hearing. In a world that can now produce ‘Despicable Me’, we see the viewpoint of the bad guy elsewhere, but at least Dr Impossible is a charismatic and flawed anti-hero that you can get behind.
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on 18 March 2017
This started strong. It was a tale of good heroes versus evil villains, and the psychological layers involved in choosing a side. How a toll is taken, no matter what path is chosen - and once we start down that path; expectations, peer pressure and stereotyping keep us rigidly locked on to that path.
About the half way mark I grew a little tired of the author's delivery. The POV swapped mainly b/w Dr Impossible and Fatale - but within each chapter we wavered backed back and forth in time, thoughts were stopped, started, shifted to a tangent and then swooped back around again. I began to struggle to care and remained focused - as it seemed the author like wise was struggling.
I kind of enjoyed it, kind of didn't. 2.5 stars.
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on 29 October 2007
This book is fantastic. Doctor Impossible is an evil genius bravely trying to take over the world whilst being thwarted by a pesky superteam.

Starting with Doctor Impossible in prison pondering his life and wondering whether he should have taken a path of scientific research rather than trying to take over the world, the story follows him through the implementation of his latest scheme. First he's got to raise capital to fund his new idea, which means such indignities as having to travel by bus and get changed into his villain costume in the bushes so he can make an entrance.

Meanwhile, a rookie cyborg is given a chance to join a reformed super-team who are out to thwart Doctor Impossible's evil plan.

If you're a fan of comic books or superhero stories in general then you will love this book - the narrative points out the absurdities of the superhero world, whilst making it all believable.
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on 29 June 2008
Austin Grossman's "Soon I Will Be Invincible" (whose title really should have an exclamation mark at the end) is a witty and wonderful labour of love, a deeply-affectionate tribute to the comic-book worlds created by Marvel and DC, with added psychological depth.

Grossman's tale alternates between the stories of Doctor Impossible - a criminal mastermind who has done everything from travelling through time to suborning gods in his (failed) attempts to take over the world (and incidentally get one over on the oh-so-perfect college jock he accidentally turned into the world's greatest superhero, Corefire) - and Fatale, a down-on-her-luck cyborg with a mysterious past who suddenly finds herself a member of the world's greatest Superteam, The Champions. With Corefire missing, the not-so-good Doctor plans his most outrageous scheme yet, sure that this time he will finally take over the world, only The Champions stand in his way.

On the way through this conventional comic-book plot, Grossman takes time to ask and answer some of those questions that even the youngest comic-book readers can find themselves pondering: why do these super-intelligent scientists so often turn to evil, why do they fight on even in the face of perpetual failure and do they really do their own clothes-designing? Mixed in among the musings and super-powered maulings are fanboy-pleasing nods to everyone from Batman and Superman to Wolverine and Doctor Strange plus an array of supervillains old and young.

A funny and fun-filled book, with all the wit one might expect from a former member of Looking Glass Studios, the team that worked on classic video games such as Ultima Underworld, Deus Ex, Thief and System Shock.
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on 13 February 2012
Soon I will be Invincible is the story of a a supervillain Doctor Impossible and his ongoing quest to become well, invincible. Actually his quest is to win out over his various nemeses and enemies - trouble is, he's the kind of guy that not only needs to win, everyone else has to lose.

The story is actually split being the evil genius himself and Fatale the newest member of a team of superheroes that represent his main rivals. The chapters are alternately narrated by the Doctor and Fatale (a cyborg whose powers and origin are a mystery even to herself). But whilst this is the case it's definitely still Doctor Impossible's story.

The idea of a different spin on superheroes is not new - from Watchmen to Mystery Men, from The Specials to Doctor Horrible's Singalong Blog this is territory that's been covered before. Here it's neither straight out spoof nor serious deconstruction. It's fairly light and fun though I did tire a little that every person with powers (and all the characters we meet, major and minor, have powers) seemed to get the space for their own origin story. It made the story not convoluted but a little dense with excess detail. I also felt that there was a better female character in the book to be the counterpoint to Impossible's pov. However I understand how making her the other narrator would have robbed her of some necessary mystery. It did feel though that Fatale, whose story (and back-story) is clearly intertwined with Doctor Impossible's was a little further from the true centre of gravity of the book.

What I did like about the book was the characters. In particular I liked the sense of melancholy and longing for things to just work out. The sense of being an outsider and the feeling of ambivalence about powers. But in a world where pretty much anyone you meet is another superhero/villain then the story of an attempt to take over the world is like a drama about a bad day at the office - which is both a good and bad thing.
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on 27 June 2008
I have really enjoyed reading this book. Being a long-term fan of the comic genre, Grossman's book made a well-written alternative.

Told from the alternating perspectives of the world's foremost super villain and a newcomer to the mantle of "superhero", you are trated to a whirlwind ride through the trials and tribulations of the classic Good vs. Evil.

Filled with acknowledgeable cliches and parallels from established comics, the story contains unique yet familiar characterisations, given their own new flare in the pages of this book. The history of the world in which these heroes and villains exist is vividly brought to the mind's eye along with all its rich history.

Full of twists, turns and chapter-end cliffhangers "Soon I Will Be Invincible" is an absorbing read; the best of the comic genre in a detailed transliteration.

A sequel set in the same world would be most appreciated!
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VINE VOICEon 22 March 2013
The superhero genre has been one of the most colourful in all history. The idea of superpowers, extra-ordinary individuals & their worlds has generated some of the greatest fiction of all time. Obviously, when we think of this, we look to Marvel & DC Comics. In recent years, we've also been treated to some refreshing, original and innovative takes on the superhero concept; for example, Disney/Pixar's The Incredibles and Mur Lafferty's Playing For Keeps.

Soon I Will Be Invincible naturally appealed to me right away. Not just because of its subject-matter, but also because of Bryan Hitch's GORGEOUS artwork for the cover. This hardback version is a thing of beauty in my hands. The dust-jacket is immediately eye-catching, what with Hitch's illustrations and the foil-stamped title. The book itself is all-the-more of a masterwork with the binding, paper-quality, font variations and more of Bryan's colour illustrations/sketches in the back of the book, some presented as actual comic-book covers! It's a true work of art, with the story to match.

Speaking of story, Austin Grossman has written a typical cliché of a comic-book plot. Supervillain wants to take over the world, and the heroes must stop him. That's the POINT of these kind of adventures, and while it NEVER gets old, Grossman wisely presents a twist for his novel to stop the whole thing from being redundant.

The twist is the EXPERT first-person narrative that Austin writes, alternating between two central characters; Doctor Impossible - a supervillain who's continually defeated/yet obsessed with ruling the world - and Fatale - a cyborg super-heroine and rookie who's been drafted to join the almighty team of heroes, the Champions. Neither character has anything to do with each other (apart from being on opposing sides!), but this is why Soon I Will Be Invincible succeeds. Great variety and contrast of insight.

Grossman pours a lot of qualities into both Impossible & Fatale to make them appealing. It's more than just a case of one being villain, the other being hero that makes this joint narrative a real winner. Both are as human as you & I, and because of their contrasting backgrounds, attitudes, situations, personalities & motivations, it makes the whole experience so refreshing. Not only can you RELATE to Dr. Impossible & Fatale (in some regards), this also helps advance the intelligent plot along.

But a key thing about Grossman's writing is that he keeps it all completely coherent. You won't get lost reading into the proceedings, and as much focus as Dr. Impossible and Fatale receive, the author manages to provide sufficient examination on the rest of the colourful supporting cast. The influence of Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Avengers etc is blatant throughout, but again, it's so refreshing because of the human environments/domestic situations which grounds it all. A special appendix of all the players and timeline for this universe (provided by Austin) helps clarify certain details and makes the read even more of a fun, intelligent read.

Soon I Will Be Invincible is a work of excellence. It's well-paced, utterly engaging, breathes originality into a classic concept, has tonnes of character, and is bound to appeal to not only comic lovers, but sci-fi fans as well. Austin Grossman has produced a simply terrific novel here, one of the most outstanding in recent memory. Well worth a look.
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