Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Hello All!  If you are a fellow East Coaster I hope you survived the blizzard and were smart enough to not make me and my friends haul you off the road, but instead stayed inside and read.  I worked half of the blizzard and was lucky enough to be home for the second half and I got to finish a bunch of books YAY ME!  Today we will do a ramble on one of those books Vicious by V.E. Scwhab.  I'm gonna try the new format I've been working on and see how it goes, please keep in mind it's a work in progress and suggestions are welcome.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Victor Vale is the dark humored son of self help guru's and has befriended the charming Eli Cardale.  The two appear to be different with Victor being more self contained, dark and sharp.  Eli by contrast comes across as gregarious, and well liked.  Victor however can see a similar darkness under Eli's charming exterior and is intrigued by it.  In the world this book is set in (which is very similar to our own)  the existence of ExtraOrdinary's has been suspected for some time.  An ExtraOrdinary (or EO) is a person who displays an unusual power, usually after a near death experience or NDE.  Both of our boys decide to use this theory in their graduate thesis.  Eventually the boys wonder if you can create and EO by setting up circumstances in which a person dies and is then revived.  Victor tries first and fails.  Eli has better luck, obtaining the power of quick and complete healing, with a side of never appearing to age.  He tries to prevent Eli from trying again, but he does anyways and the result is the death of Eli's girlfriend and the obtaining of the control of pain in himself an others.  Something in Eli snaps when he learns of Victor's transformation and tries to kill him.  Victor is eventually apprehended and put in jail.  While Victor is in jail, Eli decides that EO's are an abomination that are missing parts of their souls and need to be exterminated.  Eli convinces himself that he is on a mission from God and goes about "removing" EO's, justifying his own continued existence as being the tool in which to complete his mission.  Eli eventually runs into an EO by the name of Serena who can bend people, including Eli to her will.  She also shares Eli's feeling that EO's are missing something essential and decides to help him.  Victor breaks out of jail and acquires a couple of friends.  Mitch is a huge hulking tattooed guy, who's real talent lies in computer codes and hacking.  They also run into a twelve year old girl by the name of Sydney...who just happens to be Serena's sister.  Seems both girls were involved in the same incident that caused them both to become EO's.  Serena had lured Sydney to a field where Eli tried to kill her.  Sydney escaped and divulged to Victor that her power was bringing the dead back to life.  Victor uses his friends and a few other people who they run into along the way to set up a trap for Eli.  Eli who has been pre-occupied with Victor through out his mission to eradicate the EO's cannot help but play the game.  There is much back and forth, a lot of violence and death, and eventually Victor is killed by Eli in a way that ensures that Eli will be locked away for good.  Sydney brings Victor back to life and they all go on to live an unusual life.
Ok here is where the format changes a bit.  Let's see if it works shall we?
Essentially instead of one long ramble of diversion, I am going to try and put things into categories so that I can talk about them that way...kind of like my Harry Potter ramblings...anyways lets see what happens.
Worldbuilding - I would classify the world for this book as a near match for our time and world.  It is urban/suburban set in a slightly alternate any town USA. The world building was pretty good, it was pretty much a version of our own world that had EO's in it so that worked.  The town of Merit was especially well done and I felt like it was a complete world with no real problematic areas.
Story -  The actual story was a pretty simple and to the point story that I have heard many times before.  The what is good, what is evil, what makes a hero, when does one cross the line between good and bad.  It was fairly well done, but nothing ground breaking.
Character- I think the characters where the best part of this story.  I loved all of them as they were all a weird mix of stock character, with a unique twist thrown in.  Victor Vale was probably my favorite as his sense of humor very closely matches mine.  Oddly enough I kept seeing Benedict Cumberbatch in my head when I read the Victor parts.  It is very rare that my mind supplies an actual person when reading a character as I prefer to let my own imagination fill that stuff in, but there you have it.  Eli was a great tortured "hero" and Mitch, Sydney and Serena all added good stuff to the story.
Editing - The story was a little skippy around for me.  It employed the back and forth through time technique to show us all the different pieces.  The chapters were clearly labeled and short so I could usually keep up, but it made the story drag.  The action pieces were quick and frenzied, then you would have this skipping around for a couple chapters, then back to the action then back and forth, made the book seem longer then it really was.
Friends and Family - Most of the characters in this story, especially the featured EO's all seemed to suffer from a lack of caring family.  Victor Vale, Sydney and Serena all had successful parents who had very little time for their children.  Other characters either had very little to do with their family, or ended up being abandon by them after their NDE.  I wonder if this was on purpose to make the isolation of the characters more pronounced, or if it was just a convenient way to not have to entangle the characters in extra junk.  For Victor it worked, but when it continued for the other characters it started to feel repetitive.  I also did not really understand why Eli turned so quickly and completely on Victor.  Up until Eli turned they had been best friends, I understand that accidentally killing Eli's girlfriend was probably not kosher, but Eli never really showed signs of true grief about it, instead instantly making Victor his nemesis.  I do find it interesting that even though both Victor and Eli profess a coldness towards other humans, they both find companions for the rest of the story, ones that they are willing to protect and care for.
EO Powers - I did like how the author "assigned" the EO powers, a combination of how a person died and their last thoughts before they came back combined to determine what power a person would have.  For example one character was blown up by an IED and all he could think about was getting away to a dark safe place.  When he eventually came back, his power was the ability to go to a "dark" place and use it to traverse distance in the blink of an eye.  For Victor, he electrocuted himself and then just wanted the pain to stop and his power is control of pain which manifests as a hum like an electrical current.  I love it when writers put details like this in books 'cause it makes me feel like they have actually thought the process through and have not just tossed it in 'cause it sounded cool.
Morality - I thought the author had an interesting take on morality and how it applied to different situations.  I also thought she did a good job creating situations that might make a person question what they thought they believed in.  I'm not 100% sure how I feel about the premise that the EO's left a bit of their soul behind when they came back from their NDE.  I liked how it worked and was pretty consistent in the story, the EO feeling as if they were missing something, that they had to use their knowledge of right or wrong to give themselves the remembered feeling of right and wrong.  This seemed to vary in intensity in each EO, but each one mentions at least some sort of sensation of missing something vital.  As a medical professional whose job it is to bring people back to life, I'm not sure I want people subscribing to the idea that the people I bring back are soulless, because believe me when I say they are most definitely a whole person.   So while the basic story has been told before, I think the added twist of remembered morality in the EO's was original and interesting.
Overall Impressions - I liked it for the most part.  It did not grab and keep my attention like some of my favorite books, but everytime I went back to it I enjoyed it.  A lot of people said they got a comic book vibe out of it, but I felt it to be a much more individual story of a pair of friends who experienced something of such a huge magnitude that it irrevocably changed both of them.  The book seemed to explore the different reactions each boy had to the events and how easy it is to go down any number of paths.  I think that there is a lot to think about, and that the characters were very well done.  I recommend it to anybody who likes an anti-hero, wants a tiny bit of sci fi, or likes a dark sense of humor.
Score - I give this book 6 out of 10 reanimated dogs.
There we have it folks, my first attempt at a new format.  It was actually harder to write then my normal spewing thoughts randomly all over the page, but I think it flows a bit better?  Let me know which style you prefer, or if you have any suggestions.  Happy Reading Everybody!

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