Soon I will be Invincible is one of those books I have had around for a while but haven’t read, or at least finished. I recall wanting something different to read and browsing through Amazon. I think I was checking categories or related links or something. Anyway that’s how I came to buy this book.
Soon I will be Invincible is the story of a supervillain, Doctor Impossible and his quest to become, well, invincible. Actually it’s really his quest to triumph over his various enemies. Trouble is Doctor Impossible’s one of those guys that not only has to win, everyone else has to lose. So that pretty much means taking over the world.
I should say straight away that this is not quite a spoof of the superhero genre but it’s definitely tongue in cheek. It’s also in the somewhat crowded space of ‘de-constructed superhero stories’ – from Watchmen to Mystery Men, from The Specials to Doctor Horrible’s Sing-along Blog, this is well-worn territory. Where it’s almost unique is that it takes place in a world where there are 1600+ “meta-humans” some on the side of good and some not, and in fact all the characters in this book are either superheroes or supervillains.
The story begins with Doctor Impossible in prison. He’s soon to break out and pursue his goal of world domination, meanwhile his arch-nemesis and leader of the superhero team The Champions, a truly invincible individual called CoreFire whose origin story is intertwined with the evil genius’ own, has gone missing.
The book is told with alternate chapters narrated by Doctor Impossible and Fatale, the newest member of the New Champions (they just re-formed after CoreFire’s disappearance) a cyborg with a past she can barely remember and powers she never asked for. She also has some sort of connection to the Doctor and is trying to work out what it is.
I found this book a slog to read. Having given up on it once I was still somehow convinced it was a light read. I still feel it may be. Maybe the slog element came from having read 7 books in January and generally having less enthusiam for reading. The story feels not convoluted but dense. Every superhero/villan we meet – and there are many – gets some form of origin story and that starts to feel like overload, especially for the more minor characters. Also whilst I quite liked Fatale, there was another female character I’d've quite liked to give the second pov to. I understand why not – that other character needed to have a sense of mystery, and had secrets which would not have worked as well if we knew what she was thinking – but as it was Fatale felt a little too far from the true centre of the story.
Having said all that I found myself liking this story a lot more having finished it then I did whilst I was slogging through the final third. I think that’s because whilst I was bored with so many origin stories and the capital-P Plot was only mildly intriguing, I did like the characters. Grossman manages to get you to feel like these titans, these heroes and villains are almost victims, certainly they’re ambivalent about their powers and position. There’s a sense of melancholy, of being strange and an outside, of a longing for things to just work out this once. But in world where almost everyone has powers then the story of trying to take over the world can easily seem like a drama about a frustrating day at the office – which is both a good and a bad thing.
7/10 – worth a look if you like superheroes.