Oct 23, 2012

[Books] The Fire Inside (A Sidekicks Novel)

The independent ebook publishing market has become quite the interesting medium for gaining access to new books that may never have seen the light of day in traditional publishing. Now pretty much anyone can write a book and get it release without the aid of the larger machine of the physical bookselling world. And this is not to say that these books aren't necessarily better or worse than their print counterparts - I just want to celebrate how these stories are now able to get out into the world, as it were, because of the greater flexibility self-publishing can offer.

Because of the fact that I write reviews for nearly every book that I read these days, I was given the opportunity to acquire a review copy of this book - The Fire Inside, by Raymond Rose - the book's author. It's nice when authors reach out directly in order to get feedback on their writing both as a marketing prospect and a way to enhance their writing - or at least this is my perception of the practice. After all, when you send out review copies, you aren't guaranteed the review will go your way. Feedback in itself is a gift, as I've often remarked at work.

And in this case, the book wasn't actually that bad.

Synopsis: The Fire Inside is a superhero novel written by Raymond Rose. As far as I can tell he self-published the book and it is the first of his planned Sidekicks books. A sequel, Black Mirror, is already in the works.

The City of Clairemont is one that has been home to many superheroes - and thus supervillains. At this point in time, there's a rather strong backlash against people with superhuman abilities and thus most are limited to working with an all-encompassing government group only known as the Agency. At least these are the people who choose to use their powers - others remain in hiding while the rest dance along the other side of the law.

At the center of the story is Jack King, an apparently simple man who works in an independent bookstore. And while it is certainly unique that he has an amazingly hot lawyer for a girlfriend  what truly sets him apart is the fact that he was once known as Sparks, a member of the superhero team the Teen Protectors. And things are about to change now that Bruce - a fellow member of the Teen Protectors who now works with the Agency - has come for a visit. And before Jack and fully determine why he's in town, Bruce is murdered. Now Jack feels it's ultimately up to him to figure out what happened while a greater scheme has naturally been set in motion.

Now it's somewhat ironic how I made a remark about the general lack of superhero novels in my review of Seven Wonders some time back. And now we have yet another superhero book that pretty much just landed in my lap. Good times indeed. And whereas Seven Wonders did a lot to capture the sort of awe-inspiring grandeur of the old superhero comics, this book decides to have a lot more fun with the story, which works on a number of levels.

The characters in the book are a lot more liberal about their use of their abilities, which I felt was a good thing. It certainly adds to the "fun" of the story as opposed to use enduring pages upon pages of dialog before anyone actually does something. And given how the book starts to flow like a mystery novel, there's certainly a lot of action to be found on the streets of Clairemont City.

And the central mystery of the book is a fairly compelling one as Jack (and naturally several others) each try to pursue their own leads with respect to the death of Bruce and such and provide the reader different perspectives on the greater meta-plot at work. But it never feels like spoon feeding either and thus you're left guessing as to where rose is ultimately going with his plot points.

The book is teeming with geek references ranging from the very name of the city to little side notes like various science fiction and fantasy novels along with LEGO Star Wars. And at times the references are kind of cute but at other times it makes it feel like almost all the characters have above average levels of geek cred, which doesn't fully make sense. It's one of those hiccups that make the characters seem less consistent somehow - or maybe I'm just playing to stereotypes in my head. It can go either way.

There are other quirky aspects that may or may not sit well with some readers, depending on your perspective on things. Case in point, Rose relies on the stereotype that in superhero worlds like this, the heroes all have rather attractive girlfriends or spouses and the guys are absolutely faithful to their partners. And there's the issue about numerous typos throughout the book, which makes you wish the guy had at least paid for an independent editor. And a "loser" is not spelled "looser", for the record.

Otherwise. The Fire Inside is a remarkably enjoyable book that was written by a man who clearly enjoys comic books and things of that nature. It could still use a lot more polish and perhaps additional character development, but I definitely see some potential in this seriues. Thus for now we rate the book as 4 nicely campy use of superpowers out of a possible 5.

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