Title: Starter Villain
Author: John Scalzi
Genre: Sci-Fi Fantasy Comedy
Publication Date: 21st September
Publisher: Tor Books
Comment: I received an advance copy for review from Tor books. All opinions are my own and are in no way influenced by cats. Mostly.
Warning: supervillain in training. Risk of world domination.
Inheriting his late uncle’s business proves complicated. It’s also way more dangerous than Charlie could ever have imagined. Because his uncle had kept his supervillain status a secret – until now.
Divorced and emotionally dependent on his cat, Charlie wasn’t loving life. Although they weren’t close, news of his Uncle Jack’s death didn’t help. And that was before Jake’s rivals (seriously vengeful ones) ambushed his funeral. Now Charlie must decide if he should stay stuck in his rut, or step up to take on the business, the enemies, the minions, the hidden volcano lair . . .
Even harder to get used to are the sentient, language-using, computer-savvy cats – and the fact that in the organization’s hierarchy, they’re management. If Charlie does say yes, this lifeline could become a death wish. Because there’s much more to being an Evil Mastermind than he suspected. Yet could this also, finally, be his chance to shine?
After the Kaiju Preservations Society, I knew that any John Scalzi book would be a massive hit for me so I was delighted when Tor offered me Starter Villain to read. I devoured it in 4 hours and loved every second. Then it came time to write my review and I came down with Covid. (Just like the author did halfway through the book)
Don’t be jealous, but it was the newest version of COVID-19- you know, the one that makes you want to pry your itching eyeballs out with a rusty spork? The idea of writing anything longer than a text begging someone to put me out of my misery had me weeping. So I did what all good girls do. I asked my co-conspirator and fellow bibliophile John to help.
John had already read Starter Villain on Netgalley and was eager (or at least reluctantly willing enough) to write a review for me.
Now I can actually stand to stare at a screen for longer than five minutes I shall add my own thoughts in alongside his more erudite ones.
If you fancy a light read that’s outrageously over-the-top yet extraordinarily riveting, look no further than this latest output from John Scalzi: Starter Villain.
Inheriting your mysterious uncle’s supervillain business is more complicated than you might imagine, especially if you’re as inept as Charlie, a former journalist and current substitute teacher. (I would have said adoringly inept in a Millenial way. Charlie was hysterical. I loved him. I might be him.)
For Charlie, it’s far more complicated than he could ever imagine. There are the undersea volcano lairs, the minions and, of course, the inevitable plots to take over the world. The international networks of adversaries who want you permanently out of the picture. (Preferably dead.)
Much tougher to get used to are the annoyingly sentient, language-using, computer-savvy cats who, within the overall organization, happen to be the management. (And the Dolphins, OMG the Dolphins!)
John Scalzi has written another intelligent and unique novel that is very much tongue-in-cheek. I imagine the author took great enjoyment and had plenty of fun writing this book. His seeming love of cats came across in abundance, and he has a few digs at the establishments and hierarchy when warranted whilst covering some relevant topics.
The dialogue within the narrative is clever, precise and razor-sharp, and the interactions between characters, including the banter, are full of wit and charm. The language can be a little on the colourful side, to say the least, so be aware. (There was one point, at least, that I laughed so hard actually that I thought I was going to stop breathing. I would blame it on the after-effects of COVID but it was actually that funny.)
Scalzi has that innate ability to bring out the very best in the most audacious of storylines, and this is no exception. Visualize an early James Bond movie (Casino Royale), complete with unorthodox villains and with an added bonus of science fiction. (There were several in-tongue references to various villains throughout literature and they were much appreciated.)
Charlie is an engaging main protagonist aided and abetted by a weird cast of supporting characters. What with Cats and Dolphins bringing grief to Charlie, it gave a whole new meaning to anger management issues. (As a fellow Millennial I was delighted with Charlie’s prosaic approach to everything. Speaking cats- yeah sure. Things explode- figures. Life goes on. It felt so real.)
As you can imagine, there’s plenty in the way of excitement and action, and much mayhem enfolds our reluctant supervillain. And as Charlie continually finds himself out of his depth, frying pan and fire springs instantly to mind, although to be fair, mostly it’s not of his own doing.
Although I enjoyed the author’s previous novel, the Kaiju Preservation Society, a great deal, Starter Villain beat it for sheer flamboyance, swagger and style. The characters were superb, and the wit and humour were first-rate. Escapism at its very best, in my opinion. (and mine. Isn’t it nice when we all agree!)
Starter Villain lives up to all expectations with terrific characters and a unique storyline. The author has once again provided that special touch of creativity, originality, and flair. John Scalzi continues to fire the imagination. I cannot wait for the next offering from an author who is obviously at the top of his game.
Thank you John for that wonderful review.
One thing I would like to say is about the cover art. When I saw the initial graphic art with either the green or the red version I thought it really resonated with the overall feel of the book. I loved the almost comic stereotypical villain and font work. Loved it.
The latter one with the cat in the business suit I really don’t like as much. As a librarian I spend a lot of time thinking about covers and how they fit into people’s expectations of the content. I feel that the cat cover gives the book more of a cooky-contemporary Nick Hornby or Roddy Doyle. Both are great authors but they write very differently to Scalzi and I think it does them all a disservice to be lumped together based on the cover. Anyway, that’s my opinion.
Thanks again to Tor books and the author for the opportunity to read and review.