Super Powers - David J Schwartz
Superhero Movie is hitting our screens right now, promising 90-ish minutes of (probably) lame gags and deep unfunniness; superhero fans all over the world are clutching their heads in despair. For anyone who actually wants a decent superhero story, I would instead recommend this book, which was surprisingly good. Debut novelist Schwartz has managed the tricky feat of combining a rather sweet and comic superpowers tale with the real-life events of September 2001 without fluffing it; the final result is a little rough around the edges but still works very well.
Madison, Wisconsin; the spring of '01. The morning after a drunken student party, and five housemates wake up with more than just a hangover - for reasons unknown, they all find they have acquired super powers. Much of the story that follows is a very down-to-earth exploration of exactly what ordinary people would do if, for example, they were suddenly able to fly or turn invisible; their attempts at maintaining secret identities are rather inept, their crime-fighting skills are somewhat limited, and the population isn't as grateful as they expect. Much of this is amusing, but it's not really written for belly-laughs - there's also a lot of poignant detail about the characters' own problems and back-stories, which are generally well realised. And all the while, September is approaching.
On finding that this story would involve 9/11, I was rather worried that it would end up with the heroes beating up Bin Laden and saving the day, which would have turned an otherwise pretty good book into a big pile of shit. Luckily, nothing of the sort happened, though I won't give away how it actually turned out; in fact, it was a sensible, adult and rather moving approach to the event and its aftermath. So, despite a slight clunkiness in some of the character constructions (notably the annoying conspiracy-theorist reporter who is "editing" this account), I'd say this book is well worth a read, and Schwartz is an author I'll be looking out for in future.