A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and superpowers, set in a near-future world.
Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.
Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?
In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question. ~ Goodreads | Author | Amazon
Source: ARC provided by Tor Publishing via BEA for my honest review
Despite being about superheroes this isn’t a POW! KABLAM! sort of story. Vicious is understated, thought provoking and utterly captivating.
A superhero origin story of sorts…if I were to make a comparison… Vicious would be the intense Christopher Nolan interpretation of Batman rather than the comedic Tim Burton version.
For some reason I picked up Vicious thinking it was YA but it is firmly in the adult category. I do believe that older teenagers would love this book as well though. The age level is more due to the characters ages (30 years old) rather than content. There is some violence and references to sex, plus a few F bombs but I’ve read MUCH more explicit YA.
Schwab weaves a dark tale of two men who meet and become roommates in college and embark in a series of experiments that will defy death, delve into the darkness of their humanity and leave you questioning what defines a hero.
“But these words people threw around – humans, monsters, heroes, villains – to Victor it was all just semantics. Someone could call themselves a hero and still walk around killing dozens. Someone else could be labeled a villain for trying to stop them. Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”
Vicious is told in multiple POV’s and with multiple timelines. While it took me a short time to adjust to this style, it absolutely worked for this story. The transitions were seamless and added depth.
When I look back, I see that there wasn’t anything particularly original about this story. It’s basically like the X-Men origins story of Magneto and Charles Xavier with a few additional “mutants” – in this case called – Extra Ordinary humans or EO’s. But we really get to delve into the psyches of these characters and see what shaped them, what choices they make when it counts. It was all fascinating to me. There’s nothing I love more than a moral or ethical debate and Vicious provides more than enough material.
The writing is precise, only allowing what is necessary to tell Victor and Eli’s story but it’s everything we need. I believe this is a stand alone novel but there is enough room left for a sequel and I for one would love to read more about this world and the characters that inhabit it.
Good stuff – Vicious makes it to my Top Books of 2013 list.