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TOO MANY HUMANS

An Exceptional Tale

By Monique Lomino, member

Jun 4, 2019: Too Many Humans drew me in on the very first page,from there it was the wildest of rides. Each chapter had me completely enthralled,had my adrenaline going at full force. The suspense,the gore and the excellent writing is what makes this book an exceptional tale of horror and mystery. I couldn’t get enough of this story and I know for sure,anyone who chooses this book to read,will not walk away disappointed.

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NOT ALL HEROES

An Utterly Needless Endorsement

By ElliottThomasStaude, author of Mourners, Abednego, Persistence

Mar 27, 2019: First, a couple of confessions: this review A) was not originally going to be written, because B) it lies outside my normal zone of interest – and honesty about this last point is the only true reason for not throwing a whole fifth star up there. Take that for what it’s worth, and treat this as a white-knuckled spit-flecked demand that anyone ever planning to do a superhero anything needs to put this on their beforehand Hajj.

Not All Heroes is, as is evident, a look at a society which is suddenly gifted with people who can fly and shoot eye lasers and so on. So far, there have been in total three criticisms which I can level against it: one place with grammatically-incorrect usage of "lied" instead of "lay" (or "lain", always have to double-check those), the aforementioned not-my-thing lukewarmness about the subject material as a rule, and the fact that the tagline deceives. More on that last momentarily.

With that all said, this is one of the best-written works encountered in a very, VERY long while, and has since been recommended to a real-life friend of mine based on its points of excellence. After managing to sit down for three chapters in succession it sucked me in like a nuclear vacuum cleaner. This is for several reasons. First, and quite obvious, is strength of character. Obviously, this applies to the cast – and how! – and it feels like this collection of brain cells called Rhodeworks has been a spunky teenage girl rebel with powered armor, a disturbed mercenary fugitive, and an ex-superhero sleuth whose hands don’t work no more. After a little while with these people, I feel like I could bring to mind a dozen common scenarios and realistically divine how each would behave – and more, divine how each would behave at various points of the described events. It’s on par with several beloved authors, Stephen King and Joe Abercrombie among them.

However, one of the things that brings this one beyond the point of being a better and more-polished instance of a well-populated neat class of story is the character of the world. To make yet another comparison, a person name of Taylor Anderson has an extremely good series called Destroyermen (which ironically also features Australia in a major role). Destroyermen is about an alternate-universe take on WWII events, where part of ABDA gets sucked into a version of Earth populated by killer fuzzy lizards and cat monkeys. To cut out several tons of unnecessaries, Anderson’s schtick is twofold: portrayal of a place that is utterly hostile and in which human beings simply do not belong, and the anthropomorphization of a concept – in this case, war – as a very well-defined person and integral member of the cast in itself. The future populated by Paradigm City is very much centered on a society whose obvious endemic fatigue and disenfranchisement make it as much of a member of the crew as any member of homo sapiens.

To be sure, the people who live there aren’t in the middle of any War of the Worlds or Hunger Games end-of-civilization scenario. Instead, they and their ancestors are stuck in the remains of a planet that got fed into a paper shredder with batarangs instead of blades, trying to make do and continue on with something approximating life. It’s in this spirit that the issue with "Not all apocalypses are cataclysmic" is revealed: there was in fact a world-leveling apocalypse prior to the ongoing decadence of Sabra, Leopard, and Fisher. Now, though, they are now stuck in a different and more linguistically correct apocalypse: a REVEALING that has dragged on and on for years, inimical to human life as it’s long been and an indicator of more violent upheaval yet to come. It’s not a blankly miserable existence, as similar stories seem to occasionally emphasize. Instead, it’s a tale with lots of little people put into a thresher, and facing innumerable challenges to be overcome: everything from actual murdering supervillians and unstable wildcard agents to a malaise that brings to mind an early Anderson quote: "What was the point? There were dinosaurs on Bali." It was, in all honesty, that world which really sold it to me, and Rhodeworks should get more laud for an exceptional job with something that could have ended so blandly.

So, after all that, if you haven’t already been sold based on the other and probably more cogent recommendations of this one, then get your head checked – and check out Not All Heroes. As in, now.

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NOT ALL HEROES

Things that make you go hmm.

By Joker, author of Mavericks

Jan 24, 2019: [Review through Arc 6.2]

I don’t like post-apocolyptia. The fact that Not All Heroes may be my favorite superhero serial should tell you everything.

Not All Heroes is introduced with the concept of the Golden Age, a time when empowered humans had just arrived to the scene and were rare enough to help society, but not overthrow it. But as ‘capes’ (I don’t like how this term is used by everyone emulating Worm) became more numerous and more powerful, humanity went through a paradigm shift. To prevent domination by capes, ‘baseline’ (much cooler term) humans brought down the jackboot during the Paroxysm.

Why am I telling you this? Because Rhodes, a student of history, treats the Golden Age and the Paroxysm as just another page in the tome that is human history. And the printing press that writes it cannot be stopped by any individual, even the man they called Demigod, killed by a single bullet. This is a refreshing take on a genre that too often treats its central conceit with more grandiosity than is warranted.

I should note here that his villains, the Seven, seem up to this point incredibly derivative of the S9 from Worm, who I was not big fans of. I trust him to go down a different path. Gate, a supervillain who can create portals, is hilariously over the top like a Bond villain, but in a cheeky fun way that I can get behind.

All of our characters are cogs. There’s nothing wrong with this, because this makes it far easier to relate to them. Sabra, perhaps the most main of the main protagonists, is a simple girl with simple friends and wants to accomplish a simple goal with a simple armored suit. This is not a knock on her. She’s charming and far more likable than other serial protagonists. Leopard is – not. He’s a dirty scoundrel mercenary with delusions of grandeur who never seems to put in the effort to be the hero he thinks he can be. I initially skipped his chapters, but he does get better, but not more sympathetic. He shines best when not egged on by his fellow sociopaths. Pavel,formerly known as Impel is like a darker version of Mr. Fantastic, a superhero whose career ended ignominiously and lives vicariously through others in their prime. This doesn’t make him feel weak, because in spite of many failures (primarily of his own doing), he carries on. Anyone can be punched out twelve times. It takes a strong character to get back up thirteen times. Also, he’s funny as hell and his cat is adorable.

Paradigm City, the island city the story is mostly set in, feels weak. What differentiates it from New York City, or Moscow, or Tokyo? It was created in the middle of the Pacific to be a home for folks of all ethnicities, but it doesn’t really feel like anything but a backdrop. I’d really like to see more of the town.

It’s more than made up by the fact that Rhodes makes you – god forbid – think. What makes an action noble? Intent, or consequence? How much freedom should we surrender for security before we’ve lost both? Is Pavel sad because he can’t feel his fluffy cat with his robo-hands?

Rhodes’ prose is absolutely gorgeous without being flowery. I can perfectly imagine every single thing he describes, yet I can read the story at a decent clip. It’s absolutely amazing and I cannot praise it enough. The three characters have unique inner monologues that are refreshingly swapped in and out.

There’s not much to say about the powers themselves. It’s standard Worm-esque fair that’s a bit overpowered for my tastes, but it simply works here due to the themes (that, thankfully, are not misery porn).

I think that’s about all I have to say here. Go read it, yo.

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