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Solidly Enjoyable Action-Adventure

By BGHilton, author of Clocks and Boxes

Jul 19, 2017: Disclaimer – this review is part of a review exchange. Price is a well thought out superhero world with a ton of effort put into worldbuilding. So far I’ve only read the short novels Blue Steel and Blue Wall. I gather these are deliberately heavy on the worldbuilding, but that the other stories in the series are more character driven. The world itself is quite interesting, blending a sort of spy/crime story realism with comic book silliness in a very engaging way. Initially, I found Blue Steel it a little slow going. The introductory chapters are very exposition heavy, and I thought that the main character was generic hypercompetent ex-military action hero without a lot of character. As the story got going, however, I really got caught up in the stories our hero, Warren, was trying to solve – and found that the character himself had hidden depths. When a hardened vet takes a moment in the middle of a life-or-death battle to apologise for hurting his friend’s feelings, it’s hard not to find that endearing. Blue Wall was a little faster off the mark, getting right into the action. The thing I found most intriguing about this world is that it’s one in which supers are so common that they’re almost mundane. But ‘mundane’ doesn’t mean ‘not dangerous’, and that’s where our hero comes in, working for a plausibly non-government agency that troubleshoots difficult super-related situations. The mysteries set up are interesting, and they extend organically from the worldbuilding. The action scenes are fun – the author has clearly put a lot of thought into the mechanics of superhero fights, and the results are some quite interesting confrontations. I have a complaint, it’s that the author spends a little too much time talking us through the tactical decisions his characters make, sometimes at the cost of a more visceral sense of action. Warren is in constant contact with his support team on the moon, so sometimes there are several layers of commentary on his words and actions, which is sometimes interesting but at other times I’d rather his actions spoke for themselves. The writing is clear and readable, and the whole thing is a big page-turner. After the slow start, the pacing was excellent, and the cliffhangers kept me wanting to hit ‘next’. Like I say, the story is long on analysis and short on feels—but this just means that the emotional gut-punches are unexpected, and they hit harder when they come. The supporting characters are a lot of fun. Phoebe in particular is interesting. I’ve seen other super characters who are aware that they are fictional (Deadpool, the Joker, etc) but usually that’s played for a laugh, whereas Phoebe’s knowledge is depicted as tragic. It’s a really interesting twist. I also quite like Dr Patil, an intelligent commander who’s neither cranky or impatient. All in all, a good fun action thriller set in an intriguingly built world. I feel a little less exposition and a little less detachment would have helped, but still very enjoyable as is.

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