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Enjoyable Despite the Shaky Premise

By Megajoule, author of The Warlock Ruthless

Jan 28, 2019: Note: sort of part of a review swap, though I’ve moved away from doing them and wanted to review VMUS anyway. I always endeavor to be honest.

Vigilantes Make Us Safe (or VMUS) is worth checking out. That’s my thesis statement for this review, so you know how I feel about it right off the bat. The work oscillated between "fairly solid" and "solid" but ended up at fairly solid for me. There were certain works that were more intriguing or well written than others, I think especially the later ones.

Most of what I read includes Hitbox, which seems to be the kind of foundation piece of VMUS, but I don’t think there is any one story that’s supposed to be the main one. I read portions of the others but enjoyed "The Law" the most.

VMUS is built off a premise I found somewhat faulty, and while I always try to allow a story the concept it sets out, there was some inconsistent worldbuilding around the idea that made it hard to buy. I would describe it as vaguely "The Purge" meets superheroes/vigilantes. The basic summary is that the President is gung-ho for allowing Watchmen style vigilantes back on the streets again. He pushes a bill through Congress that gets vigilantes legal rights. The Purge-esque elements come from his strange insistence that people should start right away.

It makes me wonder if it’s purposeful, but the problem is details outside of that are scant, at least within Hitbox’s story up to where I read. Certain clerks have no idea what the language of the bill even means, but then the test Zach ends up taking seems like it’s been run for years at this point, fine-tuned to a smooth process. The clash strains immersion.

That said, I found that to be the weakest part, which means that the rest of VMUS – the characters, the writing, and the grammar – range from solid to compelling. Zach, in particular, I actually quite liked. He is somewhat of a stock trope, being the orphaned son of multibillionaires a la Batman/Iron Fist. However, AM Thorn spins it more realistically, to the point that I felt like I would do exactly what Zach would do if I had enough money to live on for centuries and was deeply depressed: I would stay in my shitty apartment and play games and eat/drink myself to death (of course, Zach swerves course when he finds out about the VMUS act).

I mentioned enjoying The Law quite a bit. The first episodes were fairly tense, full of mystery, and seemed even more tautly written than Hitbox. Hitbox had some early stilted dialogue and writing that I noticed (though not enough to make me stop reading), while The Law was more competent and terse, and not quite so wooden with exposition. Perhaps because there was the expectation that you’d read other works first, but it didn’t waste too much time rehashing the premise.

Overall, I ended up on fairly solid. While the characters were neat and the writing overall quite good, the premise of VMUS is hard to swallow and inconsistently built around, and some dialogue can be wooden. That said, it’s definitely worth a look if you like grounded superhero stories. With the vast library, you’re more than likely to find something you enjoy.

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