Like many of the books I am currently trying to work my way through, Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman was one that caught my eye several years ago while I was working at Barnes&Noble. What can I say? I’m a sucker for good cover art! Then, my best guy friend S recommended it when I asked him which of three books I should read first. So, I decided it was finally time to check out the superhero tale.
In some respects, Soon I Will Be Invincible is reminiscent of a good comic book – there’s a supervillain, Doctor Impossible, who escapes from prison (his twelfth) and hatches yet another plot to take over the world. A squad of metahumans known as the New Champions is trying to track him down and stop his plan. There are crazy lab accidents, a wide array of superpowers, robots and cyborgs, secret lairs, and archnemeses. It’s a lot of take in, but it seems like all of the usual tropes are represented.
However, instead of being told from the viewpoint of some omniscient narrator, as most comic books are, the chapters alternate between Dr. Impossible’s perspective and that of Fatale, a cyborg and a new member of the New Champions. It’s a unique way to move the story forward – until diving into Grossman’s book, I never quite realized how many tales are told by an observer or the supposed hero. It was also a really fun concept, as you get to go inside the minds of an evil genius and a wannabe superhero and follow along as they move closer to the novel’s epic showdown.
Yet, Soon I Will Be Invincible is also more nuanced than just brains versus brawn. For instance, Dr. Impossible’s motivation to be bad is a mix between being super smart, having been overlooked by his peers, and not really knowing what else to do with his intellect. As for the New Champions, they may make being superheroes look cool, but their powers have side effects as well, and some of them are not all that pleasant. This serves to both humanize all of the different characters, and help you realize that being blessedly dull is not necessarily a bad thing.
Overall though, while I thought the idea behind the book was interesting, I found the narrative to be a bit plodding. There is a lot of exposition detailing the origin stories of the major players in the book, and it takes a while for the two sides to meet. For example, the main confrontation between Dr. Impossible and the New Champions doesn’t begin until page 259 – nearly 84 percent of the way through the 310-page book. And even then it’s told in a slightly out-of-order manner, with most of the action occurring retroactively, as Fatale watches a video she recorded of the battle in the cell Dr. Impossible put her in.
But, I guess that’s what life must be like for superheroes and supervillains – tons of boredom, punctuated by moments of intense action. And once in awhile, your plan will be foiled and you’ll end up in jail. Or your systems will be short-circuited and your enemies will stick you in a metal cage. But you keep fighting and continue plotting because that’s just what you do!