*I received this book from NetGalley in return for a fair review.*
Wonder City Stories
by Jude McLaughlin
Published Date: November 29 2015
Series: Wonder City Stories
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Read: January 24 2016
My first book by this author.
This is one of those books that I randomly ran across, wasn’t sure exactly what it was about, but it looked interesting enough, so I tried it. I mention that because by the 1/3rd mark, or maybe half way mark, I still wasn’t sure what exactly I was reading. A slice of life/coming of age/ending years/mixture of this and that. What I did find, though, that it wasn’t a Romance (capital R romance), though there are/were romances that occurred within the pages.
Before I dive into the many and varied cast of characters, I’d like to point out two things: (1) this book is a ensemble type of story, a cast of various characters, with no one character being the main (though one has a greater impact on the plot than others); (2) take a look at the cover, you see four people on it – there are, in fact, four point of views in this book (Megan Amazon, Nereid, Suzanne, Ira). Though those four points of view are not the only important people, or even the most important people in the book; they just happen to be the ‘point of view’ that some of the story leaks through.
The character that acts something like a domino effect, or her appearance in the city acts like . . . I’ve lost this already. Heh.
Megan Amazon is the first point of view encountered in the book, and the one that leads to much else that occurs. She’s just short of 8 feet tall, by about ½ inch, though she’s referred to at various times as being a 9 footer. The book opens with her just arriving in Wonder City with her huge backpack and her vague plans to get away from her ex, and intermix with other paras. Her first move, upon arrival, is to go up to one of the two tallest buildings in the city and leap off.
Well her story ended quickly, then there’s . . . heh, no, this be a Superhero Prose novel. Her leap off the building was neither a suicide attempt, nor take off for someone who can fly. Because she can’t fly. She’s something of a plummeter, though (at the top the people up there are asked if they are jumpers or flyers; she says she’s a jumper, later says she is more of a plummeter).
While falling she spots a woman nonchalantly walking right in Megan’s arrival zone. Megan starts screaming. Eventually, Megan impacts the ground. First she’s happy to determine that there does not appear to be anyone under her (though she’s not sure how that occurred). Second she’s happy that she isn’t injured. In certain pain, but not injured. That woman? That would be Nereid.
Before moving on – Megan Amazon is the daughter of ‘The Amazon’ (yes that comes up a lot in the book), is roughly 8 feet tall, is invulnerable (not indestructible; she kind of gets injured a lot), is something of a player and is pansexual (at one point she noted that she liked men, women, AI’s, cyborgs, aliens . . . ). Has an undergraduate degree in Psychology. Her age, if given it flew over my head, is not stated. I’d say that she’s roughly 23 to 26 years of age. Is, because that also plays a minor part in the story, biracial (though she doesn’t know who her father is, so doesn’t know what mix she is).
I’d do a ‘through Megan we meet’ type of paragraph, but she kind of meets everyone so it’s kind of a difficult paragraph.
Nereid is a young woman who is both attending college and is a member of a superhero team. She’s somewhere between 19 and 23, I assume. Like Megan, Nereid is also ‘Spandex Spawn’. That’s a term that comes up in the book for someone who is the off-spring of superheroes. Unlike Megan, Nereid followed her parents into the ‘Spandex set’. She’s a member of the Young Cosmics. A group that appears to be known in the superhero community, rightly or not, as a ‘Queer’ group (oh, and the group that is filled with spandex spawn). They are also a bunch of assholes, dicks, and bullies, with some exceptions including Nereid, so don’t take that ‘Queer’ thing as something like a badge of honor.
Nereid has the ability to teleport, but only if she believes her life is in danger. She kind of gets soaking wet when that occurs, when she teleports. Also she appears to have some ability to control water. Her sexual orientation, and yes it matters to the story, is somewhat up in the air. Apparently bisexual, though she has, up to this point (beginning of book), not exactly accepted the fact that she might actually like women. Nereid is also one of the four points of view.
Through Nereid the reader meets the other members of Young Cosmics, specifically and importantly the cyborg Citizen Pain (I think that’s his name), and Brainchild (Sophie).
Suzanne is the daughter-in-law of Ira, and the wife of Ira’s son Josh. Seemingly moments after Suzanne mentioned to Josh that she wanted a divorce, he slips into a coma. She’s been trapped next to his side for the last ten hellish years. She’s roughly . . . 35 to 45.
Ira is an older fella of roughly 70 to 80 years of age. He is a retired superhero who works at a local Y (I’ve forgotten what the letter are, YMPA? YPA? Basically a YMCA for paranormals). He pins for his missing wife, Tin Lizzie, though no one knows who that might be. Apparently there was this time loop type of situation that messed with things. Now he has two ex-wives and his love of his life, Tin Lizzie, no longer exists. Meanwhile his son is trapped in a coma. Oh, and he is somewhat blind, and because he has a certain invulnerability, his cataracts can’t be treated. Life is swell, eh?
Point of view characters are not the only ones who are important in this story. Many others appear, some more important than some of the point of view characters.
Simon Canis is the son of Professor Canis, superhero scientist type, and works in a coffee shop. Simon, his mother, and his siblings are something like werewolves, though that word is never used. More like shifters who can shift into wolf/puppy/dog like creatures on all fours. So Simon is also of the spandex spawn set. Though scoffs at the idea of . . . um . . . pulling on spandex himself? Something like that.
His friend, from before the start of the book, is Nereid. Once the action in the book gets going, he develops a new friendship with Megan Amazon. And later meets a much older lady whose name is something like Suzanne.
I do not know his age range. One thing is important in the story, to the overall plot, though I’m not sure how to note it. I’m not sure if it’s something that would be spoiler-y or not. Hmms. Simon, as Megan puts it, is queer. He is also a man who appears to like women. Though there’s at least one scene where he flirts with men. Also, some people, well at least one, have trouble using the he pronoun when referring to him.
Right. I almost did this in the character section then stopped myself. Okay then – Everything seems to occur because Megan Amazon happened to arrive in the city. Everything appears to be oddly interlinked. This book is like a fictional blueprint for the importance of networking.
Megan arrives in the city, goes up to the top of a high building, leaps off, lands almost on Nereid. Nereid, feeling guilty for being there, begs Megan to allow her to buy her coffee. Megan somewhat reluctantly agrees. At the coffee shop she meets another character of importance, one Simon Canis (I think that’s his last name). Simon and Megan will become friends/date. Simon is already friends with Nereid. Through Nereid, Megan gets directions to the Y. Immediately upon arrival at the Y she meets an older fella named Ira. Ira, when it comes up, directs Megan to a specific diner owned and operated by Flo and Ebbe (parents of Nereid, though that isn’t known to Megan at the time). When it comes up, Flo directs Megan towards her first job. Through that job she meets Tzemit(sp?) who she then introduces to Simon’s mother for a potential lab job. When things get mafia-like, Megan looks for another job. And another place to live. Simon directs Megan to a specific place to live (this actually occurred sometime before the new job issue came up). Through living there Megan meets the foreman of a construction company, Jack Hammer (where-upon she meets the CEO, Ultimate, who just happens to be the surrogate parent (that might not be the correct phrase) to Brainchild, who is on the same young heroes team Nereid is on (the link on the two is important). Um. My brain kind of froze over. Suzanne gets linked in through Simon (and Ira, what with being Ira’s daughter-in-law).
So, right. There is a lot of interlinking going on here. And I haven’t even linked in G and some others yet. Just know that there are others linked in.
So, the plot is basically: in an effort to get away from a really bad situation involving an abusive stalker ex, Megan heads to Wonder City. There are several reasons why she went there specifically. One, the one she tells others, involves how her mother used to live there. The one she tells still others, and kind of means more, is that it is something like therapy, to surround herself with other paras – who she kind of fears and distrusts.
While in Wonder City, Megan bumps into several other people who she does not actually interact with as much as I kind of expected. She first bumps into Nereid. Nereid is a member of a superhero team called Young Cosmics[sp?]. Her story, with that team, and somewhat in general (romance, life, etc), flows through her point of view.
Megan also bumps into Ira. Ira is a retired superhero with a son in a coma. His story, the story of an old fella in the last years of his life, is told through his point of view.
The fourth point of view is that of Suzanne. Her story, of being trapped in a ten year hellish existence next to a man she kind of hates, though is trapped in a coma, so she can’t extract herself without burning bridges she doesn’t want to burn, is told through her point of view.
This is not a romance book, though romance occurs in it. A certain amount. Some seen, some unseen but mentioned. When I went into the book thinking this might be a romance book, I suspected the two people who meet in the beginning of the book would have a much closer connection than they did. Nereid, though, is more of a stepping stone for Megan to meet others. They appear to end up as barely acquaintances.
Let’s see, there’s . . . well, I can’t even really say anything without going into spoiler territory, so let’s just say that there are people, they may or may not hook up, and stuff.
At times I had kind of a strong impression of this city and its surroundings, especially when architect G was showing Megan around the city. Both the ugly buildings, and her favorite part of the city. Mostly, though, I didn’t exactly have a huge strong impression of everything. Heck, there are times when people are in cars going to or from places and it’d take me a moment to realize that I knew where they were going/leaving (like, several times people head to a manor, or away from a manor, took me a moment to realize that they were talking about the place Megan lived).
I rather liked this book. A lot of moving pieces which took awhile to come together, but there actually was a rather interesting interlinked underlying plot-line that was going on. I’d probably rate it somewhere around 4.5 stars out of 5.0. There is nothing inherently ‘bad’ or wrong with it that I can point to; nor do I have a feeling that there is something I can’t point to. In a way, I think the biggest negative is also one of the biggest positives – how busy it is, how many people are weaving in and out of the story. Both a positive and a negative, that.
January 25 2016