Absolute Power by Michael Carroll

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Absolute Power by Michael Carroll

Category: Fantasy
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A battle between superhumans working for the US military and a cultish nation of others reaches a climax. Good action, but as a stand-alone this books failed to satisfy.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: July 2007
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0007210947

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I have been here before - encountering the third book in a series of children's genre fiction for the purposes of this website, and accusing it of being X-Men lite, starring and involving children.

We have been here before - for those who are not new to the series, the fans of the cycle will expect the usual prologue detailing the battle a generation ago between good and evil superhumans, and the after-effects the New Heroes are still facing to this day.

For those new to the series, we meet for the first time Renata, who can protect herself by turning to crystal, Danny (the Flash from the comics by any other name) who can slow time by which he can move and fight with super-speed, despite only having one surviving arm, Butler, with his powers of force-field generation, and more.

The 'more' involved here is Colin, ex-New Hero, who is tempted to join the Trutopians (a Scientology sort of global movement that really needs more back story for this book to ever succeed as a stand-alone volume) by someone who isn't what he appears to be, tempted away from the fold of the US military the others live under, and that seemed to be the basis of the second book in the series. Elsewhere, other superhuman children are lying comatose, or just doggo, hiding from exploiting and revealing to others their powers.

Once Colin has been usurped, a recognisable metaphor of a plot turns up, based in part on entering and liberating part of Lieberstan, and the fighting really begins. This fighting allows for a tight, action-packed plot, told in a cinematic style, but it raises big questions as to why this book was ever written.

I spent well over three hundred pages, at an admitted disadvantage not knowing the first two books, wondering which side the reader was supposed to gun for, and empathising with absolutely no-one. People here can fall from great heights, turn to crystal and survive, or fly, or beat the hem out of other people, but there is absolutely nothing in the way of wish-fulfilment. We just do not engage with any character too long to be them in any way, shape or form - all we see them do is increase their powers to the best of the author's imagination, and battle, and argue.

And if all we're doing is seeing that, why not literally see it, in comic book form? I have a love of the old graphic novel, and can recognise many of the attributes featured here for our heroes. This might even have helped me picture the world of this series, but as there is absolutely nothing wrong with reading a graphic novel, why try and make a literary form of exactly the same characters and the same contents?

I cannot dismiss the book entirely, for as an adventure it works, if you don't mind being at such a distant remove from any character. I will concede that The Flash, and all the comic counterparts borrowed here (Kahndaq in the New Avengers for Lieberstan, the Paragon armour really belongs to Ironman, all the legacy considerations have parallels, and so on) have much more in the way of back-story that a year and a half of book publishing history can yield, but they have just as much character, conflict, and a lot more punch, than this volume.

I suppose some people would prefer this book to the interminable output of Marvel, DC and the other major superhero comic publishers, and those enjoying this series so far will not be let down by this volume, but I feel I was. I would still like to thank the publishers for giving the Bookbag a copy to review.

Buy Absolute Power by Michael Carroll at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Absolute Power by Michael Carroll at Amazon.co.uk.


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