Friday, August 20, 2010

Super-Powered Prose: Nobody Gets the Girl by James Maxey

I am wholly unfamiliar with the works of James Maxey. Apparently, he’s the official Dragon Age novelist, but I would never know he existed if it wasn’t for the recommended reading page on Amazon. It’s from there that I discovered his first novel Nobody Gets the Girl. Behind a lackluster cover penciled by famed inker Bob Wiacek, we get a decidedly super-powered novel.

Jim Shooter, strangely called James here for one of the few times I remember, provides a highly unnecessary introduction to talk about Maxey’s work here before we get to the meat of the story.

The alliteratively named Richard Rogers is just a normal guy albeit one with dreams of being a stand up comic. He’s in an unhappy marriage, doesn’t like where his life is going, and seems to be sinking in to a wave of depression.

And that’s before everyone in the world suddenly stops being able to see him.

That basic premise pulls him in to a world altered by a handful of superheroes and supervillains, all with their own plans for making the world a better place. Doctor Knowbokov, super genius, explains the nature of Richard’s new powers. He is superhuman in his own right, as are his two daughters Amelia (Rail Blade) and Sarah (The Thrill). They are on a quest to fufill Knowbokov’s vision of a better future. Their ability to see Richard is enough to quickly draw him in to their super-powered world.

Richard’s own actions bring the mess of violence between Knowbokov and his archrival Rex Monday to a head, and ultimately lead to plenty of death. More than that would drop far too many spoilers along the way.

At points, the author seems far too obsessed with explaining the nature of super powers in his world as if thsi work needs to be taken seriously as a work of hard science fiction. It doesn’t always work, but he does use his own ideas to bring the story full circle. Still the most important part of a novel is basic character interactions and in this Maxey both excels and fails. He does an excellent job of giving us a normal man’s view of a super-powered world. He sets up exactly how uncomfortable it would be for a normal jabroni to suddenly fall in to a world of heroes. He also gets in to the head of the heroes quite well and looks hard at a mixed up world of justice and fame.

When the action comes though, Maxey sometimes falls apart. I can detect that he visualizes action scenes quite well, but often it feels like he is so focused on getting the action on the page that he forgets to lay it out in a way that remains gripping for the reader. His superhero battles come off like sex scenes written by Tom WOlfe. They don’t keep you engaged and just make you feel uncomfortable by scenes end. Okay, they aren’t as bad as Wolfe’s sex scenes, because very little in fiction can be that painful.

Despite its rough patches, Nobody Gets the Girl remains a rather engaging novel though at times just feels like it has been overly trimmed at only 242 pages. Still it shows his love of the superhero genre, if not quite the ability required to translate it perfectly to the printed page. I know from experience it isn’t always an easy translation. Superheroes often scream for a visual medium. Sometimes you can’t express your super-story quite the right way with just words. (My own Mean Streets, which died an early death, comes to mind.) Even with its few flaws, Nobody Gets the Girl remains an entertaining read for any lover of superheroes. And that’s why it comes Recommended.

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