Thursday, November 7, 2013

Vicious (Book Review)

Thursday, November 7, 2013 7:25 AM with 20 comments

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Vicious

Author: V.E. Schwab (Victoria Schwab)
Publisher: Tor
Number of Pages: 368
Release Date: September 24, 2013

Synopsis from Goodreads:

A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and superpowers, set in a near-future world.

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.


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MY THOUGHTS:

I'm a bit stumped on how to write this review. Frankly, I'm always a bit stumped on how to write reviews-- no matter how many I write--but this one is especially hard. I knew that I wanted to read this book from the moment I saw the amazing graphic novel-y cover. I don't think it will shock any of you if I admit that I am a total super hero nerd. I cannot get enough of Batman and Spiderman and I adore the X-Men. Vicious just looked and sounded so amazing, and I wasn't disappointed in the least. Vicious is amazing and original. I really just cannot recommend it enough.

Vicious is the story of two men: Victor and Eli. The two are roommates at college and strike up a weird, competitive, yet close friendship. The two men are both brilliant and obsessed with making names of themselves. When they have to pick their thesis topics, Victor picks something to do with adrenaline while Eli chooses the taboo topic of EOs or ExtraOrdinaries. EOs are people who have developed powers of some sort and their very existence is up for debate. Victor is immediately jealous that he didn't think of this amazing topic and becomes more and more interested in it as Eli starts his study. The two boys eventually make a connection that EOs may be created through near-death experiences which leaves only one option: They need to die in order to test the theory. Through unforeseen circumstances their experiments both work, but they turn the boys into mortal enemies with Victor in jail and Eli free to live his life. 

One of my favorite aspects of this book is the unusual timeline. The chapters are all short and we consistently jump from 10 years ago, when the two men were in college, to the present where a final showdown is brewing. I loved seeing the events that lead to their separation and the jumping back and forth really added to the suspenseful nature of the climax. 

The secondary characters are also drawn brilliantly. On Victor's side we have a young girl with a special gift that Victor picks up on the side of the road named Sydney. She was easily my favorite character. Sydney is near death when we first meet her and I was rooting for her survival throughout the novel. Also on Victor's side is his cell mate, Mitch. Mitch is loyal and interesting in his own right, and I was happy for to see a positive friendship represented. On Eli's side we have the mysterious Selena, a woman who has a way of getting what she wants. Throughout the book, more and more connections are made between all of the characters, and I really enjoyed this aspect, as well.

Finally, I loved the philosophical debates that Vicious addresses throughout. Should people be able to play God if they have the powers of a god? Do near-death experiences--or the act of dying--strip away a part of a human's soul? This isn't a superhero book in the normal sense of the word. These men aren't Superman or Captain America using their powers for the betterment of mankind. There is no real hero of the story even though I was definitely on a side. I read an interesting article the other day, I believe in Entertainment Weekly (probably in EW as that is the only magazine I really read), in which the author was discussing the rise of the anti-hero. Shows like Dexter and Breaking Bad and Mad Men have made us, as a society, cheer for the hero that is maybe even more bad than good. Dexter is one of my all-time favorite shows, and I completely agree with the sentiment that we are more likely to connect with these types of broken heroes than those untouchable men in tights (although I totally love them all, too). 

Again, I really just cannot recommend this enough. It is dark and original and fast-paced. The writing is descriptive. The story is interesting. Victoria Schwab has definitely gotten a bump up in my book. I've heard wonderful things about her YA book The Archived and it has jumped several spots in my TBR pile.

Read this!

20 comments:

  1. I seriously can't get enough of this book. I think I would've reread it immediately upon finishing, if I hadn't had other books in my schedule. You hit the nail on the head with the secondary characters - the connections between them were revealed so perfectly.

    Victoria Schwab is way too consistently awesome. You HAAAAAVE to read The Archived, it's incredible as well.

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    1. I really enjoyed this one, too (obviously). I definitely imagine I will give it a second look eventually. I do plan on reading The Archived--I've heard nothing but good things. Thanks for stopping by, Nikki!

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  2. I really like the sound of Vicious Natalie. I'm also a fan of all things super-heroish and I love the fact that this is more of an anti-hero story which I've been really enjoying lately. The other characters and time-jumps sound really interesting too. Great review, adding to my TBR pile.

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    1. I think you'd really enjoy it, Kim. I loved how dark it was and that there isn't a clear line between "good" and "bad". I'm excited to hear what you think if you do pick it up. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. First of all, I loved THE ARCHIVED. Loved it. Go read it!
    I've heard about this book a lot lately but the summary kind of confused me and I didn't know if this book would really be for me. You explained it so well! You made it seem much more interesting and I think I'll have to go pick this up now. And as long as the jumping back and forth between the past and the present isn't confusing, it appears that this will be something I'll enjoy. So thank you, as always, for an awesome and incredibly helpful review :)

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    1. Girl, this book is amazing. I think you'd love it. The synopsis is a bit confusing, but once I saw that cover I was sold. The time jumping isn't confusing at all. Each chapter clearly states: 10 years ago or 2 days ago. It's very easy to follow. Thanks for the compliment. This review was so hard to write! Explaining how I felt about this without giving too much of the awesome story away was hard! Thanks for stopping by, as always. I will pick the Archived up. I've heard nothing but good things.

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  4. YES I love this book!!! And I too have bumped The Archived up on my TBR :)

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    1. Everyone I know who read this one loved it. It's so flipping good. The Archived is supposed to be amazing, too. Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. I can't wait to read this book! People keep raving about it and I, like you, also love me some superheroes! And anti-heroes are my favorite thing right now as well. So needless to say this one sounds like a win!

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    1. Oh, Chris, yes. I think you would LOVE this one. You should definitely pick it up sooner rather than later. I loved the anti-hero aspect and the story was so dark and original. Thanks for stopping by, as always!

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  6. I'm not actually a huge fan of superhero stuff, but I LOVE philosophical debates in novels (as long as they're not too arcane). Also, yes, I love anti-heroes in the books I read and shows I watch. It's so fascinating and makes me more involved as I have to figure out whether or not to root for certain characters.
    I have yet to read any of Schwab's works, but right now I'm tied between trying this one or The Near Witch first.
    Great review, Natalie!

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    1. The debate isn't arcane, but it isn't in-your-face either. It's subtle, but definitely there. I don't know what it is about the anti-hero, but I do find myself drawn to the archetype. Flaws make us who we are, I suppose. I haven't read the Near Witch, so I can't speak on that, but this was fantastic. Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. This book is so awesome. Remarkable, memorable. Love, love, love. I'm glad you did too, Nat. I was waiting on your review, actually. :)

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    1. I need to swing over and read yours! I saw that you had posted, but I wasn't quite finished so I didn't want to read it yet. This book truly is remarkable. I hope all my friends give it a shot. Thanks for stopping by!

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  8. I need to find some time to read this soon! I can't wait for the superhero/philosophical battle/ debate! I love the comic-esque cover too (: Glad to hear you enjoy it.

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    1. That cover is spectacular. You really should read this soon--if you can fit it in to your reading schedule (you should squeeze it in even if you can't). It's fantastic. Thanks for stopping by!

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  9. I'm so glad to hear how much you loved this book! I've been wanting to read it -- and now I urgently want to read it!

    Lisa

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    1. Definitely give it a try, Lisa. Sooner rather than later! It really is so worth it. Thanks for stopping by!

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  10. I've heard such great things about this book. The premise sounds so interesting and the philosophical debates sound fascinating (I like the idea of broken heroes and the article you read is definitely interesting...these morally gray characters that you're not exactly sure whether you should be rooting for them). Great review! ~Pam

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  11. Oh, The Archived is great -- I just started the sequel, in fact -- so it sounds like I should definitely pick up Vicious. And in turn, you should pick up The Archived. :P Seriously, though...the way you've described this book, the jumping back and forth between past and present, the anti-hero aspect...it all sounds fabulous, and I already know I like the author's writing, so I am sure this will become another favorite. Great review!

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Hello, there! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I read each and every one and will do my best to respond--usually on your blog instead of on mine. I will, however, always answer direct questions. Due to serious time restraints, this blog is now an award free zone, but I appreciate the thought!