A healthy respect for superhero tropes is the strength and weakness of Bennett’s first non–tie-in novel. In the 22nd century, genetic engineering and bionic enhancements have created a new group of super-humans, and the elite among them fight for justice as the Troubleshooters, taking their inspiration from the classic comics of 200 years before. When Troubleshooter Arkady Nazarbayev is killed in action, his sidekick, the Green Blaze, is promoted to the team. Young, impulsive, and sexually promiscuous, Blaze is hardly the ideal teammate, but her family roots in the asteroid belt make her the obvious choice for a mission to undermine an alliance of transhumanist habitats. Unsurprisingly, she falls for a habitat’s leader and becomes uncertain about who is really fighting for justice. Bennett’s mastery of solid fight scenes serves him well, but the painful expository dialogue is a much less charming superhero convention. Other unfortunate choices, from Blaze’s portrayed-as-cute history of harassing “terrified” teen boys to utterly predictable betrayals and twists, undercut the remaining charm. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
“Only Superhuman is a heady comic book fix for the discerning SF reader, filled with a sense of wonder and a sense of seriousness.”
—Kevin J. Anderson, New York Times bestselling coauthor of Sisterhood of Dune
“Many writers have written about superheroes, but nobody does it like Christopher L. Bennett.”
—Stanley Schmidt, editor of Analog
“Only Superhuman is, to my knowledge, the first hard science superhero story. And the story is the better for it.” —Mike W. Barr, author of Camelot 3000
“A tour de force that tells a fascinating story with flair, imagination, and weight.”
—TV Zone on Star Trek: Ex Machina
Although Earth and its orbiting colonies have banned both genetic and cybernetic modifications, the practices are flourishing in the colonies and habitats of the Asteroid Belt. Inspired by the costumed superheroes of 20th-century comics, Emerald Blair belongs to a group known as the Troubleshooters whose mission is to prevent the rule of lawlessness and might wherever it might occur. When rival groups of superhumans clash in the field of politics, however, "Emry" becomes a pivotal figure in preventing—or unintentionally causing—the superhuman war that could forever change the universe. The sf debut and first original novel by the author of Star Trek: The Original Series: Ex Machina and other TV and comics tie-ins has created a world of believable supermen and women set against a complex world of rival factions not unlike those of Renaissance city-states. VERDICT Bennett brings believability to the larger-than-life world of superheroes in a story that should appeal to sf and comics fans alike.
First independent effort from a veteran comic-book and Star Trek novelist (Star Trek: DTI: Forgotten History, 2012, etc.). By 2107, following a war, Earth banned genetic and cybernetic experimentation on humans. Not so in the Asteroid Belt, where flourishing space habitats continue to develop highly modified humans. Emry Blair is a Troubleshooter, one of a band of such enhanced humans who consider themselves the embodiments of the superheroes pioneered by the classic comics of the 20th century. And they act accordingly, being given to foolhardy exploits and vainglorious banter as they perform their self-appointed task of defending the solar system against the other, rival societies of modified humans, many of whom have uncompromising and violently destructive ideologies. But then Gregor Tai of Ceres takes over the Corps, with the idea of not just reacting to threats, but preempting them by judicious assassinations and military strikes. The Troubleshooters grumble but go along. But then Tai orders Emry to infiltrate the Vanguardians, a rival superhero organization led by Eliot Thorne, who's been sulking in the Outer Belt for 30 years and now has plans to unite all the mods, even the unruly and violent ones. Since Emry's related to some of the Vanguardians, she's ideally suited to the role. But Thorne and his daughter, Psyche, are more formidable and persuasive than Emry bargained for, and she soon finds her loyalties wavering. The main plot's padded out with "origin" stories detailing Emry's personal evolution from scapegrace to defender of humanity and bouts of enthusiastic sex. You will have gathered that this is, indeed, an adult-ish comic book minus the illustrations. Proceed accordingly. Should satisfy the demographic but not too many others.