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Soon I Will Be Invincible

Soon I Will Be Invincible

4.2 71
by Austin Grossman

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Doctor Impossible—evil genius, would-be world conqueror—languishes in prison. Shuffling through the cafeteria line with ordinary criminals, he wonders if the smartest man in the world has done the smartest thing he could with his life. After all, he's lost every battle he's ever fought. But this prison won't hold him forever.



Doctor Impossible—evil genius, would-be world conqueror—languishes in prison. Shuffling through the cafeteria line with ordinary criminals, he wonders if the smartest man in the world has done the smartest thing he could with his life. After all, he's lost every battle he's ever fought. But this prison won't hold him forever.

Fatale—half woman, half high-tech warrior—used to be an unemployed cyborg. Now, she's a rookie member of the world's most famous super-team, the Champions. But being a superhero is not all flying cars and planets in peril—she learns that in the locker rooms and dive bars of superherodom, the men and women (even mutants) behind the masks are as human as anyone.

Soon I Will Be Invincible is a wildly entertaining first novel, brimming with attitude and humor—an emotionally resonant look at good and evil, love and loss, power and glory.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Dave Itzkoff
As I'm sure Grossman is aware, the bar for this kind of narrative—the paradox of the realistic superhero story—has been set perilously high, not only by comics like Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's Watchmen and Rick Veitch's Brat Pack, but also by television serials like Heroes and the Spider-Man film franchise, which (when they're not merely treading water) do a pretty good job of conveying the texture and resonance of otherwise two-dimensional characters. Against these monolithic standards, Soon I Will Be Invincible can't completely measure up, but its ambition and persistence in the face of formidable odds make it an admirable addition to the genre. I mean it as the highest possible compliment when I say that it would make a damn good comic book.
—The New York Times
Mat Johnson
Told in chapters that jump back and forth between the often humorous, engaging first-person narratives of Doctor Impossible and Fatale, Soon I Will Be Invincible revels in the mundane reality behind the masks, the adult concerns that motivate these flawed superheroes to get out of bed each morning and put their capes back on…Much of the writing happening in mainstream comics at the moment is about pushing the limits of the superhero genre, but in Grossman's novel the genre is not pushed into new levels of bleak realism. Rather, this fabulist vision is meticulously captured so that it might be gleefully explored, nostalgically, within its traditional boundaries. Soon I Will Be Invincible is a superhero story re-created with the great pleasure of an adult too old to play with action figures but young enough to remember the feeling of that childhood joy and translate it into prose.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

The world's greatest superhero, CoreFire, has gone missing just before the world's greatest villain, Dr. Impossible, has escaped again from prison. As the fragile alliance among the superhero team, the Champions, begins to unravel, its newest member, Fatale, a female cyborg with an inferiority complex, isn't sure which side she is on. With all the action (and sometimes cheesy dialogue) of a comic book with a bit more detail, development and description, this audiobook proves to be yet another steppingstone in the evolution of the subgenre of superhero fiction. J. Paul Boehmer voices the story from the firsthand point of view of Dr. Impossible with all the self-possession, and egotistical and borderline-deranged attitude one could expect from an evil genius. Coleen Marlo delivers an excellent account of Fatale, adding softness to the externally hard and cold character. Her inflections throughout Fatale's inner dialogue easily turn listeners' sympathies to the half-metal humanoid. Whooshing sound effects carry listeners from one chapter to the next in a fashion that fits or invokes an old-time radio series. Simultaneous release with the Pantheon hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 16). (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Superheroes square off against a supervillain in a high-tech fantasy. Get ready to be bombarded by superlatives as the world's leading supervillain, Doctor Impossible, introduces himself. He's "the smartest man in the world" even though, right now, he's in prison in Chicago. He narrates alternate chapters: The other narrator is Fatale, a female cyborg newly inducted into the Champions, the current superheroes. The dual narrator device leads to some initial confusion, as Grossman does not attempt two different voices. It will not be long before the Doctor escapes and tries for the 13th time to conquer the world. His nemesis, dating back to their Harvard days as science students, is CoreFire, who has gone missing. The other superheroes are a mixed bunch. They include an old-school magician, a fairy from the 12th century and a former villain from the 35th century. Their preferred costumes are capes, cloaks and leotards, accessorized with the latest gadgetry, but they're all dressed up with nowhere to go. As the Doctor gathers the four objects he needs for his doomsday machine, the superheroes spend their time yakking, recalling past exploits and indulging in flip commentary. Their history adds little to the storyline. There are only two action scenes. The first confrontation occurs past the novel's midpoint, in the aftermath of CoreFire's memorial service (there's a mystery as to who killed him). The Doctor attends the service without his habitual disguise. The legendary Blackwolf spots him, and they fight in the sewers of Manhattan; the Doctor escapes in a submarine. The second, climactic confrontation, as the Doctor is about to inaugurate a new Ice Age, is equally unimpressive, interruptedby more talk as the fairy describes her origins; the battle seesaws in an arbitrary fashion. For all the special effects, a debut novel that's lifeless and inert.
From the Publisher
“Every comic-book cliché in this witty, stunning debut is lovingly embraced, then turned inside out.” —Wired Magazine

“Imaginative and, at times, achingly real. . . . I mean it as the highest possible compliment when I say that it would make a damn good comic book.” —Dave Itzkoff, The New York Times Book Review

“A page-turning confrontation that's pure super-team suspense.” —The Onion

“It's safe to say, there's nothing in popular fiction quite like it.” —Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

“This witty debut novel is sure to please fans of Lethem and Chabon and remind you that smart prose can be as vivid as any graphic concoction.” —Playboy

“[Grossman] fully embraces his inner geek; he gives us heroes and villains with a consciously sardonic eye.” —Cleveland Plain-Dealer

“It's a hoot. . . . A delirious, often hilarious story that both satirizes and pays homage to superhero story cliches.” —Tampa Tribune

Soon I Will Be Invincible doesn't so much play with the clichés of superhero comics as bathe in their pulpy froth.”—Austin American Statesman

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Random House
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: Foiled AgainThis morning on planet Earth, there are one thousand, six hundred, and eighty-six enhanced, gifted, or otherwise-superpowered persons. Of these, one hundred and twenty-six are civilians leading normal lives. Thirty-eight are kept in research facilities funded by the Department of Defense, or foreign equivalents. Two hundred and twenty- six are aquatic, confined to the oceans. Twenty-nine are strictly localized—powerful trees and genii loci, the Great Sphinx, and the Pyramid of Giza. Twenty-five are microscopic (including the Infinitesimal Seven). Three are dogs; four are cats; one is a bird. Six are made of gas. One is a mobile electrical effect, more of a weather pattern than a person. Seventy-seven are alien visitors. Thirty-eight are missing. Forty-one are off-continuity, permanent émigrés to Earth's alternate realities and branching timestreams.Six hundred and seventy-eight use their powers to fight crime, while four hundred and forty-one use their powers to commit them. Forty-four are currently confined in Special Containment Facilities for enhanced criminals. Of these last, it is interesting to note that an unusually high proportion have IQs of 300 or more—eighteen to be exact. Including me.I don't know why it makes you evil. It's just what you find at the extreme right edge of the bell curve, the one you'd get if six billion minds took an intelligence test and you looked at the dozen highest scores. Picture yourself on that graph, sliding rightward and downslope toward the very brightest, down that gradually gentler hill, out over the top million, the top ten thousand—all far smarter than anyone most people ever meet—out to the top thousand—and now things are getting sparser—the last hundred, and it's not a slope at all now, just a dot every once in a while. Go out to the last few grains of sand, the smartest of the smartest of the smartest, times a thousand. It makes sense that people would be a little odd out here. But you really have to wonder why we all end up in jail.Wake-up for me is at 6:30 a.m., half an hour earlier than the rest of the inmates. There's no furniture in my cell—I'm stretched out on the painted green rectangle where I'm allowed to sleep. The way my skin is, I hardly feel it anyway. The facility is rated for enhanced offenders, but I'm the only one currently in residence. I am their showpiece, the pride of the system, and a regular feature on the governor's tours for visiting dignitaries. They come and watch the performance, to see the tiger in his cage, and I don't disappoint.The guard raps on the Plexiglas wall with his nightstick, so I get up slowly and move to the red painted circle, where they run a scan, X ray, radiation, and the rest. Then they let me put on clothes. I get eight minutes while they check the route. You can do a lot of thinking in eight minutes. I think about what I'll do when I get out of here. I think about the past.If I had writing materials, I might write a guidebook, a source of advice and inspiration for the next generation of masked criminals, bent prodigies, and lonely geniuses, the ones who've been taught to feel different, or the ones who knew it from the start. The ones who are smart enough to do something about it. There are things they should hear. Somebody has to tell them.I'm not a criminal. I didn't steal a car. I didn't sell heroin, or steal an old lady's purse. I built a quantum fusion reactor in 1978, and an orbital plasma gun in 1979, and a giant laser-eyed robot in 1984. I tried to conquer the world and almost succeeded, twelve times and counting.When they take me away, it goes to the World Court—technically I'm a sovereign power. You've seen these trials—the Elemental, Rocking Horse, Dr. Stonehenge. They put you in a glass and steel box. I'm still dangerous, you know, even without my devices. People stare at you; they can't believe what you look like. They read out the long list of charges, like a tribute. There isn't really a trial—it's not like you're innocent. But if you're polite, then at the end they'll let you say a few words.They'll ask questions. They'll want to know why. "Why did you . . . hypnotize the president?" "Why did you . . . take over Chemical Bank?"I'm the smartest man in the world. Once I wore a cape in public, and fought battles against men who could fly, who had metal skin, who could kill you with their eyes. I fought CoreFire to a standstill, and the Super Squadron, and the Champions. Now I have to shuffle through a cafeteria line with men who tried to pass bad checks. Now I have to wonder if there will be chocolate milk in the dispenser. And whether the smartest man in the world has done the smartest thing he could with his life.I stand by the door in a ring of armed men while my cell is checked by three specialists with a caseful of instruments. From the tiers come yells, shouts of encouragement, or catcalls. They want to see a show. Then I march, past their eyes, followed by two men in partial armor with bulky high-tech side arms. They have to wait until I pass before their morning lineup.There's a lot of prison talk about my powers. Inmates believe my eyes can emit laser beams, that my touch is electrical or poisonous, that I come and go as I please through the walls, that I hear everything. People blame things on me—stolen silverware and doors left unlocked. There is even, I note with pride, a gang named after me now: the Impossibles. Mostly white-collar criminals.I'm allowed to mingle with the general population at mealtimes and in the recreation yard, but I always have a table to myself. I've fooled them too many times by speed or misdirection. By now they know to serve my food in paper dishes, and when I turn in my tray they count the plastic utensils, twice. One guard watches my hands as I eat; another checks under the table. After I sit down, they make me roll up my sleeves and show my hands, both sides, like a magician.Look at my hands. The skin's a little cool—about 96.1 degrees F., if you're curious—and a little rigid: a shirt with extra starch. That skin can stop a bullet; it stopped five of them in my latest arrest as I ran up Seventh Avenue in my cape and helmet, sweating through the heavy cloth. The bruises are still there, not quite faded.I have a few other tricks. I'm strong, much stronger than should be possible for a mammal my size. Given time and inclination, I could overturn a semi, or rip an ATM out of a wall. I'm not a city-wrecker, not on my own. When Lily and I worked together, she handled that part of it. I'm mostly about the science. That's my main claim to life in the Special Containment Wing, where everything down to the showerheads is either titanium or set two inches deep in reinforced concrete. I'm also faster than I should be—something in the nerve pathways changed in the accident.Every once in a while a new prisoner comes after me, hoping to make his reputation by breaking a prison-made knife against my ribs, a stolen pencil, or a metal spoon folded over and sharpened. It happens at mealtimes, or in the exercise yard. There is a premonitory hush as soon as he steps into the magic circle, the empty space that moves with me. The guards never step in—maybe it's policy, to alienate me from the prison population, or maybe they just enjoy seeing me pull the trick, proof again that they're guarding the fourth-most-infamous man alive. I straighten a little in the metal chair, set my single plastic spoon down on the folding table.After the whip crack of the punch, there is silence, ringout, the sighing collapse. The heap of laundry is carried away and I'll be left alone again until the next tattooed hopeful makes his play. Inside, I want to keep going, keep fighting until the bullets knock me down, but I never do. I'm smarter than that. There are stupid criminals and there are smart criminals, and then there is me.This is so you know. I haven't lost any of what I am, my intrinsic menace, just because they took away my devices, my tricks, and my utility belt. I'm still the brilliant, the appalling, the diabolical Doctor Impossible, damn it. And yes, I am invincible.All superheroes have an origin. They make a big deal of it, the story of how they got their powers and their mission. Bitten by a radioactive bug, they fight crime; visited by wandering cosmic gods, they search for the lost tablets of so-and-so, and avenge their dead families. And villains? We come on the scene, costumed and leering, colorfully working out our inexplicable grudge against the world with an oversized zap gun or cosmic wormhole. But why do we rob banks rather than guard them? Why did I freeze the Supreme Court, impersonate the Pope, hold the Moon hostage?I happen to know they've got practically nothing in my file. A few old aliases, newspaper clippings, testimony from a couple of old enemies. A transcript from the Peterson School, and of course the accident report. The flash was visible for miles. That's what people talk about when they talk about who I am, a nerd with an attitude and subpar lab skills. But there was another accident, one that nobody saw, a slow disaster that started the morning I arrived there. Nowadays it has a name, Malign Hypercognition Disorder. They're trying to learn about it from me, trying to figure out whose eyes are going to be looking out at them from behind a mask in thirty years.I have a therapist here, "Steve," a sad-eyed Rogerian I'm taken to see twice a week in a disused classroom. "Do you feel angry?" "What did you really want to steal?" The things I could tell him—secrets of the universe! But he wants to know about my childhood. I try to relax and remind myself of my situation—if I kill him, they'll just send another.It could be worse—there are stories villains tell one another about the secret facilities out in the Nevada desert, the maximum-intensity enhanced containment facilities, for the ones they catch but are truly afraid of, the ones they can't kill and can only barely control. Fifty-meter shafts filled with concrete, frozen cells held to near absolute zero. Being here means playing a delicate game—I'm in the lion's jaws. I mustn't scare them too badly. But Steve has his questions. "Who was the first one to hit you?" "When did you leave home?" "Why did you want to control the world? Do you feel out of control?" The past creeps in, perils of an eidetic memory.It's a danger in my line of work to tell too much; I know that now. And last time I told them everything, giving it all away like a fool, how I was going to do it, how escape was impossible. And they just listened, smirking. And it would have worked, too. The calculations were correct.By the time the bus came that morning, it was raining pretty hard, and the world was a grayed-out sketch of itself, the bus a dim hulk as it approached, the only thing moving. Inside the bus shelter, the rain drummed hollowly on the plastic ceiling, and my glasses were fogging up. It was 6:20 a.m., and my parents and I were standing, stunned and half-awake, in the parking lot of a Howard Johnson's in Iowa.I knew that it was a special morning and that I should be feeling something, that this was one of the Big Events in a person's life, like marriage or a bar mitzvah, but I had never had a Big Event and I didn't know what it was supposed to be like. An hour earlier, my alarm had gone off; my mother stuffed me into a scratchy sweater that was starting to itch in the late September warmth. We trooped out to the car and drove through the gray, silent town, the deserted city center, and turned into the lot by the mighty I-80. When my mother cut the engine, there were a few seconds of silence as we listened to the rain rapping on the ceiling. Then my father said, "We'll wait with you at the bus stop." So we dashed across the steaming asphalt to the Plexiglas shelter. The rain sizzled down and cars and trucks swooshed by, and we stood there. Maybe someone said something.I was thinking about how that fall everything would start without me at Lincoln Middle School. In a few days, everyone I knew would be meeting their new teachers, and the accelerated math class would be starting geometry, doing proofs. In June, we had gotten a letter from the Iowa Department of Education, offering to send me to a new school they were starting called the Peterson School of Math and Science. The year before, they gave a standardized test during homeroom, and everyone who scored in the top half a percentile got a letter. They gave me a talk about whether I would miss my friends or Mr. Reynolds, my math teacher.I told them I would go. I didn't think about how weird it was going to be, waiting for a bus with my clothes in bags. The kids at school would remember me as the kid who never talked, who drew weird pictures and always wore the same clothes, and cried when he dropped his lunch, who was supposed to be reallyfa good at math. . . . Whatever happened to him? Where did he disappear to?The bus pulled in; a man got out and checked the fistful of signed forms I held out to him, then threw my bags into the compartment that opened in the metal side. My parents hugged me, and I climbed the steps into a warm darkness that smelled of strangers' breath. I walked unsteadily into the dimly fluorescent-lit space, glimpsing faces passing in rows, until I found a pair of empty seats just as the bus roared and pulled out of the parking lot. I remembered to look for a last glimpse of my parents watching me leave, then we surged up the on-ramp and into through traffic. Suddenly I hated the sopping morning and the impersonal helpfulness of my parents, always a little held back, as if they were afraid to know me; and I was glad to be gone, glad to have no part of them, to be where no one knew me, away from the quiet of their house, their self-restraint. I had a dim inner vision of myself rising up in flame.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"Winning, smart, and funny. It's terrific."
—Douglas Coupland

Meet the Author

Austin Grossman is a video-game design consultant and a doctoral candidate in English literature at the University of California, Berkeley, where he specializes in Romantic and Victorian literature. He lives in Berkeley.

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Soon I Will Be Invincible 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 71 reviews.
J_Blaze_Magic More than 1 year ago
I loved this, and I don't even like to read. It was such a cool idea, all the comic book cliches were fantasic, right down to the over-used lines such as: "You'll never stop me!" and "It's over for you!" Doctor Impossible was the best character. He was all the greatest and funniest super villains rolled into one. I also really liked Mister Mystic and Black Wolf - way cool. If you like comic books or movies based on comic books you HAVE to read this!
Esmeralda_Gypsy More than 1 year ago
I adored everything about this book. The characters were so much fun and so colorful, but completely stuck to the "comic book" genre ideas of how good guys and bad guys act toward each others. There were many comflicts amongst the Champions - the good guys - and Doctor Impossible - the bad guy and self-proclaimed "Smartest man on the planet" - had problems with them and all of his own ideas. He was definitely the coolest character. The twist with Lily was cool, too, and I really liked Damsel and Blackwolf. If you even kind of enjoy comic books or super hero sagas, you must read this! It is a great way to spend a rainy day!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't recommend this novel highly enough. One of the most satisfying reading experiences I've had in a very long while. It embraces the conventions of superhero comics and lovingly re-creates them, and the author has the confidence to take the subject matter seriously and avoid either pretense or mockery. Despite the growing appetite for superhero stories amongst the general public, I sense that there seems to be some unwritten rule that says that the genre is still primarily some glorified sub-section of children's literature. I've read way too many reviews for this book that seem almost apologetic for being positive, like somehow WIlliam Faulkner and Herman Melville are rolling in their graves because adults are reading a novel that has characters in it who can fly, and that such a novel was written without children as their primary intended audience. That's a load of bollocks. It's an insult to the intelligence of both the author and the readers. The former knows damn well what he's doing, and most of the latter are probably smart enough to know that they aren't reading Moby Dick.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Austin Grossman's debut novel Soon I Will Be Invincible rests on two points of view: that of super villain Doctor Impossible, who has an IQ of 300 and rookie superhero female cyborg Fatale. And there is the battle between good and evil, with people trying to take over the world in one way or another, but it's not always clear exactly who is doing what. Addressing childhood, shame, love, lust, and the weird twists of fate that make us who we are, the book shows how sometimes the difference between one path in life and another might be a chance word, a bit of kindness, and someone understanding. My daughter wasn't too fond of the writing, though for the most part I enjoyed it, with trite comic book dialog craftily placed to create a kind of character chiaroscuro, only the contrast not being between literal light and dark, but the metaphoric public and private parts of someone's psyche that help define the whole person. There were times that I thought the story got badly out of hand - for example, one character realizes the real identity of another and states it, when a hint would have done the trick and left one area of tension and suspense for resolution at the end for greater effect. But overall, worth the read and a book I can recommend.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Love the book, the comic book cliché¿s the ingenuity of the evil Dr. Impossible. Can¿t help to feel sorry for the bad guy on this one, you actually root for the guy most of the times. It does remind me of the Disney movie 'The Impossibles'. I am tell you this is a must read if you one day thinking about ruling the world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed 'Soon' immensely. It paid homage to not just comic book super heroes, but comic booke readers anyone who considers themselves a fan of comic books should read this. Austin Grossman adds a level of reality to his characters that has never before been attempted in comic book literature. In essence, he casts his characters in a very human light when they are, indeed, more than human. My only problem with teh book (so noted by the score of 4 out of 5 stars) was the terribly weak ending. Ambiguity is a comic book staple, however the climax was, well, anti-climactic. The only way this would truly suck is if Austin Grossman left it there: If he writes sequals, I will forgive him this transgression. Enjoy this fun and funny read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best books I've read in a very, very long time. The story of a comic book evil genius that has you hoping that he WILL dominate the world. Few books have made me laugh so much! I highly recommend this book - it will be well worth your time.
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I've re-read this book so many times I felt I had to leave a review. This book is a huge amount of fun and the characters are great. Anyone that is a fan of comic books or superheroes will love this book.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fun read from the eyes of a supervillian. The ending is weak and cliche, but fun for fans of superheroics
MrtGroo More than 1 year ago
Very enjoyable read. The book is a fun read of a story told from the view of the Supervillian. I highly recommend it.
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Definite page turner, I couldn't wait to see what happened next. While the heroes were pretty simplistic analogues of well-known ones, the narration taking place in the heads of the top villian and a secondary hero was a fresh approach.
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This book was too short, and didn't have enough character development for a superhero ensemble story. That said, it has some fresh takes on various popular superhero archetypes. I get the sense that the author edited out a lot of what he wanted to say.
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