A Once Crowded Sky: A Novel

A Once Crowded Sky: A Novel


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This critically acclaimed and inspired debut novel brings to life a universe of superheroes stripped of their powers and forced to confront danger in a world without heroes—save one.

A tour de force debut novel from a former CIA counterterrorism officer, A Once Crowded Sky fuses bombastic, comic-book-style storytelling with modern literary fiction. Supermen stripped of their powers must wrestle danger in a world without heroes.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781451652017
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 07/09/2013
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 249,199
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.12(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Tom King worked for the counterterrorism unit at the Central Intelligence Agency following the events of 9/11. Before the CIA, he worked for DC Comics and Marvel. He lives in Washington, D.C. Visit AOnceCrowdedSky.com.

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A Once Crowded Sky: A Novel 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not a person who reads comic books, but I read an excellent review of this novel on the AV Club and I picked it up. I really thought it lived up to the review. An enjoyable read with a little bit of poetry.
tapestry100 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't think it's any surprise around here that I love comic books. They captured my imagination when I was a kid, and 30ish years later, they still capture my imagination. Over the years, the stories have grown up too (at least, I think so), and characters and trends have come and gone, and my interest has waxed and waned, yet I always come back to them. And I hope that they continue to capture my imagination far into the future, because they can seriously just be so much damned fun!So, when I first heard about A Once Crowded Sky, I couldn't wait to get my hands one it. The book blurbs had said that Tom King, a former CIA agent who also worked as an intern at Marvel Comics and DC Comics, has written a book that takes everything that's great about comic books and put it into literary fiction. And you know what? They were right.A Once Crowded Sky is the story of PenUltimate, the last existing superhero in Arcadia City, the only hero to still have his powers and who would still be able to play in the great and wonderful game of superheroes and villains, if there were any left. But, there are not. He is the last. And why is he the last, you ask? Well, all I can say to that is, "Spoilers!". I actually can't go into a whole lot of the plot or storyline in the book, for just that reason. The story plays out as it needs to play out, and I'm afraid that if I were to give anything away, I'd be ruining something. So, I'll just talk about my feelings during and after reading.First off, King plays by the rules of comic books in his story. The heroes fight the villains, fight amongst themselves, save the day, do the impossible, and start all over again next month. In this world, the rules of the comic book and the monthly publishing timeline work to their advantage. This is something that I particularly loved about the book, their inner knowledge that this is how things worked in their universe. All the superheroes understand this, and that's part of what is hard for them, now that their powers are gone. They're very self-aware of their part to play in the grand scheme of their universe, and now that it's gone, they are trying to piece their lives back together as best they can. King does such a great job of writing this as a comic book come to literary life, that when I was reading it, I had the same feeling of "so much damned fun" that I get when I'm reading a really well written/drawn comic book. He understands the pacing needed to make a good comic, and translates it perfectly into literary form. As more of what is happening in the background of the story and more is revealed to what the whole story was about, that feeling just continued to grow. Everything about this book is just "so much damned fun"! However, the great thing about this book is that King has written it in such a way that even those who are not fans of comic books could enjoy it.I'd really like to see more form Tom King in the future. If this is what we're getting from him on his literary debut, I'm anxious to see what he can do next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Zot79 More than 1 year ago
Interesting, literate, flawed examination of a comic book world When I read the cover blurb for this, it sounded like something I would really like--an examination of super heroes, power, failure and redemption along the lines of Watchmen, but in prose. It is all that. But it takes a while to get there. And the reader is required to put in some effort to jump into a story in progress and hold onto the disparate story threads until they are woven into something more coherent. The writing is good, if at times a little stylized, written in the present tense like a comic book. This keeps things moving. The characters are many and varied and have realistic, for the story world, reactions to things. What ultimately disappoints is that the story feels like it wants to be epic. The characters and setting demand and imply it. But it's not. It's a little thin and repetitive where it should be dense and action packed. I think comic book fans will be intrigued enough by the premise to push through and enjoy this book. Fans of literature might also be interested enough to see how this experiment turns out. I doubt that others will find enough here to captivate them through the end. [Disclosure: I received a free copy for review.]
Sailon More than 1 year ago
All the super heroes, except 1, have given up their powers to Ultimate to fight the Blue. Some energy force cause the villains to kill themselves so now the use to be heroes must adjust to life without villains and powers. While they are still adjusting to their new roles, The Blue shows up on earth.  The powerless heroes must rally together, including the reluctant side lick, Pen Ultimate. Pen Ultimate was Ultimate's side kick and the only one that chose to keep his powers. A choice that was ridiculed by the rest of the hero pantheon. This story is extremely descriptive and vividly expressed. Tom King colorfully draws an intriguing comic book world come to life in A Once Crowded Sky. I did find the story quite predictable with the characters “sides” clearly defined...taking away the suspense. A Once Crowded Sky is an intriguing, interesting and original comic style story. I received this copy of A Once Crowded Sky from Touchstone - Simon & Schuster, Inc. in exchange for a honest review.  Written by: Tom King Hardcover: 336 pages Publisher: Touchstone  Publication Date: July 10, 2012 ISBN-10: 1451652003 Rating: 3 Genre: Comic Fiction Contemporary
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TimothyCWard More than 1 year ago
Reviewed at SF Signal REVIEW SUMMARY: Comic book in prose sends us inside the heads of heroes and villains fighting for the world and those they love. BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A mysterious threat to Arcadia forces the last superhero to choose between being a husband and saving the world. MY REVIEW PROS: Superhero adventure with heart, mystery, and immersive action that makes reading about these characters a moving experience. CONS: The prose may take too many liberties in what the reader understands to be happening, and the mystery of The Blue may be too slow of a burn to hold some reader's attention. BOTTOM LINE: May require more concentration and patience than some readers will give, but if they do, they'll be rewarded with a philosophical gem on heroes, sacrifice, and the meaning of life in a corrupt world. I don't read comic books and I'm not really a fan of superheroes. That said, I can appreciate a tremendous cover, and was intrigued by the premise of a world where all but one of the superheroes gave up their powers to save the world. The one who didn't, PenUltimate, chose to stay home with his wife instead of joining the rest of the superheroes on the day they gave up their powers to Ultimate so that he could defeat The Blue. Ultimate is killed entering The Blue and all the superheroes are bitter, both because they have to live like normal people, and because PenUltimate, the sidekick of Ultimate, was too much of a coward to help them. The story that follows centers on Pen's struggle to avoid the responsibility of his powers when a new terror starts attacking their city. The most relateable and engaging aspect of A Once Crowded Sky is Pen's struggle between his promise to his wife and his promise to his dream job. Pen starts the story rushing between saving the day and coming back home to apologize for broken promises to be with his wife. As a reader, we too want him to save the day for the innocents, but we also want a happy ending for him and his wife. This is emphasized by a powerfully emotional section in the middle of the book in which Pen is forced to choose one or the other, and which springboards the reader toward the end. Another strong component of A Once Crowded Sky is the mystery that is The Blue, a source of light that kills everything it touches, including Ultimate, the ultimate superhero. I won't spoil the fun for you, but the key, as well as the moral of the story, is found somewhere within the metaphor of The Game. In Tom's world, superheroes are required to play by the rules of The Game, which makes the story feel like comic book characters came to life, spandex and all, both to fight crime and make their wives pancakes. This added an unexpected depth of philosophy and realism in a book about superheroes. Here's a sample, as spoken by Soldier to Pen: "This world's cruel, this game, and it ain't got an inch for children... It's just doing what you can, or else someone else dies. Those are the rules. That's the choice. Showing up. That's the game. That's all it is. That and it never ends." Also notable is the author's immersive style of storyshowing, which is a bad pun meant to say he shows you the story instead of telling it to you, which puts you into the characters' heads to experience the action as they do. Here's an example: The fire blasts yellow-blue and then crackles into waves of orange that rumble through the room. The tips of his hair singe, and Pen drops to the floor, allows the worst of the heat to rest over his head, makes sure to keep his hands locked down on the table. The flames hook into his skin and wrench his flesh upward; but his grip's sure, and he holds. The wooden ceiling brace above his head'll fall, but he can't move for another fourteen seconds, not until the smacker's across. He stiffens his body in anticipation of the impact, and when the blow comes--the beam snapping on his back, swaddling foot-long slivers around his skin, slopping sand inside his nostrils and eyelids--Pen retains his stance, his hands slipping, but still pushing, holding. There is room for improvement, but the prose is unique and very effective. Part of the downfall was in the few parts where the immersive style included flashbacks and thoughts that were lost me. Sometimes the style really added to my interest in the characters, and sometimes it slowed the pace or just plain confused me. The Blue is a riddle, and until it starts making sense, it's easy to put the book down after one of his scenes breaks. Page 121 is where I decided I was going to finish, so it may take a little perseverance to get to the point where you have to finish as well. I think it's worth it. I liked the innovative way he made me feel like I was reading a comic, yet with prose that put me deep enough into the character's heads that I left with a moving experience.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mr. King's novel examines a world that once was full of superheros, until they all voluntarily give up their powers to defeat a particularly deadly menace. One of the more darkly humourous aspects of this situation is that the world gets along fine without its costumed protectors, while the newly mundane heroes lapse into depression, regret & alcholism. When a new threat emerges the heroes look to the last hero with powers to set it right, even though he is really only intetested in living a normal life. A Once Crowded Sky is a self conciously literary novel that seeks to examine both the nature of superheroes & superhero stories. There is much reflection on the role stories play in shaping the world and our place in it. I would reccomend it alongside Alan Moore's Watchmen in that both works are interested in what a world with superheroes would actually look, although King is intetested in the literary nature of superheroes while Moore's work is considerably bleaker.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First of all, i really enjoyed this book. It was a nice change of pace from my list of epic fantasy books I've been reading. The story really grabs your emotions throughout it while evenly spreading out some comic book action. The entire time, i could imagine it shot how the "Watchmen" comic book was made into a movie. It was fun to see what the author had learned in his time as an intern for Marvel and DC comics. I look forward to more books by him. Give it a shot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have to say I really enjoyed this book. It reminded me of so many good comic stories and graphic novels, but I didn't look at it as any of those other formats. I think you you read it as a novel like it's intended I think it would be easier to accept rather than compare it to comics. Even though it deals with comic book characters. As far as the story I found it very moving in places. Very emotional as well. I could almost feel for the main characters in the book. At times you can see the action of the story unfold right there in front of you. I enjoyed all the background stories of the characters as well,where they came from and there deep secrets. You where feeling what they where feeling. It also reminded me a lot of watchman and the struggles of those characters as well. Overall I think the book was well written and exciting to read. I blew through it in 3 days. The only thing I didn't like was it seemed to go a couple of chapters to long. I think the author was trying to make a certain point and lost it in to much complex meaning. Only a few times did it seem to get lost a little in itself. Other than that I would highly recommend this book. It was a fun read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this to be an interesting and engaging read with characters that captured my interest from the outset and sustained my curiosity until the last page. I enjoyed how the author played with the different formats for telling the story (e.g. the interplay of narration and graphic novel) - I found that it added great dimension to the story. All in all it was a very enjoyable and thought provoking read!