Soon I Will Be Invincible

Soon I Will Be Invincible

by Austin Grossman

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307279866
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/10/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 167,923
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.69(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About 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.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

FOILED AGAIN

This 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 sidearms. 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, 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. The original accident report, maybe. 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 really 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.

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"Winning, smart, and funny. It's terrific."
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Soon I Will Be Invincible 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 77 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.
yarmando on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Enjoyable, with a great premise. I really liked the initial chapters, but I thought the energy waned as the plot took over. The idea of "evil genius" as a specific affliction (Malign Hypercognition Disorder) cracked me up, as did Doctor Impossible's matter-of-fact characterization of the lives of the super-powered:"Wearing a cape doesn't do much for your social life.""Once you get past a certain threshold, everyone's problems are the same: fortifying your island and hiding the heat signature from your fusion reactor.""The ability to stretch your limbs or secrete acids can wreak havoc on the human metabolism. There's a fine line between a superpower and a chronic medical condition."
drneutron on LibraryThing 3 months ago
What a cool little book delving into the psychology of superheros, and especially, supervillians! Not only did I devour it, but my teenage son and his friend both got interested. Maybe Dad isn't so dumb after all...
xevver on LibraryThing 3 months ago
A fun romp into the world of comic book heroes and villains. The plot's not hard to follow. Evil genius Doctor Impossible tries to take over the world. Rookie cyborg Fatale and her team try to stop him. Certainly no War & Peace, but a well written and engaging story. While I hoped for a little more substance behind the characters, Austin does a good job of staying within the limitations of the genre, even if that means that his two main characters are no more than archetypes. That said, I was hooked. It kind of reminds me of MGD; sure, it's not the best tasting beer, but sometimes you just want something you can chug.
ben_a on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Bought in hardcover as a treat after a long (24 hours out of 32) crunch at work, and consumed greedily over the next two days. Those fond of the superhero genre will find its charm irresistible. This book teems with delights: chapters entitled "we are not so different, you and I," "join me and we cannot be defeated," notes in passing a newspaper headline "hypnotized Queen weds scoundrel." Only an ending that tails off denies it the full four stars. Recommended. "In street clothes I'd just be a criminal. Which I am, of course, but in the costume I'm something more. I wear the flag of a country that never existed and the uniform of its glorious army, spreading forth the dominion of the invincible empire of me."(8.11.07)
MSWallack on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Fascinating look at what life as a superhero or supervillain might be like in a "real" world. The villain, Doctor Impossible, agonizes over his many failed plots and notes, repeatedly, how painful it is when the superheroes defeat him, while the heroine, Fatale, suffers from insecurity and is surrounded by other heroes with their own "human" flaws (like failed marriages, alcoholism, etc.). If you enjoy comic books or superhero movies, then this is probably a must read. However, be warned, that while the author has many good ideas, he is occassionally a bit windy and tends to repeat certain thoughts over and over (and over and over) again and again (and again and again). A bit more tightness in editing would have been welcome. I hope to read more about Fatale and other members of the New Champions.
jimtrue on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Engagingly fun read, especially if you are a pop culture geek and always loved the stories of super heroes and their arch villains. I especially loved how the author just assumes that this entire world of super beings is natural and bypasses any sense of exposition to explain it.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago