Book Review: Seven Wonders

I recently finished Adam Christopher’s Seven Wonders and unfortunately, I’m not really thrilled.*

A great start!

The book starts off with a bang, I can’t remember the last book that really got me like Seven Wonders. (Ok, I can. It was The Reapers are the Angels). We start in a bank being robbed by a supervillain and his henchmen, and we are introduced to the protagonist, Tony, who is wondering whether he should use his newly discovered superpowers to stop the robbery. The villain is dark and evil and the reader really gets a sense of the terror he holds over the residents of San Ventura in general, and the people in the bank in particular. Tony makes a move, slams into the villain and runs with superspeed out of the bank and then flies into the air. The chapter ends in a cliffhanger, where Tony and the villain, The Cowl, lose consciousness in the air over the ocean and fall into the drink from a great height. I could not wait to read more!

Unfortunately, the book is downhill from there.

We go back a few days and get to know Tony. Sort of. I just finished the book, and I have no idea whether Tony even has parents, what he wanted to do with his life or much of anything about him apart from the immediacy of his life in the novel. We are also introduced to a number of superheroes, most notably San Ventura’s Seven Wonders, superheroes that are uniform, superpower and nothing else.  Batman is interesting because he has a history and is vulnerable. None of the Seven Wonders are interesting, because they have no history as individuals, and seem to be less-than-busy but still lead no lives.

*SPOILER WARNING* Everything below this point will ruin the book for you.

Plotless Wonder

The main drive behind the events in the book is the fact that the main villain, The Cowl, is losing his powers and Tony is gaining powers. Tony is initially good, then quickly turns bad for no reason whatsoever, apart from getting angry at the store. The Cowl, upon losing his powers, has an epiphany and turns good and is admitted into the Seven Wonders despite no longer having any superpowers. There is fighting, Tony against the Seven Wonders but I really had stopped caring why the superheroes fought. You see, I had invested my emotion in caring about Tony, an everyman gaining superpowers to fight a villain that the other superheroes had been unable to defeat. But he is now bad and I can’t root for him. There are cops investigating The Cowl, about to figure out who he is when he becomes Paragon after his epiphany and the Seven Wonders tell the detectives that he is now under their protection. So no, we can’t root for them either.

But wait! In a new twist, aliens are coming to destroy the earth. But wait! In a new twist of events Tony is dead! But wait! Now Tony is alive again, fighting the aliens because.. I can’t remember. I really didn’t care what was going on in the second half of the book and turned the pages fairly quickly, only so I could review the book honestly.

Verdict

If Mr. Christopher had written a story that was half the size of this one and given the reader something to care about I might give him more than two stars. Alas, he did not. It is not all bad. There are moments where the author shines, and this is during the action sequences. The problem is that I never found myself caring, but they are written well and the pacing is good. However, I can’t even get myself to recommend this book for hard fans of superheroes since it is just too dam long and complicated. Comparisons to Watchmen are unwarranted, to say the least.

On his own website, the author displays a great number of positive reviews, so many, in fact, that I wonder whether I’m wrong. I have enough confidence, however, to know that I am not. After all, he could now blurb his book with my name and the quote: “The author shines during the fight sequences”  He could, but he probably won’t.

Two stars.

*I received an advance readers copy from the publisher, Angry Robot Books.

Addendum

I thought about not posting this review, but after the recent internet-talk about book reviews I decided to post. I do not know the author, though I have talked to him on twitter, and although the publisher gave me a copy of the book, I do not feel I owe them a positive review. I also thought about emailing the contact at Angry Robot Books and offering him not posting this review. I decided against it. If I want people to trust me when I say books are good, I have to tell them about the times I read books that I think are bad.

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8 thoughts on “Book Review: Seven Wonders

  1. I’ve seen this cover popping up quite a bit — usually via something Wendig’esque — and had considered giving it a read sometime in the next couple of weeks. May have to reconsider now.

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      1. I’ve come to gather it’s got something to do with superheros in an urban setting (I like knowing as little about a potential read as possible, so I turn on the selectivity when skimming reviews).

        The Wendig tie-in and the cover made it stand out (fantastic cover, actually), but you are right-on about the bias.

        I’ve been considering an exploration of reading books that receive low reviews from people who generally have similar tastes in fiction, though. Seems like a good place to start.

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  2. I could see how some folks could like it – even love it. If you’ve got an extensive background reading superheroes in comic books, you’ll recognize all the super-tropes and will probably love it. However, I think the bizarre plot twists and crazy super-antics works will in comic books because they were serialized. A reader had to wait a week or month for the next installment, all the while trying to figure out how the superhero would thwart the super-villain, or try to out-guess what the writer will come up to get a superhero or other characters out of a bind. So, the writers HAD to come up with outlandish plot twists that really didn’t make a lot of sense. However, all this didn’t work for me in novel form (I’m not a comic book reader, so probably wouldn’t work for me at all). It all just didn’t make sense! I mean, why on earth would the supers carry around the non-supers? They just got in the way (conveniently) or were put in danger (conveniently). It all ended up as a very frustrating experience for me. Well, now that I ranted…but it might work for those who love all that crazy comic book stuff.

    Oh, by the way, I talked to my representative with Angry Robot Books about this and he said good, bad or ugly – they want an honest review. I was very happy about that, considering all the internet hoopla about paid positive-reviews.

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  3. Hi Johann,

    I just wanted to let you know that I read “Empire State”, Adam Christopher’s debut novel (also from Angry Robot), and a lot of the faults you find in “Seven Wonders” were also present in “Empire State”. That book had weird, nonsensical plot twists and lots of new information added near the end that just made things confusing.

    When I saw all the positive reviews for “Empire State”, I felt the same way you did above – that sense of “what am I missing?”. I just wanted to let you know that you’re not alone in your assessment of Christopher’s writing.

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