by John W Otte
Paperback, 416 pages
Published April 1st 2012 by Marcher Lord Press
Why did Robin Laughlin (aka. Failstate) think being a superhero on a reality show would be a good idea again?
Things seemed so simple: win the show, become an official, licensed hero.
But with his brother, Ben (aka. Gauntlet) stealing America's heart and his own powers proving too unwieldy even for the monitored studio challenges, Robin begins to wonder if his calling isn't to save the world after all.
Until one of his competitors is murdered.
Vowing to find the killer, Robin sets out on a very real quest to unmask the hidden villain. Can Robin find justice? Or will his lunk of a big brother ruin everything?Publishers Weekly Starred Review:
“Otte nails the concept . . . He balances fantasy with teen hormones in a clever and page-turning debut . . . The amusing noirish atmosphere of the setting draws older readers . . . A TV show full of sequel possibilities.”
My Final Review:
First, a confession. I reviewed the first 1/4 of Failstate back on May 28th.
*pause*That means I have been reading this book of 416 pages for 18 days.
*pause*I feel like a fish, opening and closing my mouth. It's true that my life has been crazy-busy (See Fairytale True Version) and that my computer crashed right before all that (See Top o' the Roller Coaster) but 18 days?!?!
So, for starters, let's point out that Failstate is a Great Read-Aloud Choice for the Summer. *ahem* The action is fast-pace and the various tensions are strong so I had to return even when I only had time to read a few pages. Also... I never lost track of where I was at. The world is unique and the characters are memorable. The whole book is in Robin's POV, which is perfect for not getting lost. *cough*
There's a rhythm to the writing, which worked well for me. Excitement was followed by pauses... most often in the blue nebulous blob of the police and hours of questioning. Rather than creating a gothic world where buildings can be destroyed randomly without anyone noticing, Otte dropped Superheroes right into the "real world" where authorities frown on breaking through walls and stuff. [You'd think those blues would remember these Superheroes from the last time they saw them a few days ago... or maybe the action took place in different precincts... and they don't watch the news.... ??] The pauses were handy. I read other reviews where Failstate is best read all at once, and I have to ask, what book isn't?! But THIS book would be exciting enough to pick up night after night if you set it down, is all I'm sayin'. Say, if you have a middle grade or YA reluctant reader in your house and you're like, "I need an EXCITING book for them to read this summer 'cause the school wants 'em to read two books and then they go and assign 'em a classic which will be like pulling teeth to get 'em to read"... well, in those cases, THIS is a GREAT book!!!
I continued to love Robin throughout the book. I grew to love his brother right along with Robin, which was cool. Their mother steadily grew more irritating, even when the tension is resolved, it's not enough for me. No mother could treat her boys like that woman did. Grrrrrr. Veritas is totally awesome and there are lots and lots of minor characters, all with beautiful flaws. I thoroughly enjoyed the bad guys, too. They were just enough deranged, psychotic, misguided... and super intelligent that they were GREAT.
So quickie summary?
Light, fun read. Perfect for busy days and all ages. New Twist on SuperHeroes - current world setting, hidden alter-egos. Great, deep characters incl. awesome hero. Epic feel, fast-paced "who-dun-it?" Great ethics, believable faith.How's that? Hey, for me, "brief"!!!
Cover Commentary - I'm still confused by the cover. Looks more cartoony than the innards are. Someone attracted to the cover won't be disappointed, but... this book appeals to a wide audience, I think, and the cover is narrowery.
My Rating: 3.5 - Worth the Time. Love the writing style, characters, pace. Irritated with the too-easy coincidences & repetitive, nebulous authority scenes. I WILL BUY A PRINT COPY OF THIS BOOK FOR MY BOYS!! I think the parts that bugged me won't phase 'em a lick & they'll LOVE the parts I enjoyed.
Now for the fun stuff!!!
John graciously replied to my email and answered some Interview Questions!!! :-D
So... this totally gets me off the hook for taking over three weeks to read his book, right?! Yes, Team Novel Teen?! Thank you for providing me a copy of Failstate for my Nook in return for my review.
Now... onto fun author-scoop!!
I really enjoy the feel of being behind the scenes in a reality TV show. Where did the creativity of this scenario come from?
Two different places, and I'm kind of ashamed of both of them.
When I first came up with the story, I thought of Failstate and Gauntlet and their story first. But I knew I needed something a little extra to punch it up a little. I had just finished reading The Hunger Games books and I thought that maybe reality TV would be a good way to do that. So yes, I was blatantly trying to cash in on a trendy book. They tell you not to do that, but in this case, it kind of worked.
The second place is the fact that I watch more than a few reality TV shows. Parts of America's Next Superhero came from one of my favorites, So You Think You Can Dance. But one is a bit embarrassing. A number of years ago, my wife got me hooked on America's Next Top Model. That's where a lot of the inspiration came from (like the title of the show, for instance).
Well, I watch a lot of reality TV, too, although I think "reality" is a bit, well, NOT REALLY, which you showed behind-the-scenes, which was cool.
I love how all the super-heroes are so flawed. Failstate is especially fun, having to cover up. I'm fascinated with the world-building. Can you share some of your favorite aspects of this creative reality?
My favorite part? You mean besides all of it? ;) Actually, some of my favorite stuff is parts of the world-building that I couldn't use in the book. For example, in the early going, I came up with an explanation as to how the superheroes got their powers and I incorporated that into the story pretty heavily. But due to length considerations, I had to cut that out. And I've done some ruminating on the history of licensed heroes. I couldn't use that either, but it will feature more prominently in the still as-of-yet untitled sequel.
Ah.... I was curious how they got their powers, but it didn't take away from the story to remain in the dark on that. Maybe a Pre-Story?!
Are you writing now? What's next?
I'm writing the sequel to Failstate! I'm about 3/4s of the way through the first draft right now and I'm looking forward to unleashing this one on the world. It should be a lot of fun. There are zombies in it. Sort of.
Can you share something personal about you? Something unusual-ish? Hobby, pet, pet-peeve?
Boy, unusual? Me? That's not really narrowing it down all that much. ;) Well, I'm a Lutheran pastor, which isn't that unusual. But when I was in the Seminary, I once broke my arm while swordfighting. That was a fun story to tell people. Some friends of mine used to build padded swords and every Saturday, we'd get together and wail on each other for an hour. Well, the first time I tried it, I wound up breaking my arm. I had to go to a sports medicine place to get it x-rayed. The med tech didn't believe me when I told her how I broke it.
Then, a year later, I wound up breaking a thumb the same way. I went back to the same sports medicine clinic to get an x-ray. And wouldn't you know it, the same x-ray tech was working. The first words out of her mouth were, "You haven't been sword fighting again, have you?"
Yeah, I don't do that anymore.
That sounds fun. Not breaking bones, but sword fighting. I bet I'd be a whiz if I'd ever learnt!! Lol.
Thanks for comin' to Colorimetry!! I'm looking forward to your next book!!!
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