Starter Villain by John Scalzi review
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: JOHN SCALZI is one of the most popular SF authors of his generation. His debut Old Man’s War won him the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. His New York Times bestsellers include The Last Colony, Fuzzy Nation,and Redshirts (which won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel), and 2020’s The Last Emperox. Material from his blog, Whatever, has also earned him two other Hugo Awards. Scalzi also serves as critic-at-large for the Los Angeles Times. He lives in Ohio with his wife and daughter.
Publisher: Tor Books (September 19, 2023) Print length: 272 Formats: ebook, audio, paperback
A stupid villain threatens, Charlie. A smarter villain offers a service.
Starter Villain is awesome. Its selling points include executive-level cats, awful billionaires, and vengeful working-class dolphins. A briskly paced and funny story seals the deal.
Charlie’s life sucks. All he wants is to open a pub downtown, but even getting a loan from the bank seems like an impossible feat. Basically, his stray cats have better credit ratings than he does. He could pack his entire set of assets in barely functioning Maxima inherited from his father. Things are bad but Scalzi makes them even worse for him 🙂
Charlie had a rich uncle who made billions as the owner of parking lots. Not sexy. Except, Uncle’s businesses were more…diversified. With villainy being the most profitable one. His uncle’s right hand introduces Charlie to the world of villains. Including an island volcano lair. And a lot of powerful enemies are coming for him.
Starter Villain has an easygoing, tongue-in-cheek style that makes it a pleasure to read. I know Scalzi can write darker stuff, but he’s also a brilliant writer of satire. He has a clean writing style, excels in writing dialogue, and captivates readers with ease. Rather than showing off his writing skills, he prioritizes storytelling and keeping readers engaged.
Charlie’s foray into super-villainy makes him understand it’s more corporate than it is evil. It turns out the business is more corporate than evil. As it turns out, villains are professional disruptors who identify the need and do things faster and cheaper than governments or global companies. They even offer a subscription service. And let’s not forget about the well-kept secrets of the business – sentient cats, anyone? Scalzi’s portrayal of the supervillain business is both amusing and spot-on.
The characters and their interactions had me laughing. Good guys are instantly likable and quirky. Charlie’s a bright guy, so he gets the hang of things quickly. However, as often seen in satires/comedic tales, some characters lack nuance. The bad guys have no redeeming qualities. There’s not much subtlety here, but it works for the story and its tone. Does anyone watch older James Bond movies for subtle character development? Don’t think so. We’re doing it for fun, action, and for despicable villains.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Starter Villain and highly recommend it to anyone looking for intelligent and humorous entertainment. The book is enjoyable and imaginative, but also comes with a moral lesson – be kind to cats!
In short, if you’re looking for a fun and witty read that will keep you engaged from start to finish, then this book is definitely worth checking out.