Echo and the Supermen

Superheroes from Russia and the U.S. unite to battle Nazi robots from outer space. Wait a minute. Is this the sequel to Battle: Los Angeles, or what?

Nope. According to front cover text, it’s “the beginning of a new shared universe epic series” from Mercedes Lackey and her scribbling sidekicks. Actually, it’s not very new at all. Lackey and compnay have been penning their Secret World Chronicles since 2006. A fanbase has already been established (having been entertained via numerous podcasts), and now their zeal is being rewarded with a piece of dead-tree media to display on their bookshelves.

For new readers, however, there’s a lot of catching up to do. Invasion hits them over the head with a knotty barrage of names and backstory information. Even without the alien invasion crisis, there’s a lot to absorb. The metahumans have been around since WWII and their genealogy spans multiple generations and taints every country and political coup on the planet. The relationships, escapades, and subterfuge shared by these superheroes could fill an ever-expanding encyclopedia. Here, the authors try to squeeze it all into a relatively slim 400-page novel.

Mostly they succeed. There’s some deliberate skimming, skirting, and foreshadowing going on, but it’s all positioned for dramatic effect. The novel is packed with a large supporting cast, and naturally some of them only get a cursory mention (Divine Wind, Japan’s ichiban superson, gets a measly eight-word blip, for example). But otherwise, the authors do their best when focusing on a tight circle of main characters.

The metahumans from Russia (the Super-Sobratiye Sovetskikh Revolutzionerov) are the best of the bunch—especially their team captain, Natalya Nikolaevna Shostakovich, callsign Red Saviour II. She’s “a statuesque woman with raven hair” whose closet is filled with tight red clothing. Without question she is the novel’s breakout star. Not only is she a charismatic badass, but she’s funny too. “Is time to give up your decadent, exploitative lifestyle, and get good factory jobs,” she tells a gang of criminals in Atlanta. She’s determined to save the world from space invaders and convert everyone to communism at the same time.

There are a lot of loose story threads dangling at the end of the novel. But that’s okay. The Secret World Chronicle is shaping up to be a satisfying and long-running Wild Cards-like venture. We’re already anxious to find out more about the Thule Society, the Metis, the Program, Seraphym, Bill, the Mountain, and, of course, the inscrutable NaziMecha from outer space that caused the entire ruckus in the first place.

[Invasion: Book One of the Secret World Chronicle / By Mercedes Lackey, Steve Libbey, Cody Martin, Dennis Lee / First Printing: March 2011 / ISBN: 9781439134191]

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