Everybody Cut Loose

OverpoweredQuestion: Is overpowered a bad thing? In other words, is there such a thing as having too much power? Does Superman wish for diminished invulnerability? Would Thor trade his mighty Mjollnir for a rubber mallet?

Answer: Of course not. Being “overpowered” is generally considered to be a good thing.

Except when it’s not. When four teenagers in a small Colorado town suddenly develop superpowers they find out how horrible being overpowered can truly be. Caught in a mysterious green pulse one night, the kids are unwittingly turned into human weapons; “the cutting edge of stealth warfare,” they are later told.

And that’s a big problem. Overnight they’ve become precious chattel to be sold to the highest bidder. The U.S., China, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan—imagine what any of these countries could do with an army lead by a telekinetic, an invisible girl, a guy who can shoot electricity out of his fingertips, and a kid who can leap extraordinary distances in a single bound. The asking price: one hundred billion dollars.

That’s a lot of cash money. And that’s what Bar Tech Industries, a local super-secret tech firm, is hoping to squeeze out of the fantastic four teenagers. First, however, it has to hunt them down, capture them, and conscript them. And that’s not going to be easy.

More than anything else, Overpowered is a novel about superhumans. But it doesn’t start off that way. It’s more like a horror novel in the beginning. When Nikaela “Nica” Ashley first moves to Barrington, she immediately senses that something is wrong. She knows that all the adults in town are keeping a big, bad secret. In this way, Overpowered is similar to Rosemary’s Baby. The kids in Barrington are strange too. “They looked like they had jumped out of the pages of a J.Crew or American Eagle catalog,” says Nica. And this is when the novel starts to resemble The Stepford Wives. And, finally, when Nica and her pals Jackson, Maya, and Oliver develop superhuman abilities and become suburban rebels, the novel slips unexpectedly, but not unwelcomingly, into Footloose territory.

It’s a crazy mix of influences, that’s for sure. But we liked Overpowered for these disparate qualities. Author Mark Kruger is aware of his influences and savvy enough to rewrite them for a new generation. As an extra bonus, the novel also contains a bit of philosophy as well. In this way, it’s sort of like an X-Men comic book written by Thomas Hobbes. Nica and her pals may be X-traordinary. But that doesn’t mean they’re exempt from their social contract. It just means that they’ll have to fight extra hard to retain their freedom.

[Overpowered / By Mark H. Kruger / First Printing: August 2013 / ISBN: 9781442431287]

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