Lessons in Supervillainy

Almost Infamous“At first, like every kid, I wanted to be a superhero,” said Aiden Salt looking back at his infamous career choice. “If I was ever going to stand a chance at fame, fortune, and pussy, becoming a superhero was my best bet.”

But young Aiden knew that becoming a superhero was difficult. Despite having powerful telekinetic powers, the path to superhero fame would take years of training and a lot of luck. For a lazy kid like him, supervillainy was an acceptable Plan B. It had its risks, of course, but he could play by his own rules and he’d be able to keep 100 percent of the profits. Plus, being a supervillain would give him a boost of bad boy sex appeal. And he knew the ladies would like that.

His first foray as a supervillain doesn’t go very smoothly, however. Making his debut as Apex Strike, Aiden botched a simple liquor store holdup and had a disastrous encounter with a superhero. Still, despite everything, he made time for a little self-promotion during his retreat. “When posting about me,” he told a crowd of onlookers, “remember to hashtag my name: #ApexStrike.”

Aiden’s initial failure turned into a surprising success. The folks on social media couldn’t stop talking about the appearance of a new and mysterious supervillain. Overnight he had become infamous. And to Aiden, that meant he was doing something right.

Too bad a team of superheroes called the Protectors showed up at his home a few weeks later. Aiden was busted before he could commit another clumsy heist.

He ends up on an island somewhere in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea with a bunch of other incarcerated super delinquents. As it turns out, the heroes had a plan. In order to keep themselves relevant (and well-funded), they needed to assemble a group of compliant supervillains to stir the pot occasionally. “You will fight us,” said Blackjack, the facilitator of the initiative. “Sometimes you’ll win and sometimes you’ll lose. Mostly you’ll lose, because you losin’ makes people know that the heroes are out there to protect them.”

From this point on, the novel turns into a superhuman version of America’s Got Talent and Total Drama (with a little bit of Battle Royale thrown in for good measure). The kids are forced to jump through hoops to showcase their powers for a panel of judges. The ultimate goal is to survive the challenges and become charter members of the New Offenders, an elite team of supervillains.

Through it all, Aiden was a horndog narcissist. More than anyone else, he was susceptible to an inglorious lifestyle of drugs, sex, and privilege. As a supervillain, he partied like a superhero. So what if he was just a tool and a puppet on a string? Life ain’t so bad when you’re banging a bucket list of models, actresses, and supergirls. “I like being Apex Strike a helluva lot more than I ever liked being Aiden Salt,” he said.

Naturally, Aiden eventually gets his comeuppance and his pals in the New Offenders find a way to redeem themselves. The novel is funny and raunchy and plays around with genre tropes in a clever way. One of the best things about the book is the author’s use of interstitial text. These lessons in supervillainy help clarify Aiden’s journey from douchebag to do-gooder. The most profound lesson comes at the very end of the novel. “Sometimes friendship and teamwork are all you need in life.” Too bad Aiden couldn’t figure that out sooner.

[Almost Infamous / By Matt Carter / First Printing: April 2016 / ISBN: 9781940456508]

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