Book Review: Even Villains Fall in Love
This book review request actually came at a time when I was debating whether I should buy the book outright. I’m friends with @lianabrooks on Twitter and have enjoyed her blog posts on science-related topics and her wry tweeting style for some time. Plus, her whole thing with socks just cracks me up. I’m just not a huge fan of superhero stories, nor novellas, the former since they tend to fall into stereotypical batmanese and the latter because they just go by too quickly.
Nonetheless, the blurb intrigued me:
A super villain at the top of his game must choose between the world he wants and the woman he loves.
If you believe the rumors you know that Doctor Charm, the wickedly sexy super villain, retired in shame seven years ago after his last fight with the super hero Zephyr Girl. The fact that the charming Evan Smith—father of four and husband of the too-beautiful-to-be-real Tabitha—bears a resemblance to the defeated Doctor is pure coincidence. And, please, ignore the minions.
Everything is perfect in the Smith household, until Tabitha announces her return to work as a super hero. Evan was hoping to keep her distracted until after he rigged the 2012 presidential election, but—genius that he is—Evan has a backup plan. In his basement lab, Evan has a machine whose sole purpose is keeping Tabitha hungry for him.
But children and labs don’t mix. The machine is broken, and Tabitha storms out, claiming she no longer knows him. World domination takes a back seat to meeting his daughters’ demands to get Mommy back right now. This time his genius isn’t going to be enough—he’s going to need both his evil alter-ego, and the blooming super abilities of his children to save his wife. But even his most charming self might not be enough to save their marriage.
As it happens, I had another short airplane ride to visit family this week, and the story was just long enough to keep me entertained for the flight. I’m not sure my seat mates were quite as entertained for the number of times I giggled out loud.
This was a tongue-in-cheek take on the trope and just what I needed to kick my preconceived notions in the teeth: not all super hero stories are cut from the same cloth.
Theoretically, Tabitha wouldn’t change much. She’d be frostier. Inhibited perhaps, inattentive, less forgiving and more likely to question what he did in the lab. Super heroes were defenders of the right; they adhered to a strict moral code. One that didn’t involve villains.
I would almost call it a satire for its commentary on our expectations and the way it turns the genre on its ear. That’s also the best part of the story: showing that even with extraordinary abilities, we’re all a very human collection of blind spots and assumptions. The family dynamics of dealing with four precocious children layered in for yet another element to those interactions, making the tale truly a confection of laughs and plot twists. I still wished for more when I got to the end of the story, but it was satisfying enough to leave me with the classic “awwww” of a very well-done Happily Ever After.
It’s my pleasure to recommend the novella to anyone who has a yen for a romance set after the wedding and the kids have happened as well as to anyone who wants scifi with true-to-life characters. This short gem has a little bit of something for everyone, and is a worthwhile investment. I think I’ll need to go check out Brooks’ other works based not only on the engaging piece she’s put together here, but also because she’s built a decision tree about who might like the book that is not only realistic and helpful, but makes me smile.