In Review: Anti-Hero

The characters are exceptional, but on this dragged out journey I just wanted it to end.

Anti-Hero by Jonathan Wood

Published by Titan Books, March 13, 2015. Paperback of 472 pages at $14.95.

The cover: Spectacular cover design by showing Arthur emerging from a tunnel overlooking the New York skyline during a forbidding lightning storm. His gun drawn, he stands prepared for business, unaware that being him several tentacles of black microscopic objects are making their way to him. The book’s title is split red and white, with crimson splattering the white HERO below it. Gorgeous cover. Overall grade: A+

The premise: From the back cover, “When it rains it pours…monster machines. That attack during a funeral and ruin everyone’s day. MI317–the goverment department devoted to defending Britain from cosmic horrors–is under siege, so Arthur Wallace and his team must travel to Area 51, ably–and oddly–assisted by Agent Gran. But their travels don’t end there, not when there’s an Arctic town populated by spore zombies and the 2.0 version of Clyde has some funny ideas about how to save the world.” I really like spy agencies, cosmic horrors, Area 51, threats from zombies and technology, so I’m looking forward to reading this. Overall grade: A

The characters: Arthur Wallace is the book’s lead, and the point of view from which it’s told, is a fun character. He’s nervous about dying in many disturbing ways, he’s conflicted about many things, and he is the voice of humanity. When he confronts the book’s many horrors and decisions must be made, he’s often the only voice of optimism, who thinks that there always must be a alternative to killing or nuking someone or something. I found this very refreshing in a lead, when often books of this ilk have heroes that shoot first and let whatever gods sort them out. His internal conflicts were very realistic, considering the situations he finds himself in, and I enjoyed him enough in this book that I was instantly encouraged to seek out his previous two adventures No Hero and Yesterday’s Hero. His fellow department members include Felicity Shaw, his boss and an excellent gunslinger, Kayla, a Scottish swordswoman who is a lightning fast fighter, and Tabitha, the computer ace. There are also the Clydes: the computer downloaded AI versions of Clyde who died in the previous novel. They assist MI317, though the living members of this group are ever watchful that one might evolve into the killer than the 2.0 version has become. When in the United States, their liaison is Agent Gran, a hippy-dippy whose character goes through the greatest growth of the novel, yet becomes a cliche by the end. A character from previous novels named Winston appears and he stole every scene in which he’s present. The villain of this piece is Clyde 2.0 who has decided that the Earth’s problems would be solved quickly if humanity were annihilated. His/Its presence is felt throughout the book, and he is a good baddie. This is a solid mix of personalities and abilities and is a good team. Overall grade: A

The settings: There are three primary settings: England, America, and Antartica. The first setting is briefly scene to introduce the team and the problem and is described ably, but not specifically, as this could be any first world country. America, on the other hand, through New York and New Jersey, is very specific and wonderfully described, both before and during the “incident”. I liked the futurisitc description of the CIA base and how it compares to that of the English housing, and the hordes that roam in New York. There is also a very vividly described landfill that explodes with action. One could almost smell that setting, and that’s a compliment to superior description. Overall grade: A

The action: This is a painful part of the novel. I was enjoying all the action, from the scene in England to the junkyard, but the “incident” that occurs is painfully slow going. Part of the problem is that the surviving team members have a landmark they’re heading toward, but something sidetracks them and they go elsewhere. This is fine, and realistic, but then they head back to that same location. This renders all that occurred before it as padding. I was just bored by this part of the novel, and this includes Pages 224 – 332. It feels padded. It could be condensed considerably to move the plot along at a quicker pace. The dog business was just rubbish. The closing at the Artic Circle was very predictable. The first half of the book has enjoyable aciton, but I just wanted the book to end once I hit the middle, and that’s not what a reader should be thinking. Overall grade: D-

The conclusion: Things wrap up nicely with things open for a sequel, but not screaming for one, though in the opening pages one is stated as coming out in October of 2015. A decent ending, but it’s such drudgery to get to it. Overall grade: C-

The final line: This wasn’t funny, wasn’t cosmic, nor entertaining by the middle of the book. The characters are exceptional, but on this dragged out journey I just wanted it to end. After reading this, I would not seek out the previous two books or the impending sequel. Overall grade: C


Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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