Title: Wonder City Stories
Author Name & Publisher: Jude McLaughlin (Createspace)
Publication Date & Length: November 18th 2015- 294 pages
Megan Amazon’s life was a disaster: terrifying stalker ex, weird celebrity mom, you really don’t wanna know. She decided to run, run far, run fast, run… to Wonder City. Wonder City: where an eight-foot-tall woman could try to blend in and make a normal life in a city of superheroes and superzeroes. Where else could she meet up with a retired superhero with a brain-dead son and a daughter-in-law who could fall for Megan’s new BFF Simon? Or almost accidentally kill a superhero noob like Nereid, who’s just trying to pass her college classes and get into her supergroup, and really didn’t intend to fall in love with her (provisional) teammate? Everyone has their secrets. For some people, like the Ultimate and the Fat Lady, secrets are their stock in trade, while others don’t know half the secrets they’re carrying around. Megan thought her own secrets would be safe as long as she kept one-night-standing her way through the local queer scene, but sooner or later, everything will come out. And everyone will come into their own, whether they want to or not.
I went into this book with excitement and high hopes, but have to say that I was a little disappointed. The biggest problem I have with the book is that there are so many characters that the book was filled with too many plotlines. It was hard to choose exactly who should be the hero/heroine simply because the reader was brought into so many different story lines. The easy answer to this is that all of them were the main characters, but that really means the focus of the book was scattered and blurred between too many different wants and desires. Also, the first half of the book just seemed like a series of scenes or vignettes strung together. While each may have been interesting and enjoyable, I didn’t get the sense of any real plot or direction for the story. Sure, all these characters were tied together by what happened at the end, and that may have been the author’s entire point, but it’s a bit hard to read through the ambling lives of so many characters just to see how they all end up in the same place at one particular defining moment in time. The other problem I had with this device was that the narrating of everybody’s lives made it difficult to get involved with any, so I felt distant from the characters’ feelings and motivations.
The last thing I’ll say is about how the heroes/heroines are treated. There is a sense of wonder about the idea of superheroes. That’s why comics are so enduring, even for adults. Superheroes give us a chance to be powerful, strong, intelligent, and good enough, right along with those whose deeds we’re reading about. I understand the movement nowadays to make superheroes more human, more relatable, by giving them flaws and moral dilemmas and crises of conscience that make them make mistakes. But what we have in this story makes me feel like the superheroes in this city are jokes, that they’re egotistical brats that insist on getting things their way, and that they have little regard for those around them. And the sad part is that when they’re older, and a bit more broken down, they’re thrown away, made irrelevant, by the very society that once depended on them. Just like our own elderly. And that’s just sad.
I suppose at the end of the book, I would say I enjoyed the story. But I feel the beginning could have been pared away immensely. I also would pick up the second book in the series to see what happens next, to give Wonder City another chance to hopefully live up to its name.
In addition to her fiction writing, she is a technical, medical, and science writer and her work has been known to appear in the occasional tabletop roleplaying game book and videogame. She lives with a pair of furry overlords and her wife in a large old house with enough character to populate its own series of novels.