Supra-doings genre review 1 — “The Violent Century”

Back in mid July 2014 (http://phantacea.com/blog/?p=1012 – Mixed Swag, Point 2) Jim McPherson made mention of a detectable rise in the popularity of a Fantasy/SciFi sub-genre he called supranormal storytelling.

While he’d no doubt want to claim credit for inventing it with his Phantacea Mythos, it goes back multiple centuries. For what is mythology except supranormal storytelling?

Here’s a review he put online of one of the books he noted back in July. Comments welcome at bottom of page:

The Violent CenturyThe Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A step up from last book of his I read (“Osama”). More comprehensible, with at least a degree of action. Loses some of its (potential) impact because it’s mostly told in flashbacks. At least there’s no first person narration, time travel or trans-dimensional crossover nonsense.

Does take chances in that he features actual people acting as they might have if they lived in a world with actual ‘ubermenschen’ (‘over’ or ‘supermen’) in the howsoever dim public spotlight. Occasionally uses point form (which I like) and avoids quotation marks, despite there being a lot of dialogue. This last, the lack of quotation marks, takes some getting used to but for the most part works.

Of a seemingly increasingly popular fantasy genre, what might be termed “real world super heroes”. (My own Phantacea Mythos might fall within a similar category, except it’s set in a world that doesn’t realize they’re out there.) Has an appreciable, international perspective, albeit with a mostly European focus, that strays into Southeast Asia, Afghanistan and Middle East territory for short periods.

(Tidhar apparently lives in Israel but does strive for nonreligious impartiality. The Polish betrayal, Nazi Death Camps, Air America, CIA intrigues, opium production, Bin Laden and extreme Islamism feature as backdrops to some of the set piece action sequences. Then again the innate Jewishness of comic book icons Joe Shuster, Jerry Siegel and Stan Lee are are also noted a couple of times.)

Borrows somewhat from George RR Martin’s Wild Cards series, especially when it comes to depictions of Americanisms like flashy costumes, brassy exuberance and over-the-top egocentricity,. Also postulates an event, some sort of occasionally transformative worldwide wave, that results in an exceptional few, unaging, though hardly undying, supranormals, to use the Phantacea term.

Unfortunately there’s nothing particularly remarkable about the characters he’s come up with, imaginative in terms of the abilities he’s given them or exciting about the situations he places them in. Indeed, there’s more than just an element of plodding, world-weariness about the whole novel.

Overall I suppose it’s meant as something of a parable. He’s saying that, even if there were super heroes, it would have still been a violent century. That’s a single sentence, not a book. What we have here could have, should have, been said with a whole lot more verve.

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