Cons: Stereotypes; contradictions; details that don’t add up
Rating: 2 out of 5
In The League (The Post-Humans Book 1), by Thurston Bassett, Athan is an unusual former member of a now-defunct ‘league’ of sort-of superheroes. Athan’s major ability is to slip into an alternate (and very eerie) plane of existence by stepping “into” people’s minds, and then back out through the mind of someone he’s familiar with. He’s also a bit faster and tougher than your average person. He discovers that there’s another “post-human” who can access that plane, and that his opposite has great and terrible plans to bring monsters from outside the world into our world. It’s time for Athan to find and bring together the old group of League members, some of whom are mysteriously missing.
The basic idea is sound, and I like the Cthulhu-esque organic plane of existence that Athan can enter and leave. It’s imaginative and unusual. Unfortunately, every other post-human was pretty standard–with some additional unfortunate details.
Let’s take Brad (“Apollo”), who can absorb information at spectacular speeds and seems to live in a den lined with monitors. Later on he mysteriously turns out to be a world-class shot (he shot someone’s gun, deliberately) with little explanation beyond oh, he learns practical skills really quickly too (apparently living his last few years in a basement, monitoring every news source, allowed for gun practice?). Then he picks up a whole new ability, one that’s completely unrelated to his primary skill and in fact duplicates the ability of someone who isn’t present. It’s a convenient, but silly, deus ex machina. Meantime there’s the firestarter, the post-human whose specialty is finding post-humans, and the person who can kill with a touch. There’s also a strong man who’s been inexplicably brainwashed. The author spent so much time explaining everything else that the lack of explanation here sticks out like a sore thumb. Oh, and at one point we get the obligatory old woman to deliver the meaning-of-life speech.
This basically takes place in Australia, and the characters who are pointed out as American are highly stereotypical (bad guys with more power, arrogance and sadism than brains, bombastic and in-your-face, plus they talk like someone’s television-inspired idea of how Americans must speak). Come to think of it, most of the bad guys were highly stereotypical, with arrogance their chief weapon.
There’s a lot of information to pick up on regarding the League, which fell apart some time ago. Unfortunately a lot of it is done infodump style. Worse, a lot of it is infodumped between characters who already know all of what they’re saying, meaning it’s wholly for the benefit of the reader. Ugh. A lot of the background really isn’t as necessary as the author thought it was; readers are pretty good at filling in the blanks if given a framework to start with. There’s even the standard bad guy explanation-to-good-guy element.
Athan’s organic dreamscape truly has the capability to add a creep factor. Unfortunately, when he finally meets some inhabitants of that world, they squash any creepiness immediately by being silly.
There are some good basic action scenes, some interesting plans, an almost-creepy alien plane of existence, and some decent tension-raising material toward the end. The characters, however, don’t feel natural or organic. Most of them feel like plot conveniences.