Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Vicious by V.E. SchwabVicious by V. E. Schwab
Published: Tor Books (2013), Hardcover, 364pg
Source: ALA 2014
Genres: Fiction, Sci-fi

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

So I knew Vicious was about an anti-hero (or even a villain) who did something with superpowers. I knew it had it amazing cover. I also knew several of my blog friends had read and loved it, so it seemed like a safe bet that I’d like it, too. And I did!

Superhero stories about people who aren’t actually heroic are great because they make you think about things. Like, what makes a hero? Are people heroes just because they think they are, or is it an outside decision? And what happens when a supposedly heroic person is really just a serial killer?

Both Victor and Eli are sociopaths (or something similar), only Eli is in denial about it. He thinks he’s a hero; Victor knows better. And so much of the book is about Victor hunting Eli down so he can punish him for…well, for disappointing Victor, basically.

I’m not sure what Victor expected– that they’d be sociopaths together, maybe? Superpowered sociopaths, with a hint of mad scientist. But that was never gonna happen because of Eli’s self-delusion about being normal. Thus Victor’s disappointment, and the book’s plot.

What I liked about Vicious was how the hero is actually terrible, and the villain is kinda heroic but not really. Turning expected tropes on their head is a favorite thing of mine in books, and it’s done particularly well in Vicious. I ended up liking Victor but also not wanting to be anywhere near him. The line between between like and dislike is a fun one for me to be on1 and I very much enjoyed following Victor and Eli along to their doom (or redemption. Or both!).

Also, there are Batman gambits! Those are fun, too.

But actually, the BEST thing about Vicious is Sydney and Mitch. Sydney is the “young girl” in the summary; she’s smart and brave and also forced to grow up way too fast after her sister tries to kill her. Mitch is Victor’s cellmate, a genius and computer expert with extremely bad luck and the body of someone who crushes heads for a living.

As much as I liked watching Victor and Eli’s good-bad dynamics, I LOVED the scenes with Sydney and Mitch because of how complex their characters are. Sociopaths are kinda straightforward and we’ve got a glut of serial killers in media nowadays so that’s kinda boring, in a way. Sydney and Mitch were refreshing in their differentness, and I totally want to read more books about them and their adventures.

Read: November 24-29, 2014

  1. that’s why I like anti-heroes and unreliable narrators so much

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