Published by Tor (9.19.2023)
Genres: Adult, Science Fiction
Format: eARC, 272 pages
Following the bestselling The Kaiju Preservation Society, John Scalzi returns with Starter Villain, another unique sci-fi caper set in the strangest of all worlds, present-day Earth.
Inheriting your mysterious uncle's supervillain business is more complicated than you might imagine.
Sure, there are the things you'd expect. The undersea volcano lairs. The minions. The plots to take over the world. The international networks of rivals who want you dead.
Much harder to get used to...are the the sentient, language-using, computer-savvy cats.
And the fact that in the overall organization, they're management...
This is a fairly difficult book for me to review, because I absolutely hate that I didn’t love it. This was one of my most anticipated 2023 releases…why, you ask? Sentient. computer-savvy. cats. And that cover?! SIGN ME TF UP.
And the cat part of it? Fucking AWESOME. That was by far the selling point of this book for me, and it’s what kept me going when things got rocky. I absolutely ADORED Hera (and Persephone, but we don’t get much of her)!! I couldn’t get enough of Hera, she was purrfect :’) I lived for the scenes where she was typing on her little cat keyboard! I love that she looked out for Charlie. View Spoiler »The ending where she came home to stay with Charlie gave me warm fuzzies!! « Hide Spoiler Every bit of those 2.5 stars are for Hera alone! If it weren’t for her, I’d have DNFed this book.
I didn’t need another cat. […] But then, no one ever needs a cat these days. That’s not why we have cats. We have cats because they amuse us and because otherwise our clothes would lack the texture only cat hair can provide.
“When people name cats, they usually do it in one of three categories: food, physical characteristics, or mythology.”
[…] “What about people who name their cats for characters in fantasy books?”
Lmaooo this book be callin’ me out! XD
However, other than the cats…I wasn’t a huge fan, sadly. The premise of the book is fantastic, but the delivery fell flat for me. There’s just something about Scalzi’s writing that grates on my nerves. (I DNFed The Kaiju Preservation Society, oops.) I think maybe I find it a bit…pretentious, I suppose? Also, his particular style of humor seems a bit ridiculous and forced to me at times, to the point of feeling childish. Actually, campy is how I would describe it, which is the same exact issue I had with KPS. Certain aspects toed the line of campy and annoying, hard. One of which being the angry, extremely potty-mouthed dolphins. I couldn’t decide whether or not I thought it was funny, or if it was too much.
In the beginning I thought I would relate a bit more to Charlie because we had an eerily similar situation: his dad divorced his wife, who he’d had 3 kids with, for a younger woman (Charlie’s mom). So Charlie was a good 15 years younger than his 3 half siblings, making him essentially an only child. He felt distanced from the siblings because they were much older, and they were close, leaving him kind of an outsider to their tight knit group. This is disturbingly similar to my situation, down to the fact that his siblings were two men and a woman. (I do have a couple other half siblings, but those 3 were the only ones I ever had any kind of relationship with.) So, it was a little creepy how similar it was…even down to the fact that the siblings got shitty and possessive over assets/money when the dad died (but we won’t get into that heh). But that’s about as far as my connection with Charlie went. He seemed like a good guy, but didn’t have much depth.
In the middle I ended up doing a lot of skimming because I was extremely bored. It’s very dialogue heavy, and when you find the dialogue a bit juvenile that makes things difficult. There was also a lot of waxing and waning about the villain society’s background and technicalities, which I found completely irrelevant in the long run. As short as this book was, I felt like a lot of the lengthy descriptions about how things worked could have been cut out without hindering reading comprehension. I did appreciate the suggestion that uber rich people were villainous, lol.
I guess I was just expecting more out of this book. While the sentient cats do have a fairly large part in this book, I still would have liked to see more of them. (Or maybe just other cat characters besides Hera and Persephone.) I expected more out of the villainy side of things, and found the actual “villains” to be lacking depth. Thankfully this book is very short and easy to get through. Even though this fell a bit flat for me, I think this will be a fun read for a lot of people.
Writing style: 1.5/5
Overall rating: 2.5/5