Jackson Blackwell is back again and looking for a new adventure while awaiting fatherhood. However, when his beloved tosses him out of his own dimension, finding a place to spend time isn’t easy. That is until King Stanley provides him a place in his comic book realm.
After completely enjoying the first book in this series, I came into Villains Pride with high hopes. Unfortunately, I felt the first half of the story was poorly written, stuffed with filler material. It wasn’t until the last third that the story itself came together with a solid plot and supporting action.
What I did love: the play and fun on the various famous comic book heroes. No one is sacred, from Iron Man to Batman, from Superman to Wolverine. Mr. Gibson nails each persona in a witty and fresh way. I also really enjoyed the superhero war which takes place well after the midpoint of the book. This is when Jackson’s plans really start to take shape and mean something, and when the story took off and had focus.
My biggest issue with Villains Pride is the entire first half or more of the book. I felt there was little point or purpose. It was repetitive, and I felt like the author was using Jackson as a soapbox. In the first book the jibes were more subtle and less frequent, making them sharp and witty. This time it felt like a constant rant, lecturing the listener. It got old very quickly.
One of the highlights is once again the performance by Mr. Kafer. I loved the subtle yet distinctive changes in each male and female voice. He had the perfect fit for all characters. He really does bring to life the characters, making them people in my mind.
In the end, I struggled with Villains Pride. The first half to two-thirds of the story was meandering and repetitive. I felt like I was being lectured constantly. And frankly, Jackson is an asshole, which didn’t seem as funny this time around.
My Rating: C+
1855: The Industrial Revolution is in full and inexorable swing, powered by steam-driven cybernetic Engines. Charles Babbage perfects his Analytical Engine and the computer age arrives a century ahead of its time. And three extraordinary characters race toward a rendezvous with history - and the future: Sybil Gerard - dishonored woman and daughter of a Luddite agitator; Edward "Leviathan" Mallory - explorer and paleontologist; Laurence Oliphant - diplomat and spy. Their adventure begins with the discovery of a box of punched Engine cards of unknown origin and purpose. Cards someone wants badly enough to kill for...
As many others have pointed out, this book is one of the first in what we now know as the Steampunk genre. It explores the question of what would happen if the Industrial Revolution and the development of the computer had coincided—what would Victorian society have looked like?
It’s a complex novel, with a lot of layers. I read most of it in airports and on planes and didn’t have the best circumstances to be able to concentrate on those details. On the other hand, if it had been really riveting, I wouldn’t have noticed my surroundings, so I apparently didn’t find it all that compelling.
I appreciated the re-structuring of British society, from being run by the blue-blooded to being administered by the scientific. It was nice to see paleontologists and poets being recognized for their skills and not just dismissed as soft science or whimsy. And there must always be a resistance movement, which was well realized and sported realistic details, in my opinion.
The story frequently got bogged down in the details, however, and then just eventually petered out, leaving me disappointed. After a strong start, the weakness of the ending was a let down.
Book number 269 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading project.
Villains Rule is an entertaining story which shares the antics of Jackson Blackwell, aka the Shadow Master. An enterprising human, Jackson somehow created his own pocket dimension and makes a lot of money advising villains across the realms. Each realm appears to be literary world and/or genre. In this tale, Jackson finds himself back in the field rather than behind a desk, trying to assist a fantasy-realm bad guy, who ends up double-crossing him and leaving Jackson on his own in a strange land. However, Jackson understands the rules of this fantasy realm and bends them to suit his needs, proving that a true villain will do whatever it takes to win.
Trying to define Villains Rule or fit it neatly into any genre is impossible. The story bends and breaks established rules, with the protagonist often sharing his wisdom and knowledge directly with the listener (reader). The story mocks traditional fantasy tropes, with Jackson twisting the rules of the realm to suit his wicked plans. As a reader of fantasy books (and having seen several movies), I enjoy the ridicule of the norm and watching how Jackson works his way out of any dire situation. While he comes awful close to becoming the anti-hero, his actions always prove he truly is the bad guy.
Even a villain can use some help, and the supporting cast of characters is fabulous. I love his assistant Sophia, who always puts Jackson in his place and keeps him on the path to victory. Additionally, Jackson brings together a band of heroes, as the trope requires, so that he can defeat those who betrayed him. This group of would-be-saviors, with Jackson’s help, straddles the line between light and dark, but always bending to Jackson’s needs.
The story’s humor is amplified by the marvelous performance of Jeffrey Kafer. He’s got a voice made for television - one that seems so familiar, you’ll spend time trying to place where you may have heard it. Mr. Kafer displays a wide range of voices from Jackson’s smooth villain to his nephew’s lackadaisical drawl. He masters both male and female voices with distinction.
In the end, I throughly enjoyed the entertaining Villains Rule. The narration is absolutely fabulous; humor amazing. I love the sarcastic storyline and the fun had at the expense of fantasy tropes. Villains Rule is both original and fun.
My Rating: B+