Vicious by V.E. Schwab

(Vicious, #1)

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?

“Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”

Typically when dealing with the supernaturally gifted, in the case of this book called the ExtraOrdinary (EO for short), you have good versus evil. Sometimes there's an added layer added in, such as where it's hard to tell which side is right because they both kind of are, like in the recent movie Civil War or the thought-tickling Watchmen. Here it's another case of both sides being right, but instead of being heroes struggling with the gray area of life, neither of these people are heroes or fighting for anything good. Basically they're both jerks.

Victor and Eli were the cream of their crop of students in school, Eli spurred on to do a study backed by his theory of ExtraOrdinary individuals being born because of Near Death Experiences. The two 'friends', who bond mainly because they're similarly strange and detached, embark on proving this theory true by experimenting on themselves. They find their answers, but as with most mad scientist projects, the results aren't what they were expecting.

If I had to align with a team, I'd go with Team Victor, just because there was something so slick, confident and badass about the guy. He's like a calm force standing in the background, popping up when you don't expect it. I can't help but feel a small betrayal from Eli, even if I understand his reasoning up to a point. The author added in the religious dilemma with NDE and being supernaturally gifted, which brought on yet another layer to the story, making it stand out from other super-powered fiction.

I have to throw a bone to the supporting characters, too - a sisterly bond that's broken for the same reason Victor and Eli turn on each other, an inmate who finds himself cursed but not powered, a dog that's loyal even beyond the grave, and those annoying police officers that seem to pop up in stories where criminals are warring.

On the negative side, the finale battle was a little weak. The author made up for it afterward to a degree, but still...

I'm not always crazy about books with so many flash-backs and time jumps, but the way it works here makes sense to keep the urgency of the current dilemma fierce. V.E. Schwab's simple writing style fits the morbid tone effectively, especially since the characters are distant from their emotions and each other other than revenge and self-righteous vigilantism. Unfortunately the author struggles with overdosing on commas, sometimes breaking up the harmony of her writing, especially in the last paragraph - which, while an excellent ending - suffered said comma curse.

It's interesting seeing Good Vs Evil, but my favorite is seeing Good Vs. Good with objectionable viewpoints. Here they're not wholly evil, but perhaps soulless before AND after. Makes intriguing, different reading.

   Book Quotes:

“When no one understands, that's usually a good sign that you're wrong.”