Damned monkey paw. A few years ago I made a comment about the mainstreaming of fantasy and super-hero elements, and how this was a good trend since they were moderately enlivening what would otherwise be very boring, staid, and uninteresting novels. Well, this trend came back to bite me. I was browsing at the book store and saw Vicious as one of the staff picks, and on the strength of their recommendation and the subject matter and the cover art I threw the book into the cart. Mistake! Tricked! This book is what happens when you take the crime novels my parents listen to and try to jazz it up with super-hero elements. Some of its sins include: the super-hero bits were uninspired, added nothing to the genre, and seemed unaware of any of the neat things the genre has done over the last 20+ years. A girlfriend gets refrigerated. The world building made no sense (1); super-powers are reliably triggered by near death experiences, and it seems like if that was the case you would have tens of thousands of junkies coming back from Narcan treatment with unusual gifts. The world building made no sense (2); somehow everything super hero related happens in this one college town, when really the whole world should be going topsy-turvy from the profusion of super-heroes. Worst of all though was that the story telling was weirdly inert, like trying to eat food with the wrong chirality. The best way I can describe it is again to reference these crime novels for old people, which combine lots of murder with shallow character portraits and dull plotting. It's sort of dumb and bloody and reductive. The TV versions of these things are shows like SVU: Miami, which just churn out episodes week after week where someone is horribly raped and murdered, and law people do pretend gritty law things, and blah. Or to put it a third way, there's a quote about how a book should be a ball of light in your hands, while this was just wet mulch and leaves and dead slugs.
The one nice thing I will say about the novel is that I liked parts of the ending, even if they didn't make a ton of sense on consideration. If the author had pared the 350 page novel down to a 40 page story and kept the good ending parts I would probably have recommended it.