THE BAD GUY WINS IN THIS ONE by Christopher  Borders


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Borders’ debut adventure features a world of feared people with powers and various factions searching for those behind a major city’s destruction.

Eighteen-year-old Jared Butler is traveling with fellow high schoolers to the country of Redarctica. Military types stop their bus for a supposed routine check, taking blood samples to see if anyone has special abilities. Surprisingly, someone does, and an explosive confrontation with the soldiers leaves a few students dead and Jared unconscious. He awakens in the company of Dr. Mirkov, who’s recruiting the teen into an army because of his power to heal, which is news to Jared. After a gunshot or two validates his newfound ability, Jared trains with Patrick, another survivor from the bus incident, and the mysterious May. Mirkov forces them all to cooperate, via imbedded “pain chips,” with the government agency Grey Snow. The doctor believes something must be done about the growing population of individuals with abilities. In fact, someone’s ability run amok is the alleged reason for a calamitous energy release in Sunlight City, where Jared lives in the Consolidated States of Newland. He has a chance to return to his home country, but he’ll have to assassinate someone at Grey Snow’s order. This will help the agency aid powerful organization Black Rain in covering up its involvement in the city’s devastation. Unfortunately, the assassination doesn’t go smoothly for Jared, Patrick, and May, pitting them against others with abilities, including a man who shoots projectiles from his hands. Jared also hopes to cure his comatose little sister, Lilly, somewhere in the C.S.

Though brimming with superpowers, Borders’ story often concentrates on the characters’ human sides. Jared, for one, faces the dilemma of completing a mission for Black Rain, which, if the organization is responsible for destroying Sunlight City, has also caused his parents’ deaths. Many struggle to understand the abilities: Jared learns he’s capable of more than simply healing, and he and others like him have assorted labels: “specials,” the “Empowered,” and “The Gifted.” The wide-ranging abilities are fascinating even if readers have seen them before. May, for example, can send clones (or surrogates) to fight while she’s relatively safe elsewhere. The abilities do occasionally swamp the dramatic potential: more than one reputedly dead character turns up later irrefutably alive. The second half, meanwhile, is rife with action and suspense. Borders vigorously details characters unleashing powers or on the verge of doing so: “What had always felt like a raging inferno inside of him that he had to keep at bay was now a torch he could wield however he so chose.” Despite a world filled with unheard-of lands (e.g., Feezeland), the dialogue is generally contemporary; Patrick unabashedly drops a few “for reals?” Borders’ playful title will have readers examining what exactly a bad guy is, while the ending offers both resolution and room for sequels.

Action-laden tale of characters with special talents and equally interesting problems.

Page count: 191pp
Program: Kirkus Indie
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