Some people are born supervillains, and others have supervillainy thrust upon them.
Charlie Fitzer, a former business journalist–turned–substitute teacher, is broke and somewhat desperate. His circumstances take an unexpected and dangerous turn when his estranged uncle Jake dies, leaving his business—i.e., his trillion-dollar supervillain empire—to Charlie. Charlie doesn’t really have the skills or experience to manage the staff of the volcano lair, and matters don’t improve when he’s pressured to attend a high-level meeting with other supervillains, none of whom got along with his uncle. With the aid of his uncle’s No. 1, Mathilda Morrison, and his cat, Hera (who turns out to be an intelligent and typing-capable spy for his uncle’s organization), Charlie must sort out whom he can trust before he gets blackmailed, blown up, or both. This book serves as a follow-up of sorts to Scalzi’s The Kaiju Preservation Society (2022) in that both are riffs on genre film tropes. The current work is fluffier and sillier than the previous novel and, indeed, many of Scalzi’s other books, although there is the occasional jab about governments being in bed with unscrupulous corporate enterprises or the ways in which people can profit from human suffering. This is one of many available stories about a good-hearted Everyman thrust into fantastical circumstances, struggling to survive as a fish out of water, and, while well executed for its type, the plot doesn’t go anywhere that will surprise you.
Fun while it lasts but not one of Scalzi’s stronger books.