A novel about the personal lives of superheroes.
Will Donner used to be Century Man, a superhero, much like his wife, Supernova, who’s capable of incredible feats in the name of justice. After his powers mysteriously vanish, Will is left to photograph the work of his former supercolleagues, known in the book as “metahumans.” His photography work is celebrated—“I had the Pulitzers and Newsweek covers and Century City Journal front pages to prove it”—but things aren’t quite like they once were. This is particularly true for his sex life, because, in his current state, it would be dangerous to bring his wife to orgasm: “If I come, I’ll hurt you. Bad. You know this,” she tells him. In attempts to regain his powers, Will undergoes treatments such as “hyper-neural steroid mass-injection…and the photoelectric vacuum saturation,” which helps him maintain a modicum of hope in this wild world. And what a world it is. Superheroes have corporate endorsements—Supernova, who has appeared in TV ads for Verizon Wireless, is currently in talks to become a Calvin Klein spokesmodel—and tourists flock to Century City to see their favorite heroes in action. Meanwhile, as the government grows distrustful of superpowers, a popular porno featuring metahumans leaves Will and his wife excited. Graphic (“Deidre opened my pants and hauled out my erection”), foulmouthed (“Bullshit. If you had a free pass and could fuck anyone, who would it be?”), and imaginative, Beauchamp’s (Scream If You Wanna Go Faster, 2013) novel builds a city of superheroes who behave more like professional athletes. The worldbuilding sometimes requires heavy explanations, which might leave readers longing for excitement. A chapter devoted to Meta-Con (second only to Comic-Con as the nation’s biggest comic book convention) proves to be no more insightful than waiting in line at such an event. Still, those willing to look past the slower portions will find a heady exploration of superhero relationships that goes well beyond the tights.
An enjoyable visit to a world where superheroes live, curse, and sleep together.