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Elijah Moore
Elijah Moore

Vicious: A Novel of Ambition, Jealousy, and Superpowers by V.E. Schwab


Vicious by V.E. Schwab: A Book Review




If you are looking for a thrilling and original story that blurs the lines between superheroes and supervillains, you might want to check out Vicious by V.E. Schwab. This novel is the first in a series that follows a group of people who gain extraordinary abilities after near-death experiences. But instead of using their powers for good or evil, they use them for personal goals, revenge, or survival. In this book review, I will give you an overview of what Vicious is about, who are the main characters, what are the themes and messages, and what makes it a compelling read.




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Introduction




What is Vicious about?




Vicious is a fantasy novel that was published in 2013 by Tor Books. It is the first book in the Villains series, which also includes Vengeful (2018) and Victorious (forthcoming). The novel is set in a world where some people can develop extraordinary abilities after near-death experiences. These people are called ExtraOrdinaries, or EOs for short. However, not all EOs are created equal. Some have more powerful or useful abilities than others, and some have more control or morality than others.


The novel focuses on two former college friends who became EOs after experimenting with adrenaline and near-death experiences for their senior thesis. Victor Vale and Eli Ever were both brilliant, arrogant, and ambitious students who shared a fascination with EOs. But when their experiment went wrong, they became enemies. Victor gained the ability to manipulate pain in himself and others, while Eli gained the ability to heal himself from any injury. Eli also developed a religious zeal to eradicate all other EOs, believing that they are unnatural and sinful. Victor, on the other hand, wanted to get revenge on Eli for betraying him and sending him to prison.


The novel alternates between the present day, where Victor has escaped from prison with the help of a hacker named Mitch and a young girl named Sydney who can raise the dead, and 10 years ago, where Victor and Eli became EOs and started their feud. The novel also introduces other characters who have different abilities and agendas, such as Serena, who can make anyone do what she says; Dol, who can detect lies; Barry, who can see through walls; Angie, who can regenerate limbs; Dominic, who can make people forget; and Stell, who is a detective investigating EO-related crimes.


The novel is a fast-paced and action-packed story that explores the consequences of playing with life and death, the nature of good and evil, and the complexity of human relationships.


Who are the main characters?




The main characters of Vicious are:


  • Victor Vale: The protagonist and anti-hero of the novel. He is a brilliant and charismatic man who can manipulate pain in himself and others. He is obsessed with getting revenge on Eli for betraying him and sending him to prison. He is also protective of Sydney, whom he sees as a surrogate sister.



  • Eli Ever: The antagonist and anti-villain of the novel. He is a handsome and charming man who can heal himself from any injury. He believes that he is chosen by God to eliminate all other EOs, whom he considers unnatural and sinful. He is also ruthless and manipulative, using Serena's power to help him in his crusade.



  • Sydney Clarke: A 12-year-old girl who can raise the dead. She was killed by her sister Serena, who became an EO after surviving a gunshot wound. Sydney was brought back to life by Victor, who took her under his wing. She is loyal and brave, but also lonely and insecure.



  • Serena Clarke: Sydney's older sister who can make anyone do what she says. She was shot by her boyfriend after discovering his affair. She survived and became an EO, but lost her empathy and morality. She joined Eli in his mission to kill other EOs, using her power to influence people's actions and thoughts.



  • Mitchell Turner: A hacker and former inmate who helped Victor escape from prison. He is a large and muscular man who can crack any code or system. He is also kind and loyal, acting as Victor's friend and ally.



  • Dominic Rusher: A former soldier who can make people forget. He was injured in a landmine explosion that killed his comrades. He survived and became an EO, but lost his memory and identity. He joined Eli in his quest to kill other EOs, using his power to erase their traces.



  • Angela "Angie" Mitchell: Eli's girlfriend and Victor's ex-girlfriend. She is a smart and beautiful woman who can regenerate limbs. She was involved in Victor and Eli's experiment, but died when Victor accidentally overloaded her with pain. She was brought back to life by Sydney, but lost her memories of Victor and Eli.



  • Barry Lynch: A detective who can see through walls. He was shot in the chest by a robber, but survived and became an EO. He works for the ExtraOrdinary Observation and Neutralization (EON) unit, a secret branch of the police that deals with EO-related crimes. He is also Stell's partner and mentor.



  • Anthony Stell: A detective who works for the EON unit. He is a normal human who is skeptical and curious about EOs. He is also Barry's partner and protégé.



What are the themes and messages?




Some of the themes and messages of Vicious are:


  • The ambiguity of good and evil: The novel challenges the conventional notion of good and evil, hero and villain, by presenting characters who are morally complex and flawed. None of the characters are purely good or evil, but rather act according to their own motivations, beliefs, emotions, and circumstances. The novel asks the reader to question who is right or wrong, who deserves sympathy or condemnation, and who has the authority or responsibility to judge others.



  • The consequences of playing with life and death: The novel explores the ethical and psychological implications of tampering with life and death, especially through near-death experiences that grant extraordinary abilities. The novel shows how such experiences can affect one's sense of self, morality, purpose, identity, and relationships. The novel also shows how such abilities can be used for good or evil, depending on one's choices and actions.



  • The complexity of human relationships: The novel depicts various types of human relationships, such as friendship, love, family, rivalry, loyalty, betrayal, trust, manipulation, revenge, forgiveness, etc. The novel shows how these relationships can be formed, changed, broken, or restored over time, depending on one's actions and reactions. The novel also shows how these relationships can influence one's behavior, decisions, emotions, values, etc.



Plot Summary




How Victor and Eli became EOs




How Victor escaped from prison and met Sydney




In the present day, Victor Vale has escaped from prison with the help of Mitchell Turner, a hacker and former inmate who can crack any code or system. Victor has spent the last 10 years in prison, plotting his revenge on Eli Ever, who betrayed him and sent him to jail. Victor has also honed his ability to manipulate pain in himself and others, using it as a weapon or a tool.


Victor and Mitch are on the run from the police and the EON unit, a secret branch of the police that deals with EO-related crimes. They are also looking for Eli, who has been hunting down and killing other EOs with the help of Serena Clarke, an EO who can make anyone do what she says. Serena is also Sydney's older sister, who shot and killed Sydney after discovering her boyfriend's affair. Sydney is an EO who can raise the dead.


Victor and Mitch find Sydney in a cemetery, where she has just brought back to life a dog named Dol who can detect lies. Sydney was also brought back to life by Victor, who found her in a morgue and used his power to revive her. Victor takes Sydney under his wing, seeing her as a surrogate sister and a potential ally against Eli. Sydney is loyal and brave, but also lonely and insecure. She wants to find her sister and make her pay for what she did.


How Eli hunted down other EOs with Serena's help




Eli Ever has spent the last 10 years coming to terms with his abilities and his mission. He believes that he is chosen by God to eliminate all other EOs, whom he considers unnatural and sinful. He also believes that he is the only EO who deserves to live, because he did not choose to become one, but was saved by God after his near-death experience.


Eli has been traveling from place to place, tracking down and killing other EOs with the help of Serena Clarke, an EO who can make anyone do what she says. Serena was shot by her boyfriend after discovering his affair. She survived and became an EO, but lost her empathy and morality. She joined Eli in his crusade, using her power to influence people's actions and thoughts. She also helps Eli cover his tracks and avoid detection.


Eli and Serena have also recruited another EO named Dominic Rusher, a former soldier who can make people forget. He was injured in a landmine explosion that killed his comrades. He survived and became an EO, but lost his memory and identity. He joined Eli in his quest to kill other EOs, using his power to erase their traces.


How Victor and Eli confronted each other in a final showdown




Victor and Eli's paths finally cross when they both target Angie Mitchell, Eli's girlfriend and Victor's ex-girlfriend. Angie is an EO who can regenerate limbs. She was involved in Victor and Eli's experiment, but died when Victor accidentally overloaded her with pain. She was brought back to life by Sydney, but lost her memories of Victor and Eli.


Victor and Mitch find Angie at a hospital, where she works as a doctor. They try to convince her to join them against Eli, but she refuses. Eli and Serena arrive soon after, followed by Dominic. A fight ensues between the two sides, during which Angie regains her memories and tries to stop Eli from killing Victor. However, Eli stabs Angie in the heart with a knife coated with poison that prevents her from healing.


Victor manages to escape with Mitch, Sydney, Dol, and Angie's body. He takes them to an abandoned warehouse, where he asks Sydney to bring Angie back to life again. Sydney succeeds, but Angie is still poisoned and dying. Victor decides to use his power to transfer Angie's pain to himself, hoping that it will also transfer the poison.


Eli tracks them down to the warehouse with Serena's help. He confronts Victor in a final showdown, while Serena faces Sydney outside. Eli reveals that he has been injecting himself with a serum that enhances his healing ability, making him immune to Victor's pain manipulation. He also reveals that he knows about Sydney's power and plans to kill her too.


Victor realizes that he cannot defeat Eli with his power alone. He decides to use his intelligence instead. He reveals that he has been secretly injecting himself with the same serum as Eli for months, using Mitch's hacking skills to steal it from a research lab. He also reveals that he has been using Sydney's power to bring back to life several rats that he killed with his power, creating an army of undead rodents that he can control with his pain manipulation.


Victor unleashes his rats on Eli, overwhelming him with pain and distraction. He then stabs Eli in the chest with the same knife that Eli used on Angie, hoping that the poison will affect him too. However, Eli manages to pull out the knife and heal himself. He then tries to stab Victor back, but Victor dodges and pushes Eli into a pile of electrical wires, electrocuting him.


Meanwhile, Sydney faces Serena outside. She tries to reason with her sister, but Serena is too far gone. She orders Sydney to kill herself, but Sydney resists. She then orders Dol to attack Sydney, but Dol refuses. Sydney realizes that Dol can sense Serena's lies and that Serena cannot control him. She uses Dol to distract Serena, then shoots her in the head with a gun that she took from Victor.


Victor and Sydney reunite and check on Eli's body. They find that he is still alive, but barely. Victor decides to spare Eli's life, but take away his power. He uses his pain manipulation to overload Eli's nervous system, causing him to lose his healing ability and his memories. He then leaves Eli in the warehouse, unconscious and powerless.


Victor and Sydney take Mitch, Angie, and Dol with them and drive away from the warehouse. They decide to start a new life together, away from the EON unit and the police. They also decide to keep an eye on other EOs, hoping to find allies or enemies among them.


Analysis




What makes Vicious different from other superhero stories?




Vicious is different from other superhero stories in several ways:


  • It subverts the Good vs. Evil trope: Unlike most superhero stories, where the heroes and villains are clearly defined and opposed, Vicious presents characters who are morally ambiguous and complex. None of the characters are purely good or evil, but rather act according to their own motivations, beliefs, emotions, and circumstances. The novel asks the reader to question who is right or wrong, who deserves sympathy or condemnation, and who has the authority or responsibility to judge others.



  • It explores the consequences of playing with life and death: Unlike most superhero stories, where the origin of the powers is often glossed over or taken for granted, Vicious explores the ethical and psychological implications of tampering with life and death, especially through near-death experiences that grant extraordinary abilities. The novel shows how such experiences can affect one's sense of self, morality, purpose, identity, and relationships. The novel also shows how such abilities can be used for good or evil, depending on one's choices and actions.



  • It uses multiple perspectives and timelines: Unlike most superhero stories, where the narrative follows a linear and chronological order, Vicious uses multiple perspectives and timelines to create suspense and complexity. The novel alternates between the present day and 10 years ago, showing how Victor and Eli became EOs and started their feud. The novel also introduces other characters who have different abilities and agendas, creating a web of connections and conflicts among them.



How does Schwab explore the concepts of good and evil, hero and villain?




Schwab explores the concepts of good and evil, hero and villain in several ways:


  • She challenges the conventional notion of good and evil: Schwab shows that good and evil are not absolute or objective terms, but rather relative and subjective ones. She shows that what one person considers good or evil may not be the same as what another person considers good or evil. She also shows that what one person considers good or evil may change over time or depending on the situation.



  • She presents characters who are morally complex and flawed: Schwab shows that good and evil are not inherent or fixed qualities, but rather choices and actions. She shows that no one is born good or evil, but rather becomes good or evil through their decisions and deeds. She also shows that no one is entirely good or evil, but rather has both good and evil aspects within them.



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Conclusion




What are the strengths and weaknesses of Vicious?




Vicious has many strengths and few weaknesses as a novel. Some of the strengths are:


  • The plot: The plot is well-crafted and engaging, with twists and turns that keep the reader hooked. The plot is also original and creative, offering a fresh and unique take on the superhero genre.



  • The characters: The characters are well-developed and realistic, with distinct personalities, motivations, backgrounds, and relationships. The characters are also relatable and sympathetic, despite their flaws and actions.



  • The themes: The themes are relevant and thought-provoking, exploring the concepts of good and evil, hero and villain, life and death, and human nature. The themes are also nuanced and complex, avoiding simplistic or clichéd answers.



  • The style: The style is clear and concise, with vivid descriptions, witty dialogues, and smooth transitions. The style is also dynamic and versatile, using multiple perspectives and timelines to create suspense and complexity.



Some of the weaknesses are:


  • The pacing: The pacing is sometimes uneven and inconsistent, with some parts being too slow or too fast. The pacing is also sometimes confusing or disorienting, especially when switching between different perspectives and timelines.



  • The ending: The ending is somewhat anticlimactic and unsatisfying, leaving some loose ends unresolved or unanswered. The ending is also somewhat predictable and convenient, relying on some coincidences or contrivances.



Who would enjoy reading Vicious?




Vicious is a novel that would appeal to a wide range of readers, especially those who enjoy:


  • Fantasy: The novel is a fantasy novel that features people who have extraordinary abilities after near-death experiences. The novel also creates a rich and immersive world where EOs exist and interact with normal humans.



  • Thriller: The novel is a thriller novel that has a fast-paced and action-packed plot that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. The novel also has a lot of suspense and mystery that keeps the reader guessing and intrigued.



  • Drama: The novel is a drama novel that has a lot of emotion and conflict that makes the reader feel invested and involved. The novel also has a lot of depth and complexity that makes the reader think and reflect.



What are some questions to discuss after reading Vicious?




Some questions to discuss after reading Vicious are:


  • What do you think of Victor and Eli as characters? Who do you sympathize with more? Why?



  • What do you think of Sydney and Serena as sisters? How do they differ in their personalities, abilities, and choices? Why?



  • What do you think of the concept of EOs? How would you react if you became an EO? What ability would you want to have? Why?



  • What do you think of the ethical and psychological implications of playing with life and death? Do you agree or disagree with Eli's view that EOs are unnatural and sinful? Why?



  • What do you think of the themes of good and evil, hero and villain? How do they apply to your own life or society? Why?



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