I skimmed the last few chapters because I couldn't wait to be done with this awful, awful book.
10) Captain Freedom: A Superhero's Quest for Truth, Justice, and the Celebrity He So Richly Deserves by G. Xavier Robillard
Purchased while in Portland at Powell's Book Store last February, the titular character relates his adventures through a first-person narrative. Robillard's book caught my eye for a few reasons: it's about superheroes, it was cheap, and Christopher Moore gave it a plug on the cover.
With my affinity for stories about jerks with superpowers, I thought it would be right up my alley. Unfortunately, Moore led me astray. Superhero fiction can work very well, so that's not the issue here; Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible and Tom DeHaven's It's Superman are both examples of terrific superhero novels. This one, though, features a completely unlikeable protagonist (and not in the way the author intends) with pacing that's all over the place, both things that are essential to my enjoyment of the genre.
To start, G. Xavier Robillard can't make up his mind. He attempts to straddle the line between absurdist satire and comedic action story. I likened his style early on to a combination of John Swartzwelder and Christopher Moore, but only in the attempt and not in the execution. Swartzwelder's books are full of non sequiturs that are actually funny. Moore creates organically humorous moments and includes cute, character-driven dialogue that rings true. Robillard attempts to mix the two styles and it creates this completely incongruous, slow-moving and uncohesive story.
Captain Freedom is supposed to be a jerk - something that can work for a main character - but there's nothing redeeming that about him that made me want to spend 272 pages with the guy. Satire is supposed to be funny and reveal something about what is being satirized, but this is boring and says nothing about the superhero genre, comics or the nature of celebrity that hasn't already been said by other, better writers a long time ago. Our hero is not funny, he's completely inept, and he's not relatable. And this goes for more than just Captain Freedom, too, as none of the rest of the cast are any better.
I hate being completely negative, but there's nothing in the course of the novel that gives me even an inkling of the author's potential to write something better later on.