Saturday, 6 June 2015

Review: Fandemic

In this day and age, it's hard not to be a superhero fan. No one can deny that Marvel now dominates most of pop culture, with DC more or less struggling to keep up with their shadow, ironically (hey, we all know it's true). So when one of my favorite authors and writing idol, Jennifer Estep, came out with the latest novel in her Bigtime series, Fandemic, you better believe I snatched it up and jumped into it as fast as I could. Not that it was a long read– finished it in a little over an hour. That being said, the quick-paced story was fun and sweet, a nice break from all the dark and broody novels I've been reading over the last few weeks. 

Most of the covers are cute ones like this.

Piper Perez has always wanted to be a super­hero. Always wanted to wear a cool costume, have amazing abilities, and save the day. There’s just one problem—Piper doesn’t have any superpowers.

So she focuses on other things. Facts, figures, memorabilia. Piper knows and collects it all, about both the superheroes and the ubervillains who roam the streets of Bigtime, N.Y. Piper’s friends jokingly call her a fandemic—someone who is a superfan of all things superhero. The nickname is truer than anyone knows, especially since Piper can’t stop thinking about Swifte, the speedy hero who broke her heart months ago.

But someone has been killing off Bigtime’s heroes and villains. When one of Piper’s friends is murdered, she vows to do whatever she can to help bring the killer to justice, superpowers or not. All the clues and information she gathers lead her to believe that Swifte is the killer’s next target. Piper has always wanted to be a hero, and now she’ll have to use all of her fandemic knowledge to save the man she loves—or die trying….

Almost every book in the Bigtime series can be read as a standalone, though this is the first one that required just a little bit of background knowledge. Each story is told from a perspective of a new character, the frontrunner in this novel being Piper Perez, a fangirl who takes her adoration to the extreme, which was the cause of her broken heart.   

One of the things I like most about the Bigtime series, and Fandemic in general, is that it knows how to be fun. You'll never see me complaining about a broody superhero or heroine (they can be entertaining until they get so dark they might as well confess they're Goths or Emos), but the reason I'll always be a Marvel fangirl over a DC fangirl is because superheroes are supposed to be fun. Are they supposed to be in mortal danger all the time? Of course. Do the villains have to be sadistic and terrifying? Absolutely. But when I think superheroes, I think of bright colors, snarky behavior, insecurities for the person under the mask, and the fight for a happily ever after. Estep has always been a master at that kind of thing– perfectly balancing darker emotions with a light-hearted, fun touch.

While not my top favorite in the series (Nightingale still has the top spot there), I can definitely say that it's a strong story for how short it is. With the characters involved, the story can't help but be fun. Piper, who's more or less been on the sidelines in the other stories, has always been a bundle of energy when it comes to her obsession, or "fandemic." She turns out to be a deep character who struggles with her fandom, putting it above the rest of her life. Her fandom is what cost her the love of her life, Kyle Quicke, aka Swifte, and she grows to learn that being a hero isn't all she thought it would be. Piper isn't a superhero, but she has an indomitable will and is a strong lead character not afraid to take matters into her own hands to protect her friends and her love.

Surprisingly, what made me like Fandemic so much was that Estep kind of poked fun at her own series. She made a couple references to previous books, causing me to grin, and I was able to relate to Piper's own remarks on superheroes and their identities– they're so blatantly obvious that a blind man could see them. Don't get me wrong, that's not a complaint. It's endlessly entertaining to watch the characters frown and ponder about their intended's secret identity, when readers like me are going: "He's right in front of you, damn it!" This play definitely made Piper an easy to relate to, likeable character, as if she were someone I could throw my shoulder over and say, "finally, someone else sees it!"

The main story isn't unfamiliar to the superhero genre– an ubervillain out to steal other superhero powers for himself– but what surprised me was the choice of villain. He's been around before, and while it was hinted that he might return, I have to admit that I didn't expect him to come back. Once I knew who he was, I certainly didn't expect someone like Piper to handle him the way she did. Just goes to prove that you should never underestimate anyone, no matter who they are.

Since this villain has returned, it makes me wonder if Estep will continue writing the Bigtime series and bring back the wicked trio we thought had been taken care of. I would love that, because the books are great and deserve to continue to be read (if you read this, Jennifer, I would love a book on Wynter and Pistol Pete!). Fandemic is a cute, fun story that I would recommend to anyone who loves Marvel or classic comics. When I'm reading one of the Bigtime books, I almost feel like I'm reading a comic book. The character names, cheesy puns, creative powers, even the cliches fit seamlessly into the work. I don't think this is the type of story for DC fans– there isn't enough scowling involved– but if you want a super fun, super sweet, super light read? This is the book for you.


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