Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Broken Nights by Matthew Davenport

    BROKEN NIGHTS by Matthew Davenport is the first foray by one of my favorite Lovecraft fiction authors into the world of superheroes. It has the premise of trying to be a Heroes-esque "grounded" story about a guy who dresses up as a vigilante and fights crime but does it without Bruce Wayne's billions or years of study with Tibetan martial artists. There are actually people who do this in real life, for better or worse, but the Darden Valley Guardian has a lot more luck than the majority who get arrested or humiliated. Even so, it's realistic enough that the opening of the book is him getting hospitalized after trying to jump across rooftops and ending up in a trash bin.

    The premise of the book is Jason and Amy Night have recently lost their mother to a store robbery. Darden Valley, Iowa is a tech-powerhouse town in the middle of nowhere with a rising crime problem due to the moving in of a powerful new corporation which is leveraging crime to lower property rates like OCP did in Robocop--also, Donald Trump in New York during the 1980s if you believe certain rumors. No, I'm serious, that's actually a real life rumor about him. I'm not trying to make stuff up.

    The best part of the book is following Jason as he tries to figure out ways for a man on a middle-class budget to become a superhero via a mixture of as well as local martial arts classes. His efforts are stymied until he gets the help of a small team of his friends who know a good deal more about technology, the police, and other business which could be useful to a self-made superhero. From there, things gradually get weirder and weirder until he's dealing with a horde of nanotech zombies controlled by a malevolent A.I. I kind of regret the fact Matthew didn't stick to street level crime but I enjoyed it as a full-on Bronze Age comic book universe.

    Jason is a likable enough protagonist and while he's more Spiderman than Batman, except without the pop culture quips, he's still a believable superhero. The fact he screws up and doesn't achieve his goals every time makes him more relatable. I also liked Amy a great deal because she's a supportive sister while also not entirely tolerating all of his crap. Those readers with siblings are likely to see a lot of their own relationships in the Night Siblings' own. Honestly, I wished she'd become her own brand of hero versus Jason's version of Oracle.

    Stella, the villain of the piece, is a great antagonist who manages to remain just the right balance between corrupt corporate executive until she goes complete supervillain. The discovery of the benefits of nanotechnology are the kind of things which would excite the mind of even the most levelled soul so I didn't have a problem when she completely lost it. The fact she was also close to being arrested and panicking when her inner Lex Luthor comes out was also believable.

    The first half of the story follows his actions against ordinary crime before shifting to a more science-fiction orientated plot regarding Stella's plans to use an Alzheimer's cure to become an omnipotent cybernetic god. This shift was a bit much and I can't help but think I preferred the more lower-key actions of the Guardian but still worked as a decent science-fiction villainy plot. I also felt Jason and villain Stella had decent chemistry.

    The action was good, the characters were likeable, and the plot was decent. As such, I recommend Broken Nights to anyone who wants to enjoy a superhero adventure story as their next book. It's an extremely fun book and one of the better superhero books I've read in 2018. Which is a lot of them, I've got to say.


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