Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Devil's Cape by Rob Rogers

Firstly, I'll be upfront and say that this is a review of a book by an online friend of mine, Rob Rogers. As such, it's not entirely unbiased, but I'll try to comment on it fairly. Also, this book has been out for about a year now (and it's been about 6 months since I actually read it) so it's not entirely new or fresh.

Anyway, on with the review...

With an alliterative name like Rob Rogers, it was obvious that he was destined to write a superhero-based novel. And, indeed, that's what Devil's Cape is. It's a thriller about superheroes (with a bit of pirates thrown in) set in the seedy, corrupt city of Devil's Cape, a mix of Batman's gloomy Gotham City and a darker version of New Orleans. Powered villains rule the city until a trio of reluctant heroes step forward to bring a little light and hope into the place.

There aren't many original superhero novels out there; most superhero books seem to be tie-ins to existing comic book properties. Those original stories that do exist tend to be pretty good and this book is certainly no exception.

Like many first superhero movies, this is the origin story. But not just of one or two characters. It's the origin of around ten of them! Those characters are very different, interesting and realistically depicted. And yet they're still firmly in the superhero genre - i.e. they wear costumes and give themselves codenames like 'Doctor Camelot'. The book is dark - evil and corruption are everywhere and people die in horrible ways - and yet not overwhelmingly bleak or too adult to be off-putting. Overall, it's a damned good, gripping read.

It does have its faults though. The pacing and/or rhythm are a little off. There seem to be a few too many characters jostling for space. Also, the beginning half of the book (which contains cameo appearances from a number of my fellow PBeMers) describes 35 years of history of Devil's Cape and is perhaps a little too long. Conversely, the end of the book - with the final showdown between the three main heroes and the villains - seems a little rushed and, thus, perhaps a little underwhelming.

This is Rob's first book but it doesn't read like it. It's engaging and well written. As he continues to write more of these stories (and I really hope he does!), Rob should improve. Not that he needs to improve much - just enough to make a good book like this one into a great book. I'd heartily recommend this to anyone who enjoys unusual thrillers or action stories, especially those with a superhuman theme to them. Very Fine.

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