Phobos Books, 2003, 244 pages
Richard Rogers was an ordinary man until the super-genius Dr. Nicolas Knowbokov built his time machine. On the machine's maiden voyage, Dr. Knowbokov accidentally changes history so that Richard is never born. Now trapped in a world that has no memory of him, Richard is an invisible, intangible ghost to everyone but Dr. Knowbokov and the scientist's two superheroine daughters, Rail Blade and the Thrill.
Assigned the codename Nobody, Richard becomes the world's ultimate spy, invisibly battling the super-powered terrorist army run by the mysterious mastermind Rex Monday. The fate of the free world is at stake as the superhuman battles escalate, wiping entire cities from the map, threatening the survival of all mankind.
Who can save us from the looming apocalypse? Nobody!
So I just can't pass up a superhero novel. Few rise above mediocre, but they're like space operas, I am always looking for the one that shines above the rest.
Nobody Gets the Girl is better than average. The worldbuilding and the plotting was excellent. James Maxey creates an internally consistent world packed with all the usual superhero tropes — the supergenius super-technologist who is a one-man Illuminati, his supergenius nemesis, giant baby dolls trashing cities, superheroes and supervillains with creative but familiar powers, power-ups that turn the merely formidable into world-shaking, time travel and alternate universes, and of course, big twists.
The main character, Richard Rogers, wakes up one day to find his life is literally gone. His house is occupied by strangers. His wife is gone. Nobody can see or hear him. Finding out how this happened and the "rules" of his new existence is just the first part of the book. Richard becomes a minion of "Dr. Know," who has two beautiful daughters, all of them working to bring about world peace and an end to poverty, starvation, and disease.
How likely is that, really?
It turns out that the Knowbokovs are, to put it mildly, a dysfunctional family, and Richard, a snarky Everyman sort of protagonist, gets whipped back and forth by one revelation after another.
He also gets to nail both of the hot sexy superbabes despite being a mostly passive dork whose "power" is that the rest of the world doesn't know he exists. One cannot help suspecting a bit of authorial self-insertion.
I enjoyed the book quite a lot. Any superhero story requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief, but this one manages to make everything fit logically together if you just accept the first big premise. It's a "believable" superhero world with a story that escalates to a true world-saving adventure.
The only flaw that keeps it from being a nearly perfect superhero book is that the writing was so bland as to be almost sterile at times. Imagine someone narrating a thrilling story to you with a flat stare and a monotone; grammatically perfect, but devoid of affect. James Maxey uses straight dialog to carry many of his scenes; the dialog is fine, and while I applaud any writer (especially a superhero writer) who avoids overly-emotive descriptions, Maxey went a little too far in the other direction, sometimes requiring the reader to guess whether someone is speaking angrily, sarcastically, or sadly, and what their state of mind is. Likewise, no scene was lacking in clarity, but I actually found myself wishing for more adjectives and some sentences that weren't simply plain narrative style.
The author's notes at the end of the book say that he wrote the first draft in about a month and a half. It was obviously polished prior to publication, but the fast pace and high-concept plot with relatively sparse prose can be explained by the fact that it was, for practical purposes, a NaNoWriMo novel. But given all that, not bad.
Verdict: You can't ask much more from a superhero story than that it be fun and not terribly, terribly stupid. Nobody Gets the Girl is fun and (for the genre) fairly intelligent. The writing will not blow you away, but any superhero fan should find it enjoyable, and I liked it enough to put the sequel on my TBR list, even though it looks like the next book is a self-published effort.
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