[10 August 2008]
There is a sub-genre that is on the upswing in the world of book publishing. That would be the superhero novel. The themes and concepts typically found in the four-colored world of comic books have made their way in the decidedly un-graphic pages of books. In the last several years, titles such as Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman, Hero by Perry Moore, Superpowers by David J. Schwartz, among others, have carved out a little space of their own in the world of science fiction and fantasy.
Now, the superhero novel has received its standard bearer, the one novel all others in the sub-genre will be compared to. That novel is Devil’s Cape by Rob Rogers.
Devil’s Cape supposedly is Rogers’ first novel, but it reads like his 51st. It is not only one of the best superhero novels on the market today, but also stands as one of the best examples of the wider classification of genre fiction.
Devil’s Cape is a town in Louisiana, just a few miles away from New Orleans. The town was founded by pirates and, today, the bad guys rule in Devil’s Cape. Pity any superhero who dares try to fight them. If they can’t kill you, they’ll kill your family. If you don’t have a family, they’ll find someone close to you to kill, whatever it takes for them to keep their power over you – and the city.
But now, a band of heroes have sprung up and have decided to bring these ruling elite down. Each has their own reason for fighting, be it revenge, blackmail or honor. Can these heroes succeed where others have failed? The odds are against them.
The key to success in any novel, but especially genre fiction, is to create a believable world with realistic characters. The situations can be fantastic, but there has to be an element of truth there. Rogers creates a vivid and vibrant world from whole cloth which seems like it truly can exist right outside your window. And that is what makes Devil’s Cape so successful.
Rogers toys with reader expectations with his characterizations, playing against type well. The characters you think will turn out to be heroes end up being villains and vice versa. He stays away from your typical superhero tropes—your Superman or Batman facsimiles—and molds his characters after more classical archetypes, much to the benefit of the book.
He also employs the passage of time well. He spans 35 years in the first 11 chapters, allowing readers to see the development of the town and its characters. And his practice of jumping back and forth through time during the climax expertly helps add tension and suspense. Readers will be on the edge of their seat, turning pages furiously in anticipation of what will happen.
Devil’s Cape is a quick read in the best sense of the word. It is truly difficult to put down. It proudly deserves a place next to Tom Clancy and Stephen King as a sterling example of the best of genre fiction. Even if you don’t like superheroes, you are bound to be captivated by Devil’s Cape.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/devils-cape/