Sunday, March 14, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 39 (3/14) -- Captain Freedom by G. Xavier Robillard

There have been a lot of superhero novels over the years -- from Superfolks to Miracle Monday, from Count Geiger's Blues to Superpowers, from one interchangable licensed product to another. So it would be very difficult to make the case that Captain Freedom is the very worst superhero novel every published. In fact, it's quite likely that's not true at all -- Robillard always shows a command of the English language, and his sentences form into coherent paragraphs and chapters at all times. No, Captain Freedom is certainly not the very worst superhero novel ever.

But it's not very good, either.

Captain Freedom masquerades as a novel, but it's really a sequence of tedious vignettes -- thirty-one of them -- only vaguely linked in a sequence. Many of those sections have only a tenuous relevance to the sections preceding and following them, as if Robillard is tossing out every variation on superhero cliches he can think of, as quickly as he can think of them, without bothering to filter or edit, and all of those sections have a hasty, half-baked urgency, with anything that could possibly have been a dramatic scene flatly narrated at second-hand and every idea given equally minimal weight and space.

Robillard begins with Captain Freedom having been forcibly retired from his mid-level office at Gotham Comics -- one of many, many potentially funny ideas that Robillard tosses out and then ignores in favor of tossing out more potentially funny ideas that he can also ignore -- and then flashes back to badly and superficially cover his career (in present tense, which our first-person narrator the Captain excuses for a reason that makes little sense and doesn't lead to anything) until coming out of the flashback at some murky point and then floundering aimlessly for another fifty pages until the book ends after a chapter not notably different or more conclusive than the half-dozen before it.

If Captain Freedom was a comedian, it would be Don Rickles -- a relentless stream of one-liners that insults the audience's intelligence. Make that Rickles on a bad night. A really bad night. Buried in this novel are ideas that, in more careful hands than Robillard's, could have been the kernels of at least a half-dozen funny superhero books. But everything is Captain Freedom is reduced to the same bland level, with a relentlessly talky narration that bleeds all tension and interest out of the book and characters who all talk exactly like each other -- when they're allowed to talk at all, which is rare, since Robillard would rather tell everything at second-hand than actually write a scene.

The best reason to read Captain Freedom would be if one were contemplating writing a superhero novel and needed inspiration. It's one of the finest examples of "If this can get published, I know I can" that I've ever seen.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: we are soldiers we have guns - Damn those TV shows, damn them straight to hell
via FoxyTunes


The Brillig Blogger said...

my goal for Lunacon -- if we distract you 24/7 Saturday, will you do your Book A Day. Heh heh heh. Twirl mustache. Plot Nefariously.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Brillig: I'm already three days ahead -- I've been writing at least one Book-A-Day post every day, but some days I got to more than one -- so I could take a miss the entire weekend and still end up even. (But I do plan to avoid that!)

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