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Starter Villain


Starter Villain

What a delightful book! Perhaps I should simply stop at this point and tell you to read John Scalzi’s masterful work of science fiction, which is unlike most of his previous efforts and move on to my next Bookreporter project. But that would not do this enjoyable novel justice and give it appropriate credit.

Perhaps Scalzi’s best-known work is the series of Old Man’s War books, three of which have been nominated for the Hugo Award. They are military-based science fiction that revolves around a future world where older citizens are recruited to fight in the war to colonize space. They are transformed into fighters by contemporary medical science of the future. The stories stretch to galaxies far, far away and enemies who in no way resemble occupants of Earth. Scalzi laces his novels with humor and occasionally makes reference to certain sci-fi shows and movies. Last year's THE KAIJU PRESERVATION SOCIETY received an Alex Award as a book written for adults that could have special appeal to readers ages 12 through 18.

"Scalzi peppers the story with humor and some social messaging that often appears in his novels. STARTER VILLAIN is another commendable addition to his outstanding body of work."

Whether in a distant galaxy facing aliens or on planet Earth, Scalzi’s characters appear to be very much at home. I would note for longtime readers of his that this novel stays firmly planted on Earth and lacks any space-based characters. However, it does include animals who scientists have enabled with the ability to converse with humans. So the plot develops with the aid of super-intelligent spy cats and some dolphins who have decided that poor working conditions require a work action.

STARTER VILLAIN introduces readers to Charlie Fitzer, an erstwhile business reporter who has found few opportunities for gainful employment in the declining world of print journalism. He struggles to earn a living as a substitute teacher and is attempting to gain financial support to purchase a local bar. Then he finds out that his long-lost uncle Jake, a billionaire who has made his fortune in the parking business, has died. He stands to inherit a great deal of the estate, but in the days immediately following this news, he learns that Jake was a far different man from how he appeared to his family. Unbeknownst to Charlie, he was involved with an ongoing criminal enterprise that is best described as a group of supervillains whose businesses and activities reach deeply into the world’s economy, occasionally benefiting society but mostly advancing their own bank accounts.

Charlie has found himself involved with a group whose members are a combination of Michael Corleone and the James Bond villains sitting around the SPECTRE table in many Ian Fleming novels. He is assisted by some of his uncle’s former staff, and an elaborate scheme is developed to counter the demands that Charlie and Jake’s assets join the Lombardy Convocation, the organization that secretly runs the world.

From this point on, the book becomes your classic spy tale, with assassinations and double-crosses. But Scalzi peppers the story with humor and some social messaging that often appears in his novels. STARTER VILLAIN is another commendable addition to his outstanding body of work.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on September 29, 2023

Starter Villain
by John Scalzi

  • Publication Date: September 19, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor, Science Fiction
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books
  • ISBN-10: 0765389223
  • ISBN-13: 9780765389220