Monday, 24 August 2015
All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman
This is a short book. It is just over 100 pages, but there are a lot of blank pages between chapters in between. So understand what I mean when I say that there is not enough story for the length of this book. There is maybe a short story's worth of material (maybe!) and when the effort to stretch something to 100 pages is evident, then you know that there's something wrong.
It's about a guy who knows a lot of superheroes. In fact, he marries one. But at their reception, her ex-boyfriend hypnotizes her into not seeing her new husband, and as a result, she's about to move to Vancouver. Her husband has the length of the trip to figure out how to break the hypnotism.
Now let's see. The book is fairly insistent that there are no supervillains, just superheroes with differing opinions. But I would argue that Hypno is pretty obviously a supervillain, given his propensity for hypnotizing women into having sex through convincing them it'll be the best sex ever, and, oh, an attack on his ex-girlfriend's mind on her wedding day. What else do you need for supervillainy?
Let me come back to that. I have one more point first. If you're going to be nitpicky about there not being any supervillains, why are you even calling these people superheroes? Their powers are not the type to be used in combatting crime. In most cases, they're just slightly weird abilities. No one seems to use them for good. So if we're being nitpicky, these are people with superpowers, not superheroes. Villain means something, but you know what? So does superhero.
Back to Hypno. Given that this book is about mental invasion and coercion into sex, the author never really seems to notice how troubling that is. She consented to sex after being hypnotized, right? And that's not coercion because people can break hypnotism if they don't want to do the thing they're being hypnotized, right? (So why can't the Perfectionist break the hypnotism that makes her not perceive her husband, since it's clearly making her miserable?)
So yeah, that's troubling, but sacrificed in favour of cute. This is actually not my biggest problem with the book. My husband was able to put his finger on what was going on when I told him this story, and made it clear that it's all about how the husband is dealing with it.
He told me about a writing teacher giving him a valuable piece of advice: the character who has the most at stake is the person the story is about. Of the two characters, the husband and the wife, well, they probably both have a lot at stake, but the author seems to never have considered that this story might not be about the husband and how he feels being unnoticed. Instead of, say, the woman who was mentally attacked, and her whose new husband is missing.
At any rate, this story tries too hard for cute, has not enough depth for what it wants to be, and glosses over some truly troubling stuff that might have strengthened it if it had taken it seriously. You set it up, you knock it down. Otherwise, what's the point?