Rise of the Heroes

Rise of the Heroes

Author: Andy Briggs

Publication: Walker & Company, 2008

Pages: 272

Overall Rating:  bth_25_zps13f4f4eb[1]                      

Rating for Action: bth_25_zps13f4f4eb[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_5-star-rating_zps467d5332[1]

Age Category: 9-12

Brief Summary: When Toby, Pete, Lorna, and Emily stumble across an unusual website it changes their lives forever.  The site is called heroes.com and it allows them to actually download superpowers and use them to carry out missions.  The powers include everything from flight to the ability to shoot lasers out of your eyes.

They get caught up in the excitement and use their powers to stop a super villain by the name of Doc Tempest from robbing a bank.  Tempest vows revenge and soon takes it, destroying Toby and Lorna’s home and kidnapping their mother.  They have no choice but to return to Heroes.com, download more powers, and go after Doc Tempest.

Age of Main Character: 12

What I Liked the Most: It’s a cool concept, being able to download superpowers from the computer.  And it’s made even cooler by the idea of having a rival website where super villains can download powers of their own.  I also liked the idea that the first couple of downloads were free and the powers were temporary, so if you wanted to keep downloading powers you had to earn points by doing missions.  The only downside to this concept was that you could also pay for powers with a credit card.  It seems like if you really are a superhero then you should have to prove it through successful missions rather than being allowed to simply buy your powers.

What I Liked the Least: There were a lot of problematic things about this novel, but the biggest one was how tough Toby and his friends ended up being.  They’ve just downloaded their powers and are using them for the very first time, and yet somehow they’re able to stand up to Doc Tempest, who has been using and refining his powers for years.  Not only that, they’re able to take out scores of his well trained mercenaries.  These might be battle-hardened mercenaries under other circumstances, but faced with Toby and his friends they seem to fall apart and can no longer even shoot straight.

Toby and his friends even go so far as to outperform a team of veteran heroes.  The novel would have been a lot better in my opinion if the forces Toby, Pete, Emily, and Lauren had to overcome weren’t quite so numerous and well armed.  That might have it made a tad more believable.

Doc Tempest is pure evil.  There’s nothing remotely likable about him, nothing to humanize him.  Really, he’s nothing more than a cartoon villain – especially when he’s spewing clichéd dialogue ala – “A genius like me!  And they send cops and children to stop me.”  Or “I control the weather and soon I will control the world!”

Finally, the organization of villains that Tempest belongs too is a bumbling group of idiots – which Briggs means to be humorous.  They build fancy, sophisticated equipment and then mislabel the controls, getting things like ‘auto-launch’ and ‘auto-destruct’ mixed up.  It’s meant to be funny, but just comes off as clichéd.

How Good was the Action?  The action scenes were good, or had the potential to be good anyway.  There are a number of decent battles between Doc Tempest and the heroes, and it’s fun to watch them harnessing a range of imaginative superpowers to defeat their enemies.  But the action really suffered from Toby and his friends being too good, taking out legions of faceless mercenaries.  Even when Toby and the others got into trouble it didn’t feel like there was a lot of tension in the battles.  It would actually have been much better if Doc Tempest had only had four or five mercenaries, each with individual personalities.  Briggs could have made them tough and ruthless, very scary for four teens to be fighting.  And the fights against those four or five individual mercenaries would likely have been far scarier then having them take on 30 interchangeable and laughably weak mercenaries.

How Engaging was the Story?   It started off fine.  Toby and his friends are reasonably well filled out characters.  I liked how Pete, who comes from a poor family, considers using his powers to make money and has to weigh that against his friends.  And I could feel Toby and Lauren tense need to rescue their mother – especially since it was their fault she’d been kidnapped in the first place.  But Briggs lost me after a while because of how clichéd the villains were and the ease with which Toby and his friends were able to defeat hordes of trained mercenaries.

Overall Assessment: This is a fun, if not especially engaging book.  The superpowers are cool and the action can be amusing, but the believability is paper thin and I never felt particularly worried for the main characters.  Doc Tempest was too cartoonish and his men too incompetent for there to be any real danger.  It’s not a bad book, but there’s no depth to it.

Profanity: None

Sex: None

Violence: Mercenaries get killed by the scores, along with a few heroes that aren’t part of Toby’s crew, but the deaths are never particularly grizzly.  It feels more like a playing Super Mario than anything else.

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