I’ve been a fan of Mike Stackpole’s since I read his Fiddleback trilogy of novels. When I saw him post on his Twitter that he was releasing a new digital direct-to-reader novel, I was interested. When I discovered he called it “superhero noir,” I purchased it right away — the first time I made an impulse purchase on an ebook novel. I was in the middle of reading a collection of the Carnacki stories, but as soon as I was done, I got my trusty nook and opened up In Hero Years…I’m Dead.
I wasn’t disappointed. The book starts on a number of solid noir tropes, moves on to hit a number of superhero tropes, and then proceeds to keep sending the main character (and the reader) in a number of different directions before its all over. A couple of times I thought I saw where it was heading, only to be proven wrong. The story is about an unnamed protagonist who has been out of the superhero business for twenty years. He comes back to town to try to pick up the pieces of his life. From there, he’s drawn into a fast-paced collection of lies, deceit, optimism, hope, and sacrifice. The whole story is driven on emotion and feeling rather than logic, and I got swept up into the whole strange, wonderful world of it all. I spent the extra dollar to get the deluxe edition with his lengthy afterword discussing the creation of the book, and I was pleased to find that a lot of the details and feeling I noticed in the book were all intended.
The only downside is that there were a few more typos than I would have hoped for. I would get wrapped up in the story, and some missing word or errant punctuation would draw me out and slap my editor’s cap on my head. There were also a couple of times that I caught myself trying to figure out which heroes and villains were analogs of which popular comic book characters, which also distracted me. But I found myself taking any opportunity I could to sneak in a few more pages, so clearly these things didn’t distract me too terribly much.
Overall, if you want to support a writer trying a new business model, if you have an ebook reader (or are comfortable reading on a computer), and if you like gritty superhero stories packed with emotion and character, do yourself a favor and pick up In Hero Years.