Written by Kiran Gokal
Ever wondered what x-men would look like on a college campus? Well, the search is over. Vicious, a fantasy, science–fiction, and paranormal thriller (honestly it’s a little bit of everything) by V.E. Schwab, plays with the ethics surrounding life and death, and the fine line we walk between the two. The story follows Victor Vale and Eliot Cardale, two pre-med students who discover that the key to gaining superpowers is near-death experiences. So they set out to research and manufacture their own abilities by experimenting with their own suicides. Of course, it goes horribly wrong. Vicious is a journey that intrigued me right from the start and made me think rather critically about the definition and executions of the cliché hero–versus–villain story.
V.E. Schwab, a best-selling author of multiple books and book series, wrote this particular novel in secret, in an attempt to re–spark her interest in writing for pleasure rather than for an income. The rawness of such a notion definitely shows in the work. It’s funny, it’s engaging, and it’s thought provoking. Adorning the captivating story of Victor and Eli are the various wonderful characters that either join forces with the pair or happen to make appearances in the story. Schwab’s strong suit is balancing her characters with her plots, neither one louder than the other. I don’t know about you, but those are my favorite stories to read.
More fascinatingly, Schwab wrote the novel hoping to “play with the idea of the superhero as social construct” and the notion of giving an ordinary person supernatural abilities—what would they do then? Save the world just as the comics would have us believe? Here, she strips the archetypes of their roles. The hero is no longer the hero and the villain could be both. It really is up to the reader to choose a side (or not). As Schwab would say, “we like our heroes flawed and our villains complicated.”
If any of this interests you, I highly recommend picking up Vicious by V.E. Schwab. The dark and mysterious atmosphere of the book is a perfect read for the fall and winter time—and who doesn’t love superheroes?