I suppose we should have put on our review guidelines that we weren’t necessarily very into reading fantasy novels. To be honest I just didn’t think about it at the time. If I had I would probably have thought, well, a fantasy novel every now and then might be ok really…what I hadn’t reckoned with was the deluge of fantasy novels that started piling up outside our metaphorical letterbox each day. I had no idea! Is it true that 95 percent of self-published novels are actually in the fantasy genre? That’s a terrifying thought.
Anyway. So when we got a book through the digital post and it was titled The Last Superhero, to be honest I just wasn’t that into it. But I opened the book and took a look at the first page. I read that page. And then I read the next page. And then I…just kept reading. Turns out The Last Superhero is after all extremely well written. It’s terse, it’s just the right side of sarcastic, it puts characters before action, it’s had someone go through it and cut off all and any dead wood…whatever the genre, whatever the subject matter, it is in fact a very good book.
Then there’s the whole superhero thing. You know what I mean
The Last Superhero is written by Astrid ‘Artistikem’ Cruz, who lives in Puerto Rico. The book is by no means her first. She’s written and self-published a series of books based on a character called The Caregiver before she came to this one. I checked out her website in fact because I found it hard to believe that this was her first crack at a novel. Artistikem has obviously worked on her craft, and her writing has the traits of someone who’s been at it for a while. It’s such a tough thing to be able to keep the tone just right all the way through, to keep the plot moving forward, to keep the dialogue snappy, funny and relevant…and of course there’s keeping your characters believable, especially when one of them not only has the ability to move objects around him but also to plant fantasies in the minds of people that he has physical contact with. It is, as I say, a tough one. Then there’s the whole superhero thing. You know what I mean.
Like taking a plastic ukulele and playing a Bach sonata on it
But Artistikem seems almost to have taken it as a challenge – to take a genre that almost begs to be treated flippantly, simplistically, melodramatically, sensationalistically; and to treat it with a dignity it hardly deserves. To develop a complex plot within it, with ambiguous characters, varying motives…and to find depths in what should by all rights be one-dimensional characters. It’s like taking a plastic ukulele and playing a Bach sonata on it.
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Anyway, she pulls it off. Very well. There wasn’t a bit of the book where I felt her losing her way, where it flagged, or where I found it unbelievable. Not even when she turns into a female ninja with special abilities inside someone else’s nightmare. And that’s gotta be a first.
As I say, it’s not my genre (fantasy writers, I apologise: it’s me, it’ s not you), and the title would put a lot of people off. And the cover looked like the kind of thing that a book called The Last Superhero would have. So she’s not making it easy on herself, our Artistikem. She’s putting hurdles in her way, but with this book she leaps them all and lands easily. And looks back at us and winks.
Review by Noel Maurice, author of The Berlin Diaries.
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Noel Maurice is one of the founders of indieberlin. Originally from the UK via a childhood in Johannesburg, he has been resident in Berlin since 1991. Describing himself as a ‘recovering musician’, he is the author of The Berlin Diaires, a trilogy detailing the East Berlin art and squat scene of the early 90s, available on Amazon and through this site.