Note: A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review.
Reviewer: Kristin Lundgren on behalf of The Author Visits
19 year old Spencer is the "normal" son of an augmented Dad, the Crimson Mask, who although the most powerful "good" superhero, isn't so "super" to him, or his mom, whom Spencer loves. After his mom is kidnapped two years ago, his father goes into overprotective, domineering dad mode, with a dash of anger management problems, and stashes him in an "ice-hole" in the Arctic, a de-commissioned Russian base, coming back for brief visits before going off again. This small bunker in the Arctic, meant to protect him from the arch-nemesis augment who absconded with his mom, the Black Beetle, has become his prison, with only a small cobbled together TV to keep him in touch with the outside world, albeit with intermittent reception, and non-English programs. With a chess game to try and fill the lonely hours, a battered copy of Swiss Family Robinson his mother had given him, and far away from his last home in San Francisco, he is a typical teen, wanting buddies and maybe a girlfriend, and these seem as impossibly far-away as his old life. But a battle drone robot on a mission to get him, sent by the Big Bad BB, forces him to leave this shelter and find his path in a world of cabals and conspiracies, gathering a small band of people and cast-off augments, as he MacGyvers his way through in his search for the truth about his dad, his mom, and the Big Bad, who may be different than he thinks.
This bright, quirky fantasy, gives "superhero" a whole new meaning. From the smart, snarky wise-cracking first person POV of Spencer, to his not so personally superhero Dad, this breezy, yet compelling YA book is both an entertaining romp and a great coming of age book, as he learns to find his own strength in the world.
The emotional traumas of his life, along with his own innate cleverness, and new-found inner strength, carry this tale from an average YA novel into something really special and unique, as it turns the usual superman heroics on their head. In a new take on a familiar mythos, Crimson Son is delightful, a fun read, yet hinting at deeper meanings and emotional growth through-out. It reminds me in many ways of Tomorrow People and Alphas, both TV shows about super people who weren't perfect, along with the humans who loved them, and also hated them.
It's weakness lies only in expectation: some may find it difficult to grasp the concept of a flawed superhero, even if he is really just augmented, and not given superpowers through some freak accident, or coming from another planet, the typical road from a superhero. Some typos and small errors, but not enough to pull you out of the story.
The world Russ creates is so real, so believable, that you're left wanting more of this character driven, action packed book. If you've ever loved Superman, X-Men, or any other piece based on superheroes or augmented super soldiers, you'll love this brainy, smart look at a world of gray, not just black and white, people, super or not, where you never know what's right around the corner. I'm looking forward to more from this author, and hope he has more to say in this world he made.