23717497Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other.

In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

Vicious was my first venture into Schwab-landia. It was one of those hype books that I wanted to give a go at. I got the book ages ago and I didn’t bother to read the blurb again before I started reading so I was feeling my way through the book ‘in the dark’.  Because of the title I was expecting something more sinister. I know, I know- killing people is sinister, but we’re talking about a book here. Sinister is truly a wide definition with endless painful opportunities so maybe this was the reason I kept expecting something more to happen. Something truly explosive.

“Did you know,” said Victor, skimming through a book from the prison library on anatomy (he thought it particularly foolish to endow inmates with a detailed sense of the positions of vital organs, but there you go), “that when you take away a person’s fear of pain, you take away their fear of death? You make them, in their own eyes, immortal. Which of course they’re not, but what’s the saying? We are all immortal until proven otherwise?”

While it was an enjoyable read for me, the book doesn’t really have those ‘stfu‘ kind of moments. Flashbacks from 10 years ago, last night, etc keep plugging the story on towards the end. Towards an end that one can see coming. While this book didn’t manage to blow my socks off in terms of twists and revelations, I did enjoy the idea of EOs (ExtraOrdinaries) and I managed to find a certain appreciation for our main characters, Eli and Vic, as well.

So… we have Victor and Eli. The ambition and desire, as proudly promised on the cover of the book, were well and truly executed. They become college roommates and hit it off well because in ways, they’re very similar to each other. Their relationship dynamic was an interesting one, I kept wondering how much of their friendship was really based on finding that one true, solid friend in another; or were they always, from day one, just seeing themselves in the other and trying to be better, more. It’s like a case of Vic finding someone to truly respect in Eli and then using this respect as a means to get one over, to always be better. It was like a symbiosis where every action, word spoken and thought was only done for the sake of one’s benefit. It was a truly fascinating one for me.

It all starts off by having to write a thesis for college. Naturally, because the two guys are who they are, theory is only for pussies. They have this need to be better, they need to achieve more, always more, so there’s no surprise there that they become the guinea pigs for their own theories. Big load of pills, alcohol, bathtub full of ice, epinephrine, electric shocks and plenty of CPR and ta-daa we got ourselves two fresh EOs. That’s it you think? No… no that’s not it at all! There’s a girl involved, Victor’s prison sentence, Mitch, Sydney and her sister Serena, a whole bunch of cops and Eli’s sense of self-importance. A big pot of ‘holy shiz’ if you ask me.

In terms of characters I thought they all had their role to play. No one was there just to fill an empty space. I really liked Sydney and Mitch and hope to read more about those to in the next book. Serena was an indecisive weirdo, however. <spoiler>I really hate when people don’t argue back to be but I still use my ability to get my way.” Serena, dear? Go jump off a roof, idiot!</spoiler>

I may have liked Eli if he had a better reason for doing all that he did, but religious nutcases are my most loved pet peeve when it comes to books. They make for good stories but I always bristle with so much disdain! I guess I’m a  masochist like this, enjoying the characters that I hate?! There was no changing Eli’s mind so essentially whatever happened to him, I was on board with.

Eli didn’t enjoy killing. He did quite like the moment after. The glorious quiet that filled the air as his broken bones healed and his torn skin closed, and he knew that God approved.

Victor, I quite enjoyed. He was given this redeeming quality with the way he was with Sydney. (Sydney by the way, is a pretty big chess piece in the story). Victor was spurred on by various motivations: jealousy, need for acceptance, need to be better and eventually, the need for revenge. He was a bit ‘still waters run deep’ kind of character with possibly some mommy-issues and I loved what he did with the books and black sharpies.

“No, Sydney,” he said. “I need you to stay here.”

“Why?” she asked.

“Because you don’t think I’m a bad person,” he said. “And I don’t want to prove you wrong.”

What I liked: How EOs came to be, <spoiler>the inclusion of NDEs as the bridge in between normal v EO human</spoiler>. I thought each EOs ability being created by their innermost fears and desires at their final moments was a sound touch. I also liked that being an EO didn’t just come Free of Charge. The fact that there is something humane missing in an EO just paves way for those inner battles and monologues and ponderings by our characters. It’s the musing over what and who they are that makes this so fascinating for me. It makes the story a bit deeper than just brainless killing/survival storyline. In fact, I like the character’s psychological qualities more than their abilities. Strange.

I was surprised at how well I dealt with the flashbacks. While they came fast and in short enough paragraphs, the story didn’t seem to suffer for it. The addition of Mitch as a non-EO made him a good addition in contrast but there’s still something about him that I am eager to find out about.

Next in the series? It’ll be interesting to see how the story progresses. There are some secrets among our ‘merry band’ of EOs. Plus, that very merry band of EOs is now made up of characters that have quite unique and huge abilities which can deliver a truly powerful next book.

My rating: 4 stars. I really liked it. There were small minor issues, like some repetition of facts (in quite a few paragraphs when someone was in pain they were feeling sick. Yes, I know, it’s a physiological outcome of pain but reading about how someone was on the verge of puking every now and again got old real fast). As mentioned, I wasn’t totally mind blown and that’s mainly because there is no real big revelation so the foreboding I had during reading the first half of the book weren’t delivered on. Overall though- Nice! Very nice!