Miss Possum

Miss Possum
Pale but dynamic

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Goldrush (Vanguard Prime, #1)

Goldrush by Steven Lochran
4 of 5 stars false
Recommended to Maryanne by: NetGalley
Recommended for: Everyone who enjoys comics and superheroes. Perfect for reluctant readers and middle grade boys.

This review is made possible through NetGalley ARC from Penguin Books Australia, (Imprint: Puffin). Thanks NetGalley!

Publication Date: July 25, 2012

Vanguard Prime is Steven Lochran’s comic book imagination brought to life in novel form. A feast of superheroes with superpowers, powered up villains and high stakes burst from the action-packed pages.

An ordinary teenager turned reluctant superhero is a device which works well in Rick Riordan’s bestselling Percy Jackson series, and is used to good effect again here. In Vanguard Prime, we may be slower to engage with the protagonist. The book starts a little slowly, but it is worth persisting. The explosive action and strongly drawn characters of the final quarter are well worth the purchase price.

This reviewer, at first uncertain, was thoroughly captured by this description on page 16: ‘She looks less like a military officer and more like the person who just took out the military officer with a single punch’.

The few weaknesses occur in the beginning of the novel. The first chapter is filled with American phraseology, a little off-putting for Australian readers: ‘pops the boot’ ‘stooge with a two-dollar haircut’ and a father using phrases such as ‘well, okay, son.’ The present tense voice and short sentences seem intrusive in the initial chapters, as though they are not the author’s natural style, but have been edited to convey immediacy and to suit the perceived market – which of course is a terrific approach when done well. Something is missing in character portrayal, too: the reluctant hero is just a loser with no particular attributes to engage our interest.

However, keep reading! Both the story and the characters dramatically improve after we relive the incident where Sam becomes aware of his superpowers. The action explodes, we are committed to Sam and his journey, and suspense heightens through poor decisions of the ‘good’ team, which compound our hero’s problems.

The story is alive with terrific superheroes: Agent Alpha, Gaia, Knight of Wands and Machina – the tough, sassy, straight talking girl colleague, a staple of YA fiction. The villains are larger than life with their own superpowers: Metatron is a wonderfully extreme bad guy, as is Overman. We are hoping to hear more of the villainous Major Arcana in subsequent books.

The final solution is youth-led, an important idea in YA. Another delight is Lochran’s comic book landscape: ‘The sky is a vivid blue, a superhero comic book blue, with clouds looking like thought bubbles.’

With lines like that, and the author’s flashes of humour: (when fitting Sam’s new suit) - ‘that’s how all the superheroes are wearing them this season’, the series promises to be a winner.

Recommended for everyone who enjoys comics, superheroes and action, and is clearly destined to be a perfect present for reluctant readers and middle grade boys. 

This review is also published on Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/377768454

NOTE: Steven Lochran will be a panelist at the Ballarat Writers and Illustrators Festival, September 1, 2012. Please see http://www.ballaratwriters.com/?page_id=2256 for details.

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