Meta is the debut novel of Tom Reynolds. Like my previous review, it too is a superhero novel, although this one skews much closer to its comic book roots. Keeping in the comic book tradition of alliterative names, it follows Connor Connelly, an orphan who gains a device that grants him superpowers. He’s the first person to have superpowers in years. But while trying to gain control of his powers, a new supervillain, the Controller, has been wreaking havoc. Inevitably, Connor has to stop him.
It is a quick, fun read. It is very much a young adult book, but that isn’t a bad thing. Some of my favorite books are YA. Like most YA (thank you, Harry Potter), the main character is an average Joe who discovers that he’s ‘the superspecial person’ for an unexplained reason, but that’s nearly every superhero story. Heck, that’s Superman. The point of the story is how one deals with it (in addition to overcoming other challenges). There’s some great world building here, and you can tell the author is a big DC Comics fan, as there are numerous elements sprinkled throughout that comic book fans will recognize, but they’re thankfully not such blatant references that would leave those unfamiliar with them scratching their head. Speaking of DC Comic references, Midnight, a supporting character, is essentially an ersatz Batman, but it should be noted that he’s written like a good ersatz Batman. The main character comes across as a very green Robin, but that helps make him relatable. The main character here seems overpowered, but it is due to the strength of the writing that he is still challenged. It comes across, at times, like a story about what if Robin had superman’s powers (which interestingly was an actual story arc published by DC Comics last year). There’s some great wish-fulfillment stuff in there, and not since Robert Luis Stevenson’s Bottle Imp had I read about a fictional object that I wished I could have. I found my mind wandering, thinking about how I would handle it. Another fantastic aspect to the book, is that it doesn’t answer all the questions. It knows just which ones to answer to give you a satisfying ending, but leaves open just enough to make you want to come back for more. As for the writing, while not the best, it was clear and concise. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but it wasn’t trying to be. It got the point, story, and emotion across, and that’s what’s important.
The book is not without its flaws. Conner seems a little underdeveloped, but that seems to be done with the intention of allowing the audience to see themselves as the main character. Being a story about a high school aged superhero, it seems like a missed opportunity not to have the story actually take place in high school. Rather than on summer vacation. The average teenager’s life revolves around high school, and it just seems strange not to have it take place there. As a result, the best friend and love interest seems to come and go, not seeming as constant as they would be in a teenager’s life. It seems the only reason for not taking place during the school year was to set up action pieces, some of which don’t make sense, particularly a scene at the beach that just feels so small time, it feels unbelievable that it would be a target, or that anyone else would consider it to be a target. The thing that annoyed me most of all, however, was the ending, which seems as though it is trying to come across as a clever twist, but due to the readers not having the information prior to that, or even a hint to it, the ending comes across as a deus ex machina type ending.
Ultimately, despite the books flaws, it was still a thoroughly enjoyable read. It isn’t the greatest novel, but it is a fun one. It took me back to when I was a kid, and it is exactly the kind of book I’d have eaten up then. I can see some adults not enjoying it, but if you’re a kid (or teen) at heart, it might pay to give it a shot. There are apparently two sequels, and I plan on picking them up sometime. I’m curious to see where it goes.
If you’ve read the story or have a suggestion of another book you’d want me to review, please mention it in the comments below.