From the publisher: Inheriting your uncle’s supervillain business is more complicated than you might think. Particularly when you discover who’s running the place.
Charlie, the narrator of Starter Villain, is something of an affable idiot. Divorced and living in the childhood home he doesn’t even own due to complications with his siblings after his father’s death, he was laid off from his job as a journalist and is now working as a substitute teacher. He wants to buy a beloved local pub, but he has no money and no collateral. The best thing he has going for him is his relationship with his cats.
Then Charlie’s estranged Uncle Jake dies, and his lawyer shows up asking Charlie to attend his uncle’s memorial. Charlie is hesitant, and finds the request a little weird, but he agrees. And so his life as a starter villain begins. Yes, his uncle owned a large chain of parking structures, but he had other, bigger, more nefarious interests as well (mwa ha ha).
I enjoyed the Chicago area setting, and our narrator is an affable naïf who is fun to spend time with. Scalzi is clearly a cat lover and that certainly resonated with me. In the super villain business, it’s not dogs who spy for villains on other villains. (Yes, the cats are intelligent spies who can type on a computer using a special keyboard. Including Charlie’s cats.) I learned a new word – quisling! (“A traitor who collaborates with an enemy force occupying their country” according to the OED.) The narrative is pro-union, and against cats murdering birds. Intelligent talking dolphins also come into play, and I couldn’t stop myself from singing “So Long and Thanks for All the Fish” every time they made an appearance.
Charlie does better handling the various super villains that he meets than one might expect, and as he doesn’t take things seriously it was hard for me as the reader to take things seriously either. I perhaps did not enjoy Starter Villain as much as I enjoyed The Kaiju Preservation Society; the whole thing came off as a little less original, and the “starter villain” idea began to wear a little thin. Still, Starter Villain was a fun read with some genuine laughs for me.
I read an advance reader copy of Starter Villain from Netgalley. It is scheduled to be released on September 19 and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library.