When it rains it pours… monster machines. That attack during a funeral and ruin everyone’s day. MI317—the government department devoted to defending Britain from cosmic horrors—is under siege, so Arthur Wallace and his team must travel to Area 51, ably—and oddly—assisted by Agent Gran. But their travels don’t end there, not when there’s an Arctic town populated entirely by spore zombies and the 2.0 version of Clyde has some funny ideas about how to save the world.
Jonathan Wood’s supernatural thriller is a laugh-a-minute riot. Which is odd for a book about the end of the world.
You know your day isn’t going to start well when an attack drone starts trying to kill you at a funeral. Yet that’s how the members of MI317- a government department devoted to defending Britain from cosmic horrors- seem to spend their time. Between a nascent A.I that used to be their friend, the team’s completely dysfunctional relationship and a CIA that they can’t be sure if they trust or not, there’s a world to save. In the weirdest way possible.
With Avengers: Age of Ultron out at the moment, it’s the perfect time to use an easy analogy. Whereas a more serious novel would attempt something like Age of Ultron, Anti-Hero is more content to have some well written and likeable characters throw quips at one another amidst increasingly destructive set pieces.
It’s the humour that really sells the book and a very British sense of humour at that. For make no mistake, pessimism isn’t a trait unique to us islanders, but the deadpan nature of it and it’s respect for the sillier elements of sci-fi and fantasy (whilst being able to lampoon them) is unlike anything but us. Those who don’t quite know what to make of it, just know that it has quick fire gags and wordplay almost every other line.
The title of the book is also a hint to it’s themes, as the villain of the piece thinks he’s doing what’s best for the Earth. It’s also about the lead character, Arthur Wallace, coming to terms with how his job isn’t so clean cut and ‘good’ as he imagined. Those themes dove-tail until a hilarious finale that has Arthur and his team fighting against the very good guys of actions films.
There’s definitely a feeling of a rag-tag group of misfits up against the world and that’s part of the charm of Anti-Hero. Wood’s ability to blend humour and character development holds strong and is the core of the book, even if the ending did feel like a bit of a let down of those principles with too much of a happy ending that wraps everything up neatly. It also means that those who like a solid plot probably won’t be as endeared to this as I. The book is driven by character motivation over solid reasons and there are plot holes aplenty if you start to look to hard.
But that’s not the point – Wood wants to entertain the reader and manages to successfully blend humour amidst stakes that were constantly escalating. Overall, it’s one of the most enjoyable, consistently funny books I’ve read this year, if not in the past few years. You need to read it now.
Image courtesy of Titan Books.
Anti-Hero is available from Titan Books