Writer: Magen Cubed
Genre: Superhero, Sci-Fi
A review by Amelia Wellman
“The train crashed at 9:17am in a thump of metal pieces and breaking bone.”
The Crashers earns its name right away with a horrific subway crash that kills all but five of its rush hour passengers: former detective, former criminal, all around asshole Kyle Jeong; overworked single mother Norah Aroyan; Afghanistan veteran, gear head Adam Harlow; the genius Star Trek fangirl Clara Reyes; and the corporate shark with a tumor that’s killing him Bridger Levi. These five strangers walk away from the crash unscathed, only to realize the event has left each of them with strange new powers. As their city falls into chaos caused by a mad bomber on a crusade, they find themselves drawn into a story they never could have imagined. There’s death, undeath, superpowers, and apocalyptic visions. Welcome to East Brighton City.
Magen Cubed has been publishing fiction for about seven years with short stories for magazines and anthologies. She’s also been a freelance writer and comic book reviewer for about three years. Her first novel, Fleshtrap, was a horror piece published in 2013 from Post Mortem Press. The Crashers is available on Amazon until May 31st. Her publisher, Booktrope, is shutting down as of then and her book will be homeless. More details about this can be found on her website MagenCubed.net.
The Crashers is a superhero story, but it’s a non-traditional superhero story. Gadgets aren’t created, spandex isn’t squeezed into, the forces of good and evil don’t draw a line in the sand and stand on either side of it. It’s subtler, with the shades of grey that superheroes often forget to include in their worlds of black and white. It was interesting to have these circumstances, which I’ve come upon so many times in the world of superhero fantasy, come up but never come together. Imagine that the classical ideas of superheroes are a round hole. Now imagine Cubed’s stylistic approach to this well-defined genre is a square peg. You see where I’m going with this.
The location of all the superhero chaos is a fictional city by the name of East Brighton City, shortened to the EBC. It’s an amalgamation of features from actual big cities which was a smart decision. Fantastical stories should have fantastical locations that can be constructed and/or torn apart to the author’s exact specifications. Being as fictional as the characters, East Brighton City has the opportunity to become a character itself. With no real-world limitations, EBC can grow and evolve as far as Cubed’s imagination can take it.
Like many a superhero stories to come before it, The Crashers is an ensemble piece. There’s familiar tropes to be found within the characters, but no one character is only this or only that. There are no perfect characters, each have flaws and strengths produced from past experiences just like real people, although some are developed more than others. To me, Adam felt the most human. His anxiety and PTSD was written really well, with knowledge of what caused it, what makes it worse, and what makes it better.
Norah and Clara though were the least developed. Clara goes from an overachieving genius in university with every step of her life planned out, to a hasty, irrational, do-now-ask-questions-later kind of character. There’s not a lot of solid thought process behind the transformation. Norah is even worse. She starts as a struggling single parent and ends the same way. She comes to terms with her ex-husband’s abandonment but even that didn’t feel like much compared to the arc that Adam and Bridger travel. It’s a small character gripe that would be fixed within the series that Cubed hopes to turn The Crashers into though.
Taking such a unique approach to plot, characters, and style proves to have some issues though. Around page 150 (about the halfway mark) the collection of characters go from their individual lives to living in a group. The dynamic changes and, with it, the action that had kept the plot moving at a brisk pace becomes a crawl. It feels hollow, like Cubed herself had trouble seeing where she needed to go. Information we already know gets presented from slightly different angles over and over while the information that moves the story forward seems relegated to the sidelines. I get the sense that Cubed wanted to progress the plot more through the characters than the bombings and chaos of East Brighton City, and while there’s a lot of character development occurring during the action slow down, more is needed. A non-traditional superhero story this might be, but a few scattered bombings before settling into domestic bliss does not a thrilling story make.
The Crashers is an interesting book. When all was said and done, it wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I was able to see what Cubed was trying to create. I felt it dragged as the same information was rehashed from the multiple perspectives, and it lost its bite, in both plot pacing and character development when their individual struggles were miraculously solved by a very out of place, very wish-filling kind of plot development. That being said, tastes vary and you should check out this book for any of the following wonderful things:
- A diverse cast: different ethnicities, different ages, different personalities, different sexualities; a more diverse cast I doubt I’ve ever read
- New ideas in the thoroughly explored genre of superhero fantasy
- An interesting villain that begins as someone that would appear to just want chaos but becomes so much more than that
- Elegant descriptive prose with true-to-life dialogue
- You enjoy book series as Cubed is hoping to expand her universe into a multi-book romp
- Want to help out a small-time, indie author that’s off to a very promising start in terms of accessible, enjoyable, non-traditional literature!