All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault

James Alan Gardner. Tor, $17.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-7653-9263-3
Science spectacularly collides with superhero tales and magic to form the background of Gardner’s often hilarious exploration of friendship, stereotypes, and gender identity. Kim, a genderqueer Canadian of Chinese descent, is a geology major at the University of Waterloo. Kim both exemplifies and resents a number of Asian stereotypes: focused on grades, preternaturally accomplished, and emotionally isolated. Living with take-charge chemist Ashariti, activist physicist Miranda, and jock biologist Jools has only enhanced Kim’s appreciation for studious solitude, but the four roommates are forced to work together after they witness a “scimagical” event and become superheroic Sparks. They’re meant to wield their new powers against the Darklings, ultrarich humans who have voluntarily become vampires, werewolves, and demons. But gender isn’t the only arena in which Kim defies binaries: hidden in Kim’s past is an experience with the Darklings, and the mix of Dark and Light magic and science has the potential to turn this superpowered future on its ear. The themes of identity and self-discovery are strong but not overwhelming, and Gardner (Trapped) elevates this enjoyable urban fantasy with an appealing cast and well-crafted prose. Agent: Lucienne Diver, Knight Agency. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/06/2017
Release date: 11/07/2017
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