Goldrush by Steven Lochran
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
CAUTION: Long Review
The book was unexpectedly campy. There were parts that I liked and parts I didn't like.
Parts I Liked
+ good writing
The writing was in present tense so the action felt closer to me as if I sat in the front seat of a movie theater. As a matter of fact, the plot read like a typical action movie which I liked.
I quickly got comfortable with the writing after a few pages. I liked how straightforward the writing was; I tend to glaze over imagery but I didn't in this book. It was easy to imagine what the book wanted me to imagine.
The writing felt clean.
+ strong female characters
Gaia is one of the senior superheroes. I liked that the book didn't diminish her role in the deference to other male senior superheroes who had a more drama-filled backstory, that given a different circumstance she could have been the leader of the superhero team instead of Agent Alpha. I got the impression that she could match Agent Alpha power for power. The thing I liked most about her was her strange sense of humor. I wished she had more scenes in the book.
Machina is the other female superhero. She was the youngest superhero before Sam came along. In a different book, she would be your typical YA heroine: she got a family who is largely absent from her life, she's sort of an outcast but she desire to belong, and she's rebellious at times. However, unlike a typical YA heroine she doesn't let her life issues get to her. Machine was, dare I say it, a well-adjusted teenage girl. How utterly refreshing! I love how assertive she was. Her goal to prove herself sometime gets her in troubles but she always seem to prevail. For these reasons, Machina became my favorite character in the book.
Major Blackthorne is the military liaison to the superhero team. Despite having no power, she was still a force on her own. In the battle scenes at the end, she took care of herself and didn't hesitate to fight the supervillains. And I didn't doubt she could actually win either.
Parts I Didn't Like
+ mopey protagonist
The book was mostly in 1st POV from Sam's side. His origin story was ludicrous. He was running a race when his power spontaneously activated for the first time in his life and he accidentally hurt people, particularly his father, in the process. I pitied him and the people he injured but he really needed to get over himself. I didn't like how the story revealed Sam's origin story as if it was some sort of hidden tragic past because it wasn't.
Because of his past, Sam was too mopey for my liking. I didn't start liking him till 2/3 into the book when Machina's constant pep talks finally put a stop to his pity party. However, the change was so sudden that it was ridiculous because after Machina's last pep talk a few pages later Sam gave a pep talk to someone else.
Machina was more patient and nice to Sam than I could have been because I itched to smack him out of annoyance. I mostly put up with Sam because the book designated him as the chosen one and I have a soft spot for that trope no matter how ridiculous the trope is.
+ cardboard male superheroes
They were cliché and a little bit annoying. You got your Captain America/Superman hybrid in Alpha Agent and the Batman/Spiderman hybrid in The Knight of Wands. I eyerolled at Agent Alpha with his pristine good guy persona and The Knight of Wands with his mysterious stoic loner persona.
I didn't really care for these superheroes.
+ lame bad guys
The bad guys were lame. The split-personality guy was all "save me from myself" because one of his two personalities was a supervillain while the other personality was a superhero. The other bad guy, the one who was the main supervillain for book 1, was all "I am the strongest and therefore everyone should bow down to me because I say so."
All the supervillains in book 1 were simply crazy and maniacal; there was no depth in their characterization.
The biggest part of the story I didn't like was why didn't the good guys didn't just kill the bad guys outright from the start. Why defeat them only to imprison them? Moreover, why imprison them at the superhero team's headquarter where they could use the place to nuke the entire world?
I realize the book didn't take itself seriously, that it was campy, but I don't believe that excuses the plot-holes. I would have been mollified with a flimsy explanation of a few sentences.
I rate Goldrush 3-stars for I like it. In spite of the parts I didn't like, the book was entertaining. There were humorous scenes sprinkled in. The last 1/3 of the book with its heavy action scenes was what firmly pushed the book into 3-stars land.
It should be noted that ebook version has bonus content. It's the profile of all five superheroes — Goldrush (Sam), Machina, Gaia, Agent Alpha, The Knight of Wands — and Major Blackthorne. There was nothing new in their stats that readers didn't know from reading the book. You can see the characters' illustration presented in the cover-art here.
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