Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab


by V.E. Schwab

Science Fiction | 340 Pages | Published by Titan in 2014

| Rating |

four star

I am, I’m sorry to say, a sucker for a pretty cover and Vicious found its way into my basket because it was far too eye-catching to escape my notice. However it did have that additional benefit, which a pretty book ought to have, of being a cracking read too. I had no preconceptions about Vicious; I had no idea what it was about and I’d barely even read the synopsis but this novel had me hooked almost as soon as I’d opened it. Vicious is anything but pretty. This is a tense, exciting and refreshing take on the superhero story; incredibly twisted, delightfully evil and gripping until its conclusion.

Vicious follows the lives of two bastards college students, Eli Cardale and Victor Vale. Absorbed in their research into EOs, or ExtraOrdinary people, their discoveries lead them down a dark and dangerous path where morality, ethics and caution are thrown to the wind in their quest of discovery. As they embark on a journey of lethal experimentation, where creation is the goal no matter the cost, death might not be the worst outcome.

Ten years on Eli and Victor are sworn enemies. As the numbers of ExtraOrdinary citizens plummet under systematic execution, fate shows an intervening hand. This is a story of one fanatical, evil sociopath (aided by a beautiful and mysterious woman) versus another violent, evil sociopath (aided by a gentle giant, a small girl and a dog). The purge must end, but only one bastard can come out on top.

Schwab writes a marvellously wicked tale that I found myself unable to put down. Vicious is extremely well crafted, exciting and tense throughout, and though it has more flashbacks than I do after a night out, they occur at just the right moments to carry the momentum and hold interest. The premise of the novel is a good overhaul on what we usually find in a superhero novel, there is no moralising, no good versus evil; this is about two messed up individuals with superhuman abilities who will inevitably use them to meet their own ends.

If you want characters who will sweep you off your feet or overwhelm you with their charm, good looks and charisma then stop! You won’t find any here. Vicious is about the assholes of this world, those selfish, arrogant, sociopathic bastards who couldn’t give a toss about anyone’s lives but their own. And Eli and Victor are firmly placed at the far end of the asshole spectrum. Eli’s religious fanaticism had him firmly placed in my bad books but Victor… Victor, you asshole, I liked you.

Though Vicious has an abundance of disreputable characters stalking her pages, it does not want for any ‘likeable’ characters. Sydney and Mitch are our favourite villain’s sidekicks and, despite some rough edges, are particularly endearing. If you don’t like your protagonist villain-side-up then these two may just win you over. Having said that, the character of Angie felt a little lacklustre. Though imperative to the storyline she almost felt superfluous; the hints of a love triangle seemed pointless and I didn’t care enough about her to be bothered by her fate. This is unlikely to spoil your enjoyment though.

Vicious is a short and highly entertaining read which should appeal to a wide audience. Whilst the ending wrapped the story up quite well and left enough open for a sequel, it did feel a little anticlimactic. My expectations were just for something bigger… and much, much more evil. But don’t let that put you off! This book is incredibly readable and if you like super-anti-heroes, villains, with the dregs of society thrown in to boot, then Vicious will see you right. Onto the next Schwab!

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