Halfway Heroes

Halfway Heroes

Halfway Heroes was first published in 2014 and is the debut novel of Dustin Martin. It is a science-fiction story that focuses on a pair of super-powered teenagers as they adapt to using their new found abilities. The novel is the first part of a planned trilogy, although at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Lydia and Mark are two wholly unremarkable teenagers until they are involved in an accident during a field trip to Rooke Pharmaceuticals. A mixture of chemicals douse them both and soon after they discover that they have developed strange abilities. Lydia becomes super strong, able to stop a speeding car with her bare hands, while Mark’s skin becomes resistant to all physical damage. While the two of them quickly discover the limitations of their gifts, it is still clear that the chemicals have given them powers far beyond the norm.

It is not long before Lydia is approached by Arthur, a mysterious agent working for the Government, who spirits her away to a hidden facility called the Cave. This base serves the dual function of teaching gifted teenagers (known as Biologically Enhanced People or BEPs) how to harness their powers while also training all those willing to become secret agents. At the same time, Mark meets with Rooke and is offered a job in return for allowing himself to be studied.

It is not long before the two teenagers learn the consequences of their choices. The world is full of BEPs, living in secret, and not all of them use their powers for the good of mankind. Lydia and Mark soon discover that because of their new allegiances they are now enemies. It is not long before the two are forced to face each other in battle. When their personal ethics begin to conflict with the expectations now placed on them, will they chose to save lives or end them?

If you follow me on Goodreads, you may have noticed by now that I am an avid reader of comic books. I have loved them ever since I was little and am especially fond of superhero stories. I once read a comic review that said that these kind of comics are like our modern day myths. They provide strong characters that we can all look up to and use as role models in our daily lives (with the exception of the likes of Deadpool – I really hope that no one uses him as a role model…). Plus, they make for fantastic escapism. As vicious as modern comics can be, who doesn’t want to imagine that they live in a world where a man can use the image of a bat to strike fear into the hearts of criminals.

As far as superhero stories go, Halfway Heroes is pretty standard stuff. If you are a fan of comic books (or movies based on them) a lot of this story will seem very familiar to you. The way in which Lydia and Mark receive their powers is very similar to the way in which Spiderman receives his and the Cave and organisation of the BEP Division take a lot from the X-men’s Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. As the kind of people who would choose to read this novel will more than likely be superhero fans, I think it’s probably fair to note that they will find nothing really unique about this concept.

However, the one thing that I did find interesting about the BEPs was the limitation of their abilities. No character in Halfway Heroes feels over powered. One of Lydia’s friends actually coins the term to ‘Halfway Heroes’ within the story to emphasise the fact that their powers usually come with severe drawbacks. Lydia, for example, possesses super strength but no resistance to injury. She can punch through a wall but would probably break every bone in her hand in the process. Similar restrictions limit most characters in the novel. Wren’s ice abilities dehydrate her, Jando can make objects he touches invisible but not himself and Finster’s bone growth causes him immense pain. While the powers that the characters exhibit are awesome, the limitations help to stress why they might want to get rid of them.

Despite the unoriginality in the story’s concept, the novel is very fluently written and contains few spelling and grammatical errors. Unfortunately, I found the author’s writing style to be very difficult to read. This is a personal preference and I expect that some people would really gel with the over descriptive style but I did not really like the fact that Martin did not seem to have cut out anything within his story. Halfway Heroes stands at almost 500 pages, which is incredibly long for first novel, and I felt that with a tighter editing it could have probably stood to lose a good deal.

Within the story, we follow everything that Lydia and Mark do step by step. In the field trip to Rooke Pharmaceuticals, we follow their entire tour although much of it is irrelevant to the story. We also get a lengthy tour of the Cave, describing character after character that barely feature in the novel. We even get to sit through the entire funeral (including eulogies) of a character who died almost immediately after he was introduced. The pacing issues even continued into the action sequences which were all described punch by punch, causing fights to sometimes last for multiple chapters. For me, this was just excessive. It caused the novel to take far too long to get going and destroyed any tension that the later stages of the novel may have otherwise had.

However, the novel’s strength lies in its characters. Although the plot is incredibly slow, the cast are all very well rounded and likable. I found that it was very easy to sympathise with both Lydia and Mark. Although they were picked up by very different groups of people, both characters proved to be likable and received full character development through their experiences. While Lydia’s story line was a bit standard (learning to accept her strength and use it for good), I felt that Mark was the more interesting character. Despite the fact that he came from such an abusive home, he showed that he had strong morals and the things that he observed while in Rooke’s employ really caused him to question himself and his ethical standing. As the story progressed, I really began to empathise with Mark and found that I was more concerned about his well being than Lydia’s.

The secondary cast were also incredibly memorable. Although I did not really gel towards Jando as a character (his need to constantly flirt with Lydia, even after she asked him to stop, really did not strike me as endearing), Aidan proved to be a very interesting character with a decent back-story and set of fears to overcome. He had great chemistry with Lydia and I hope that their relationship will grow stronger in future novels. In Mark’s side of the story, Heather and Finster also were very strong characters and I loved the fact that they were portrayed as real people, not cardboard cut-out villains. They did some very questionable things but, to each other, they were family and genuinely looked out for one another.

The only character that I did not think was especially well presented was the villain. I can’t really say much here as to do so would give too much away but I thought that he was just over the top. His mental breakdown towards the end of the novel comes out of nowhere as he does not really show any signs of psychosis before then. While his actions do have an explanation, it just felt weak for me. It was just a little too irredeemably evil and lacked any kind of subtlety, despite the fact that he was a very educated man.

Anyway, I think I’ve been rambling for long enough now so I’ll wrap it up. Although Halfway Heroes has a cast of strong and likable characters, it fell down for me in terms of plot. The superhero elements of the story lacked originality as they have been found in comic books since the 1960s and the novel just felt as though it was too padded, leading to lengthy descriptive sequences and fight scenes described to such a degree that they lost tension. If it had been severely cut down this could have been a fun novel but it unfortunately dragged its feet a little too much for my taste.

Halfway Heroes can be purchased as an eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rose
    Oct 14, 2014 @ 03:09:34

    Hi Kim! I’ve nominated you for an award! Check out my post here: http://lovelyparanormalbooks.blogspot.co.nz/2014/10/sisterhood-of-world-bloggers-award.html

    Reply

  2. Trackback: Archipelago | Arkham Reviews

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