Starter Villain

Tor. Sept. 2023. 272p. ISBN 9780765389220. $28.99. SF
When underemployed Charlie Fitzer inherits his late uncle’s parking-lot empire, he discovers that Uncle Jake was actually running a supervillain business. Charlie has already learned all he needs to know in the cutthroat world of substitute teaching, so he’s as ready as he’ll ever be—meaning not very much—to keep himself alive while the true masters of the universe take care of his uncle’s downright evilly incompetent enemies, one brilliant scheme at a time. Combining the sarcastic humor of Scalzi’s Redshirts with an origin story for James Bond–like supervillains operating with the competence-porn-level efficiency and work ethic of Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots, this story of snark with a heart reminds readers that the logical conclusion of “dogs have owners, cats have staff” is that cats are management and never let anyone forget it.
VERDICT Readers of humorous fantasy are sure to love Scalzi’s latest (after The Kaiju Preservation Society) as much as those cats; it’s also for those who enjoy seeing superhero stories folded, twisted, and mutilated and anyone wishing for a righteous villain lair surrounded by intelligent sharks. Highly recommended.
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