I enjoyed this adventure from the perspective of a superhero. The plot catapulted me into a sort of Batman, or Incredible Hulk type world, a normal landscape inhabited by an individual with Marvel Comic type superpowers. I appreciated the good and bad in his character, the do-gooder who comes to believe that some dark activity is justified by the intention to bring greater light. That is a behaviour that we all see in politics and business, as well as amongst those in pursuit of more personal goals. The cops that support the just bad to bring down to the evil, the wife that turns a blind-eye to her husband’s dealings with narcotics because they provide the income to put food on her kids table, the person that robs rich Peter to pay poor Paul. But is it ever right to risk the killing of innocents to get at a greater evil? Arguably sometimes this can be so. This idea provides the binding theme of Elsner’s plot.
The book is written in a very easy read style that keeps the plot buzzing along. The writing lacks technical rigour, which will annoy literary readers but that doesn’t affect the natural flow. Okay, one has to accept a ridiculous premise at the start, buy in to the superpowers, but provided one can do that the read is a great deal of fun. The plot may have gripped even better if it had been at least partially written from the first person, rather than the omnipresent view. The connection with Tannion may have been fleshed out by ‘looking through his eyes’. I read the book as tongue-in-cheek entertainment, which can be read on deeper levels. Like a good strip-cartoon theme, in fact.
There is a lot of cultural cliché both in the plot and in the backdrops full of predictable bad characters and props. This allows the story to bubble along at a good pace without much need for long scene setting explanations. We are guided rather than directed. Whether a reader without the broad cultural familiarities of Elsner would be so easily drawn in I have some doubt about. But then who hasn’t watched an American thriller film or two?
The passage of time is extremely fast, while Elsner concentrates on the dramatic incidents in just about every one of the 82 short chapters. This was exciting, but the lack of focus made it harder to learn enough about Tannion to build any real empathy. At times he seems to spend most breathing moments either killing or deciding who should die next. There was far less apparent reticence and serious forethought about killing than curing. The former seemed to be the preferred activity. Perhaps this was as well, as his powers to kill seemed more plausible than those to achieve the much more difficult task of curing. Tannion the superpower enhanced vigilante is more easily understood in his role of judge and jury as ‘street fighter’ than that of doctor. He has the power to be the saviour of the good, the curer of all ills, with the power to see and understand every mechanism of the human body and affect any chosen outcome within the time of a simple handshake. He would certainly be a doctor that one would be advised to be very nice to. A doctor, that is as keen to kill as to save.
Overall, this is a five star book doing what it does very well. So if you can accept the premise of a man turned into a superhuman by a bolt lf lightning, then this pacy book is for you. This is superb quality superhero genre writing, little more but absolutely nothing less.