Hero by Perry Moore – Review

hero

Lisa Harrison

Lisa is a proofreader and aspiring publisher who lives in a Northern town where people still travel by horse and cart. She believes that reading is fundamental. Find her on Twitter – @immin

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? For what purpose would you use it?

As a telekinetic I would become even lazier than I already am, so it is probably ill-advised. Creating electricity in my hands might be fun, but what practical use would it be other than avoiding pricey energy bills and environmental guilt? I guess telepathy would be cool, but not great for my mental health – I’d mainly use it to find out if someone actually likes me or if it is all one big joke, fuelling my paranoid romantic self-sabotage (dark).

It might be better to keep it simple. The ability to be comfortable all the time, no matter what surface you’re on or how cramped your legs feel. Being able to get ready for a big night out instantly, like Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Or how about the simple power of managing to get your Vada review in on deadline?

Um.

You know when a friend recommends a book to you and you think it sounds good until you actually start to read it? Something doesn’t quite work. You don’t want to upset your friend, but don’t want to lie because you (pretend to) have integrity. That’s what I thought was going to happen with Perry Moore’s Lambda award-winning debut novel Hero. The constant flashbacking of the first chapters made me dizzy and the characterisations seemed unimpressive and generic. A short time later, I was completely engrossed.

Hero creates a world where superpowers are so normal that the heroes have unionised. People go to try-outs to see if they are good enough to join the Superhero League, and their powers are not your ‘usual’ elemental manipulation or super speed. Typhoid Larry, for example, can make people sick by touching them, and has to take this into account strategically during fights: an enemy with laser-shooting eyes is given a bad case of glaucoma. Moore offers a really interesting, creative take on the genre, while paying tribute to the classics in many of his plot devices and characters.

Though I’ve never so much as picked up a comic book (no T no shade, I just haven’t had the time), I know that superheroes and gays go together surprisingly well, and not just because of the tight-fitting lycra and dramatic potential of a cape. I am a big fan of the X-Men films which, though centrally focussed as an allegory for the Civil Rights Movement, certainly play up the mutant/gay coding in lines such as “Have you tried not being a mutant?”

Moore takes this connection one step further with Thom, a young gay man who is forced to hide both his sexuality and burgeoning powers from his father. What I loved most about him as a protagonist is that he is self-aware, flawed, but most of all refreshingly red-blooded. Thom isn’t condemned to the young-adult closet of sexual sterility, but instead talks about his enjoyment of gay porn and hairy chests, and hangs around in the shadows outside of a gay club to watch people hooking up. The authenticity of his portrayal is incredibly compelling, even as the novel continued into the action-packed climax that is expected of a superhero tale. I found the fight scenes a bit hard to follow, but then I always do. The final book in the Hunger Games trilogy was equally baffling to me, so I suspect that this is a fault of my own, rather than that of Moore.

Regardless of my literary kryptonite, the novel’s strength lies in Thom’s troubled relationship with his father, Hal. Their struggle to grow together as a family after Thom’s mother disappears is touching, even before we get into the matters of sexuality and superpowers. It is in this, the creation of a world where people perform small miracles before going home to watch their father angrily scrub graffitied slurs from the garage, where Moore displays the greatest level of emotional dexterity. Hero is a triumph of its genre, which makes Perry Moore’s passing in 2011 all the more tragic. We need more authors like him.

You can read a short excerpt of Hero for free here.

 

hero perry moore

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