Back in April 2012, I went to see The Avengers at my local theater. It was one of the most fun movie-going experiences I’ve ever had. I went by myself but I was definitely not alone – it was a packed house, even during a matinee, on a weekend, in my small town. In later years, I would see most MCU movies in the theater, in similar circumstances, but The Avengers was the first and it was fun.
With age and, you know, everything, it’s a lot harder to watch superhero flicks without calculating the human cost. We live in a world where climate change disasters and war are a daily reality. It’s not hard to imagine catastrophe level events, even if they aren’t caused by aliens. For me, it makes superhero movies still watchable but much less enjoyable. In Hench, Natalie Zina Walschots takes the damage done by superheroes down to an individual who then uses her prowess with data and spreadsheets to calculate the human cost for the entire world. And it’s fun.
Hench is the first book I’ve read in awhile that I’ve been excited about. I want to recommend it to everyone I know. It hit at the perfect intersection of databases, supervillainy, competence and misanthropy. I’ve also realized that one of my criteria for sci-fi or fantasy is world-building. The world of Hench feels authentic and original, with the characters acting in ways that feel true to their established behavior and consistent with the rules of the world they live in. There was a short story from a different POV included in my copy of Hench and it gave me high hopes for Walschots ability to switch voices in her writing, which bodes well for future installments, should there be any.