I really enjoyed Starter Villain, and then I put it aside for a couple of weeks (*cough*months*cough*) because I had other reviews that need to be written sooner, and when I came back to write this review, I had a warm fuzzy feeling, but nothing of substance to say. That’s not the worst thing I can say about a book – that all I remember is a good feeling. So I reread Starter Villain, and that was not a chore. I enjoyed it again, though I still don’t have a whole lot of substance to say about it.
When Charlie Fitzer hears his estranged uncle Jake, a billionaire parking garage magnate, has died, he doesn’t realize his life is about to get real weird. Charlie is at a low point. His marriage has ended, he was laid off from his journalism job and not able to get another one, he’s substitute teaching, and living in his late father’s house that his older siblings want to sell. He is probably going to get turned down for a loan to buy the neighborhood bar. On the plus side – he has a great cat named Hera and acquires an adorable kitten, which he names Persephone.
“You went the goddess route,” Morrison said, as she closed the door behind her. “What is ‘the goddess route’?” I asked.
“When people name cats, they usually do it in one of three categories: food, physical characteristics or mythology,” Morrison explained. “So, you name your cat Sugar, or Smudge, or Zeus. You went with mythology.”
He learns there is a bequest and a request from his late uncle. Following that, a strange funeral, attempted murder, and an explosion. The bequest is taking over his uncle’s evil empire, headquartered on an island in the Caribbean, complete with nefarious dealings, a host of enemies, and labor disputes with dolphins. He also finds out his uncle made cats a necessary accessory for all the cool evil billionaires.
The truly remarkable thing that Scalzi does here is tell a satisfying story about a villain with a volcano lair versus evil billionaires without ignoring, taking on, or solving the systemic issues that allow evil billionaires to actually exist. As he did with Kaiju Preservation Society, Scalzi is taking a contemporary setting, making it sci-fi enough to be fantastical, and then letting his every-person main character fight the bad guys that his every-person readers wish they could fight. There’s an underlying thrum of anger, but it isn’t quite the soul cleansing fire of rage.
CW: death of parents in past, family estrangement, mutilation of dead body, threats of murder and physical harm, bombings, missile attacks, animal endangerment, animal cloning, on page murder and physical violence, tech bros.
I received this as an advance reader copy from Tor Books and NetGalley. My opinions are my own, freely and honestly given.