I try and try to keep my expectations reasonable for hyped books, especially non-fantasy, and I fail all the time. This book is another one in the list of those which had a lot of potential, I enjoyed reading it but it somehow still fell short.
Victor and Eli are both brilliant and ambitious college students who use their skills to turn themselves into EOs or ExtraOrdinary humans (X-men type mutants), but their hubris leads to the death of someone and Victor ends up in prison for a decade. He spends all this time plotting his revenge, whereas Eli turns into a self-righteous fanatic who kills EOs because he believes they are unnatural and dangerous. It’s very difficult to connect or sympathize with either of them, because most of their motivations and actions fall between morally gray and downright evil and it’s hard to find any redeemable qualities.
The side characters are also very fascinating with their own backstories and narratives. Mitch, the hacker, is a gentle giant whose circumstances beyond his control, condemned him to the prison system. Sydney is a thirteen year old who has suffered a lot already at such a young age, but still innocent enough to not understand the true implications of her power. It’s only with these two characters that we see Victor show his humanity, and why I probably ended up rooting for him, even though I didn’t like him much. On the other hand, Sydney’s elder sister Serena gets caught up Eli’s mad crusade. She is not too happy with her powers because she feels she is broken, but that doesn’t stop her from using her abilities for extreme manipulation of other innocent people.
The writing in the book can feel a little confusing initially due to multiple POVs and timelines, but I got the hang of it pretty quick. The author also uses the story as a vehicle to ask us a lot of questions – who decides who is a hero or a villain? where is the line between good and evil? If we ever do get supernatural abilities, how many of us will actually use them for good? And who gets to oversee all the EOs? It’s this philosophical tone of the writing that impressed me despite not liking both the main characters.
If you love your antiheroes and villains, then this book is tailor made for you. The pacing is on the slower side, so be prepared for that. Overall, I found this an enjoyable story which explores the extremes to which people will go to for their own selfish beliefs and where such arrogance leads to.