Thursday, May 24, 2012

Book Review: Trance

Print // Kindle // Kelly Meding
Fifteen years ago, Teresa “Trance” West was a skilled telepath and a proud member of the Ranger Corps. But ever since the Rangers were inexplicably rendered powerless at the climax of the devastating Meta War, she’s bounced from one dead-end job to another. Now her powers have reappeared just as mysteriously as they vanished— only they’re completely transformed and more potent than ever. And they’re threatening to destroy her.

Trance heads to Los Angeles to track down the surviving Rangers and discover who restored her powers—and why—but a phantom enemy is determined to kill them before they can reassemble. As they dodge his deadly attacks and come to terms with their new role as heroes, Trance and the rest of the team set out to annihilate the sinister madman . . . only to discover their own powers are his greatest weapons.

First let me clear up a few misleading things about the above 'official' summary: 1) Trance is 10 when she loses her powers.  And 2) she is not that skilled, she is not a member of the Ranger Corps--she's a kid who is in training.  Now then let's move on.

There's been a rise in superhero fiction over the last couple of years and I've enjoyed a lot of it.  From Carrie Vaugn's thoughtful look at what happens when the world leaves you behind in AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE to Jennifer Estep's romantic comedies the 'Big Time' books or AJ Menden's 'Elite Hands of Justice' action romances and even more recently the 'Midnight Justice' books from Samhain Publishing--apparently superheroes are cool again.  Which anyone who reads paranormal romances or urban fantasies knows that superheroes never really went out.  Just instead of wearing skin tight costumes and running around with ridiculous sounding names they wore leather, boots and had snarky attitudes. 

TRANCE is a book I've long had my eye on, but was wary to pick up.  Meding's other urban fantasy series, Dreg City, doesn't really do much for me as a reader and that's been my whole experience with her writing.  Look at that cover though!  It stands out (even on my bookshelf) and begs to be read.  I'm glad I gave in because from the very first chapter--when Teresa (aka Trance) is on the run with her classmates from a group of villains with overwhelming superiority--I was hooked.

I grew up on comic books that had heroes, and villains, becoming progressively darker until sometimes you couldn't tell the good guys from the bad guys (DC's Identity Crisis anyone?) and that's what the comic publishers thought the readers wanted.  And I like that.  As much as I like my Barry Allen squeaky-clean Silver Age comics, I'm a cynical, sarcastic, pessimistic person who doesn't believe that the good guys always win.  TRANCE delivers me the perfect blend of both.

Teresa wants more to her life.  She wants meaning, she wants acceptance, she wants answers as to why things happened.  Even when she gets all (or most) of those answers, and she doesn't like them, she accepts them.  She moves on.  She doesn't let herself dwell on the dreams she had crashing down around her.  She was pretty pathetic starting out, but she matured so much in this book.  She became the leader she never thought she could be.

Its disturbing to read the first chapter.  And some of the preceding chapters.  Meding doesn't pull punches--her bad guys are bad guys.  Drape their intentions however you like, the fact is they are brutal.  The book doesn't really offer any platitudes in that regard--the entire thing is kind of a 'suck it up cupcake' mantra.  Suck it up and move past the fear and death.  Suck it up and fight so it doesn't happen again.  Suck it up because you are a hero.

There was a lot of wtf moments, though when Spectre is finally revealed that's the biggest.  The person's motivations, justifications, entire thought process is just so...wrong feeling.  Coupled with the other on-screen moments, it was enough to make my stomach turn.  How does a person get to that point in their lives?  When does the mass murder of hundreds of people to prevent the potential mass murder of hundreds of people equal out?  Not just bad guys either--this person sought total genocide no matter what.

Who thinks like that?

But hey that's what makes a book great--that guttural reaction to a character's actions, no matter how unlikely to happen in real life as they are.  So Kelly bring on book 2, CHANGELING, I'm ready for the challenge.