One of the best reasons for writing a sequel is if the characters have more story to tell and if it is sufficiently different from their first outing to keep the readership enthralled while holding on to all the features that made the original idea captivating. It is not easy to do and many authors have bemoaned the fact that writing a second book is challenging.
There is the struggle between ‘more of the same’ as readers often like to feel comfortable with characters they have grown to know. In contrast, a writer may well want to take them in an unsuspecting direction. In ‘Killing Gods’, Tony Cooper tends towards the latter while staying true to the premise of the original theme.
The action takes place in Element City. The place was named after the Hero who, it was claimed, won the Crimean War for Britain by being able to create weapons out of the air. He was a person who was born with supernatural powers. In the intervening years, many powered ‘Heroes’ appeared, each with a slightly different ability. When the destruction between squabbling factions, basically law-abiding and law-breaking, became too great, a law was passed requiring powered individuals to register and making it illegal to use their powers in public.
By the time this novel opens, cults have arisen at opposite ends of the spectrum. Some feel that all powered individuals should be imprisoned or killed, others that Heroes are the chosen of God and that soon another Creator, like the Elemental, will be born to lead them.
The previous novel, ‘Powerless’, introduced Martin Molloy, once known as Roadblock, and in alternate chapters cut between a present situation and the past events that led up to it. It was tightly structured and plotted. ‘Killing Gods’ is less successful in this respect. Here, Martin has teamed up, illegally, with Hayley who can teleport. In her day job, she is a cop but would be dismissed if it was discovered she was powered. It seems that the government has missed a trick here as some abilities could be harnessed to keep the streets safe.
To a certain extent Hayley and Martin become peripheral figures as the heart of the novel revolves around Ian, Jenny and their baby, Lewis. Ian is powered and has spent time in prison as his strength is damaging when he loses his temper. Jenny is ordinary. They come to the attention of social services when someone reports Lewis as being powered. He is able to recreate his favourite toy from nothing if it isn’t in reach. Eleanor Cheadham from Child Services makes the mistake of deciding Lewis must be taken from his parents for assessment. The situation isn’t helped when the baby disappears from what should be a secure unit.
Soon, there are four groups interested in Lewis. His parents and social services are two of them and, somehow, the latter have decided that the baby is dangerous. His father certainly is. The anti-Hero group (who call themselves ‘The Real Heroes’) want the baby to use as emotional blackmail against the authorities; The Church of the New Gods, led by Clifford Gaines, want the child as a figurehead, believing him to be the new Messiah. Martin enters the mix because he believes that the child should be with his parents and wants to help Ian and Jenny sort out the mess.
With this kind of novel, where super-powers are involved, there is inevitably going to be collateral damage of a serious kind.
Because there are more factions involved in this novel, the structure is looser and the plot becomes diffuse and ragged. While it is interesting to discover more about this society, ‘Killing Gods’ does not have the potency of ‘Powerless’.
(pub: CreateSpace, 2015. 427 page paperback. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-502325-862-4)
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