The Supervillainy series by C.T. Phipps has been a guilty pleasure of mine for a few years now. Not only has Gary Karkofsky’s antics as an accidentally successful supervillain just been an absolute pleasure to read, but the world environment, the unexpected twists, and the tongue-in-cheek references to pop-culture makes for an exciting and entertaining read.
The newest arrival to that series, The Science of Supervillainy, hits all of those notes in spades.
This book picks up directly where the last book left off. The Other Gary and President Omega are about to pull off their plan, but Gary and crew take care of it pretty quickly, until they don’t. A time jump ahead and all of the old characters, a bunch of new characters, and a little girl with a super brain step up to help Gary save…err… I mean take over…err…well save first, and then take over? Whatever his plans, the world is in danger, and not his kind of danger. So it’s up to him and his rough and tumble crew to step up and stop Other Gary from erasing them all from existence.
The Science of Supervillainy is filled with both comedic and dramatic moments that blend well together. Using both the dramatic and comedic is how Phipps illustrates, surprisingly well, the conflicts of being a supervillain with morals. Wanting to own and rule the world doesn’t necessarily mean that you want the world to be a filled with shitty people, and Gary most certainly wants to rule the world, but why can’t he have his cake and eat it too?
Elements of this book I loved were the same as the previous titles. The cross-pollination from other worlds, time-travel, comedy, weirdly conceived relationships, and of course the pop-culture references help to make this a fun read. It works so well, and I look forward to the next installment.
5 out of 5 stars.
That kind of fun led me to C.T. Phipps’ “The Tower of Zhaal.”
The Tower of Zhaal is the sequel to Phipps’ first successful foray into Lovecraftian fiction, Cthulhu Armageddon. In that first book, the world has been ravaged by the long ago (but still in our current future) rise of the Great Old Ones. The hero of the first book, John Henry Booth is back, and the taint of the world has eeked it’s way into his own flesh. With Nyarlahotep whispering in his ear, and the threat of the end of the human race on the brink of happening, John has to risk everything with a team that he can’t trust in order to save the few parts of the hellish world that mean something to him.
While traveling to and with some very Mythos specific names, as well as some that are a treat for readers of contemporary Mythos fiction (ie: the Ghoul priest being named Hoade as an obvious reference to fellow contemporary Mythos writer, Sean Hoade). The explanations of Magic, the Science of the Mind, and the different Alien races make it an epic adventure on par with Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, but within the Mythos elements that bring us back.
The world has ended, Alien Gods are everywhere, and the question of humanities survival is a complex one. Can Humanity survive? Should Humanity survive? Would the Humanity that survives even be recognizable as Human?
Phipps weaves a great tale, that makes for an exciting read.
5 out of 5 Stars!
Minor Potential Spoiler: There’s a scene in this book that made me laugh out loud, but not because it was funny. The moment I read it, I wanted to shout, “Ah! He’s been Rick and Morty’d!!!”
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Sprinting through the woods was easy enough. If one was so inclined they could find themselves a sort of path that maybe animals or whatnot might frequent and avoiding branches and the like wouldn’t become an issue. The problem arose from when one was being chased. As was the case with Lerdrin.
Lerdrin had, up until this particular day, been more or less ignored. Having lived on the streets in Cardenshire for the last several years, he was the kind of man that you’d hire for a small job that would only last a few hours. Jobs such as pushing carts, emptying caravans, shoveling stables, or helping a family move (never pack, as everyone assumed, correctly, that Lerdrin was quite fast with his hands).
Assumptions what they were, Lerdrin wasn’t just quite fast with his hands, he was a former entertainer, from years long gone. In his youth, he’d entertained children with puppet shows and magic acts, claiming to be a long lost wizard, pulling clothing from secret compartments, coins from ears and noses, and wallets from pockets. When Lerdrin’s age and nasty habits finally started to catch up with him, he decided that keeping quiet and living a life of fast hands on the street was a good way to go.
Catching up with him being the operative phrase as, he could see glancing over his shoulder, it was happening again. Lerdrin had once again had his hand caught and almost cut off, as he had tried to pilfer certain jewelries from his most recent work. The work had been simple enough, help the people unload their wagon, get enough coins for dinner and a small room for the night. Unfortunately, the rings had not been included in the deal.
Behind Lerdrin and near enough he could feel the air from their swinging clubs, were several men, two of which had been with the lady who’s rings he had attempted to liberate. The third was Nader, Knight for the town of Cardenshire, which was only large enough to deem one Knight necessary. Nader and Lerdrin, for the most part, left each other alone with the unspoken understanding that if anyone complained about Lerdrin, Nader would come down on him with a very heavy set of chains.
Glancing again over his shoulder, Lerdrin faced forward just in time to crash into a waist-high rock, flipping over end and feeling an instant reverberation and ache throughout his fifty-three year old bones.
Hitting the ground on the other side, his head spun as he rolled over onto his back and tried to regain his composure. Mostly this consisted of doing his best to stop the world from spinning.
As he looked straight into the midday sky, the branches overhead spun less and less, and the pounding in his head quieted enough that he was starting to hear a very questionable noise, a sort of low hum coming from the direction of the rock he’d tripped over. Propping himself up on his elbows he did his best to try to stand.
At this juncture, Lerdrin was capable to get away with trying much less than his best, as he was swiftly aided in standing by Knight Nader. Using one hand, the unarmored man of about his mid-twenties lifted Lerdrin up by the nape of his neck and threw him against the very same rock that he’d previously flipped over. His back was bent over it, as it was only as high as his waist and Lerdrin found that he could easily see his life ending here. Lerdrin could also hear the humming, much louder now, and definitely coming from somewhere around the rock. This same rock, Lerdrin was noticing, was freezing him through his clothing even though it was mid-June and was very smooth on his back.
These, of course are all secondary things that Lerdrin noted, as the point of Nader’s blade pressed into the old beggar’s ribs had slightly more of his attention.
“Lerdrin, you damned fool!” Nader reached into Lerdrin’s patched coat and yanked out a handful of the baubles that the elder had taken only a half an hour earlier. Nader turned towards one of the men from earlier. “Are they yours?” he asked, reaching out to show the items. The man nodded, never actually looking at the items so much as staring intently at Lerdrin.
Nader handed the rings and such to the man and then turned towards the third companion who was quieter and showed less hate and more indifference. “Hold his hand down, on the stone.” The man hesitantly complied.
Lerdrin struggled but was limited by the sword still jabbed into his ribs. Reaching out, the man took his wrist and pulled it out straight along the stone, palm up. Fearing for the accuracy of the sword, the man pulled a rope seemingly from nowhere and tossed one end of it to the accuser who took it and, together, they pulled it tightly across Lerdrin’s forearm, making it effectively immobile.
Unexpectedly, Nader brought his sword up and back down very swiftly. Lerdrin had assumed that the Knight would have slowly brought the sword up to bring it crashing down with ferocious speed. Instead, the blade left Lerdrin’s rib cage and was brought down before the old man even realized it.
Another surprise awaited everyone at this. The sword stopped over Lerdrin’s wrist and held fastly. In his inability to understand why, Nader pulled at his blade, attempting with all of his might to free it from the invisible grip over Lerdrin’s wrist. Maniacally laughing, for the fates had smiled upon him in this instance, Lerdrin started struggling to free his wrist from the bond of the two men. In the back of his mind, Lerdin noted that the hum in the stone had become louder.
As Nader yanked on his sword, not willing to surrender to the unknown force, it started to glow. Not just the sword, as Lerdrin was slow to notice, but all three men, the rope and the sword. All of them except Lerdrin, failed to notice this. The glow intensified, slowly, achingly, bringing tears of pain to Lerdrin’s closed eyes as he lay there, still immobilized by the rope.
Finally, through his eyelids, Lerdrin noted that the painfully bright light had vanished. Slowly opening his eyes he screamed in horror. All three of his pursuers had vanished. No trace of them having been there was left. Lerdrin slid from the stone onto the ground and started crying uncontrollably. He didn’t know why he cried. On the one hand he was free, alive, and with two hands. On the other, somehow and for some reason, someone or something had deemed him worthy to keep breathing instead of the three very justified men.
The hum was louder now, loud enough to break through Lerdrin’s spiraling train of thought. He turned and stared at the stone, smooth and reflective, as if made of metal and he panicked, scooting backwards away from it in a rushed terror. He stopped his rush, but not his terror, when the god arrived.
From an nondescript place upon the stone, as smooth as another other place, a ray of light rose from it, coalescing on a spot right in front of Lerdrin. The circular beam expanded slowly until what looked like a man stood in front of the old beggar.
The man within the beam of light was dressed in a tight fitting cloth and had no hair upon his head. The clothing, if it could be called that, was all white except for a red stripe down the man’s left side and a patch in the shape of some sort of four pointed star over his left breast.
The god smiled down at Lerdrin and then started to laugh. “It worked. I can’t believe it worked.” He knelt down to Lerdrin. “Can you hear me?”
The words were accented in a very peculiar way, but for the most part, Lerdrin understood, and therefore, not knowing what else to do, nodded.
The god jumped up, no longer kneeling, and punched at the air, laughing in a manner similar to how Lerdrin had started laughing when the sword had first been halted.
Lerdrin found his voice, deep down in his feet almost, and brought it to the surface.
“What manner of god are you?”
Immediately, the god stopped laughing and regarded the little beggar at his feet. “God?” He looked around, taking in his surroundings. “Well, I must be then.” His smile returned. “Reaching this far back, actually interacting. I would have to be.” He turned towards the stone and started poking at it with different fingers from each hand, as if weaving some sort of invisible spell on its surface. Mumbling to himself, Lerdrin heard, “How much can I interact?”
As the god worked his spell on the stone it stopped humming and instead let out a loud snap, cracking in half to reveal a table with several small items on it that Lerdrin couldn’t identify from the distance that he now rested.
“Stand then, my disciple.” He stopped for a minute and looked off into the distance to his right. “No, phase two can wait. We’ve got a perfect opportunity to activate phase three now and I’m going to.” He hesitated. “No, no, no. Its going to be this way or no way, keep working. I don’t want your opinions I want your progress.” Turning back to the now even more confused Lerdrin, he put back on his smile, now looking slightly forced. “What is your name?”
Lerdrin choked for a bit on his words before answering, “Lerdrin.”
The god smiled again, this time a real smile. “That’s almost too perfect.” He waved his hand to the stone, actually passing through it for a second, reinforcing Lerdrin’s confirmation of the divine within this being. “These rings are yours, to be used in my service.”
Forgetting to be scared, Lerdrin stepped forward and looked at the rings, each a simple band, each of a different color, and five in total.
The god smiled as Lerdrin eyed them, obviously already covetous. “You shall be a wizard of the order of…” the god thought for just a second before saying with a smile, “Jim.”
Lerdrin reached into the stone and pulled out the first ring. It was a small bad, green as the leaves on the trees and otherwise lacking in any descriptive features. “That ring will give you the ability to repair wounds.” Lerdrin slipped it onto his left index finger and let out a sharp gasp as something inside the ring sunk itself into his flesh. At his gasp, the god Jim explained.
“The rings get their power from your…soul and can only come off if you die.” Lerdrin looked at his new god, annoyed that he hadn’t been warned of this beforehand. The pain had subsided at this point, and soon was forgotten as Lerdin remembered that their were four other rings.
Picking up a ring as black as night, he put it on his other index finger and gritted his teeth through the bite into his flesh. “That ring will allow you to put to sleep any who challenge you.”
The next ring was a beautiful sky blue. This Lerdrin placed on his left ring finger. “This ring will…throw lightning.”
Hearing that, Lerdrin looked at the god with shock. This was truly of being of power if he could harness the powers of the sky in such a small bauble.
The ring of blood red was the fourth ring, and this he placed on his middle finger of his right hand. He was starting to get better at ignoring the biting pain each ring inflicted. “The red ring will defend you.”
Finally, the last ring was a bright white and slightly smaller than the rest. Putting this on his right pinky finger, Lerdrin waited for the explanation.
The god Jim was hesitant though, as if the complexities of this ring might need more explanation than the others had. Finally, Jim spoke, slowly. “This ring, the white ring, allows for all you’ve done to become undone. If things get too out of hand, this ring will give you the option to erase it all, back to now and only once.”
Holding up his hands, palms out, Lerdrin eyed his new power with hunger, smiling at the two rings on his left hand and the three on his right. Green and blue on his left; black, red, and white on his right.
“What do you want me to do, god Jim?” Lerdrin asked, begging for a chance to exercise his power.
“Who is the leader of this land?”
Lerdrin didn’t hesitate. “Lord Richard owns these lands, as far as I’ve ever been.”
“Go to Lord Richard and explain to him what you now are. Aid him in everything he asks.”
“Is that all, god Jim?”
The god Jim smiled. “For now.”
Lerdrin, without hesitation, sprinted back the way he had come into the forest, not caring to watch his footfalls anymore than he had when he’d entered, as now he was in a rush to do his god’s bidding.
Minutes after he left, Jim still stood, a hologram of light from the time capsule, as a blast of lightning struck the stone and blinded him for just a moment. At his feet lay Lerdrin, older than when he’d left, the white ring on his hand glowing brightly as it drained the last of his life. The rings, advanced technology, even for Jim’s time, dissolved now that Lerdrin was dead, and were soon reconstructed in the time capsule to await for Jim to pick them up himself.
Typing into the holographic interface the time capsule closed around them and Jim stepped out of the holographic field, vanishing from Lerdrin’s time.