Review – Zeroes – Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti

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Hello Internet. Welcome back for Review #54. And as the new paradigm continues, so does the inexorable march of the universe into heat death. But with Zeroes, we can enjoy it along the way.

Scott Westerfeld is an overrepresented author on this site, and there are some good reasons for this. For one, he’s very hit-and-miss in the way that some of his books are like bullets and miss you, while some of his books are like baseball bats with barbed wire around them which can not only hit you but seriously do damage to your feels, current mental state and internal organs. But I think that sometimes he doesn’t deserve half the credit he gets. This time around, the authors working with him are at least as responsible for the awesomeness that is Zeroes as the man himself actually is. Some quick googling has convinced me to add some of these newcomers’ works to my to-read list (currently objectively longer than the lifespans of several suns); and to hunt down a copy of Zeroes which has Westerfeld’s name printed way bigger than the names of the other authors (as my copy rightfully has them all the same size and the other copy is so mockable). Oh it is good to be writing these reviews again.

Zeroes is about teen superheroes who used to be like the Teen Titans but now are more like Young Justice. Now all working pseudo-independently and dealing with their actually kind of sucky powers, they need to band together to save a girl’s dad when some scumbag decides the rent for his drug dealing loan is finally up. Or something. I didn’t really care that much as the real interest in Zeroes is watching the characters collide with each other and rediscover anew their powers with a backdrop of fast-paced, addictive action. So basically this book is really good character development with awesome set pieces and the casually good style Westerfeld delivers on all his best days (which I’m sure is the result of the other authors as well).

And what character development! The characters are all well-defined, interesting and if not immediately likeable then at least sympathetic. As they all have their own completely (sometimes radically) different and bizarre problems, their angst is all structured accordingly and brings a new splash of bright neon colour to the traditionally cut-and-dried grey slab of angst a YA novel normally indulges in. For example, it’s fine to have a person with limited social skills in your novel feel like they’re invisible, but when they literally can’t be remembered after a few minutes and are actually socially adept they have a much more interesting and therefore well-written problem.

So Zeroes is a very well-made sometimes wacky reconstruction of the teenage superhero trope, which is refreshing in all sorts of ways. The twists are all surprising enough that I genuinely had fun and felt shock when they took effect, and the whole novel felt close enough to a cinematic movie blockbuster that I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it got picked up for one someday. Sometimes my work rocks.

Zeroes was published in 2015 by Simon Pulse. It can be found on Amazon here.

Yours: J.M. Pear

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Review – Zeroes – Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti