Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher is a superhero novel, part of a small but vibrant niche in the vast genre of speculative fiction. The story is set in the fictional California city of San Ventura, where the supervillain known as the Cowl holds sway. San Ventura’s resident team of superheroes, the Seven Wonders, may be impressive but they seem unable to defeat their supervillain foe. This stalemate among the super-powered leaves the city in an uneasy status quo, which grates hard on two people. One is Detective Sam Millar, who has personal as well as professional reasons to bring down the Cowl, with or without the help of the Seven Wonders. The other is an average guy named Tony Prosdocimi, who suddenly begins to develop super-powers of his own, giving him the opportunity to destroy the Cowl and put an end to the fear that most city dwellers, including himself, have been living in.
Seven Wonders has a lot to recommend itself, especially for fans of comics and graphic novels. It’s clear that the author, Adam Christopher, has both familiarity and affection for the comic book genre. He borrows from and references many of the tropes you’d expect to see in a superhero tale—dramatic super-powered fight scenes, gods in human form, aliens from distant planets who make their home on earth, secret identities—the works. In the opening scene, which shows the Cowl in the middle of a nefarious act, the action is so vivid that it could have been inked by Steve Ditko, and you can almost hear the narrator from the old Batman TV show giving the blow-by-blow.
The story then veers into a less melodramatic, more novelistic tone, though it still retains its comic book flavor. In some ways, that is a good thing. The book is chock-full of conflict, which makes it a page-turner. The plot lines are very much as intense and varied as a reader would expect to see in a comic book, including robots that don’t always function as planned, visits to a secret moon base, and a possible alien invasion. To be fair, the high level of action may be more appropriate for a year or more of a comic book line and less fitting for a single novel, where the constant new plot elements can seem almost overwhelming at times.
In addition, there are numerous plot twists, some that seem obvious once they have occurred and others that seem unexpected. One plot twist in particular is impossible to see coming; unfortunately, it involves the death of what may be one of the most relatable characters in the story. And it happens at the midpoint of the story, which may put off some readers. Still, there are enough unanswered questions at the midpoint to keep people reading, and that works in the book’s favor.
The one area where the novel seems a bit thin is in the characterization. Many comic book lines suffer the same problem, the icons Marvel and DC included. The heightened nature of a comic means that characters are often sketched larger than life. In a novel, though, that’s a detriment. Seven Wonders has a plethora of characters in it, and while not all of them can be drawn to the same degree of detail, there are some key characters that seem a little too one-dimensional given their importance to the story. As a result, it can feel hard at times to connect with some of the characters, either to love or to hate them.
Overall, though, Seven Wonders is a fun read. The setting is entirely believable for a story with superheroes in it, and the book contains the unique tone and flavor fitting for a comic-influenced story line. For readers who like their novels to move fast with unexpected plot turns, Seven Wonders should be worth the investment.
M.A. Chiappetta is a writer and editor for a non-profit charitable organization. As a freelancer, she ghostwrites, does promotional projects, and teaches freshman college writing. Her slightly skewed musings on life—colored by her eclectic interests in writing, music, Mensa, science fiction and fantasy, laughter, spirituality, and geekdom—can be found on her blog, The Chipper Muse (www.thechippermuse.blogspot.com).