My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Ten years ago, Connor Connolly lost both of his parents in an event remembered by the world as the Battle, a final showdown between the world’s most powerful superhero, the Governor, and it’s greatest villain, Jones. Now, whilst trying to save a little girl in the woods, Connor suddenly finds himself in the possession of superpowers that rival even the Governor’s.
The first thing that draws you to this book is its excellent cover by Damon Za, featuring a superhero silhouetted in front of a setting sun, hovering above a city, with the title and author name emblazoned just above and behind the character’s head. Ladies and gentleman, if you are thinking of self-publishing, this is the standard of cover you should aspire to.
The book is basically the origin story of new superhero Omni, aka Conner Connolly. Following the infamous Battle, superheroes, or Metas as Reynolds calls them, disappeared from the public eye, most likely because of the collateral death toll of the Battle, or because the Meta bands (think Wonder Woman’s bracelets), which granted normal human beings superpowers, stopped working. Connor is the first of a new wave of Metas who received these bands. It’s not clear from the novel how people are picked by the bands, as in Green Lantern, but for Connor, they seem to latch on to him rather like a symbiotic life-form (like Spiderman and Venom). The rest of the novel, Connor spends his time trying to master his fear of the powers he’s been given, whilst trying to learn how to use the powers and keep his identity a secret, which is difficult considering the almost omniscience of smartphones and CCTV. Oh, and there is a new super villain, the Controller (not the fat guy from Thomas the Tank Engine), who can manifest huge monsters and has the habit of sending them after Metas. Luckily, Connor is taken under the wing by Midnight, a man who wears a black cape and cowl to protect his identity, has no super-powers but knows how to take Metas down, uses martial arts and an array of gadgets including a grapnel gun (no rewards for guessing who this one is based on), and a new lady Meta, Iris.
The story is set entirely in and around the fictional Bay View City. By far the most interesting thing about the setting of the book is of course the Metas. The book briefly explores the theories about the origins of the Meta bands, with the most likely theory being that they are an alien technology that has ended up on earth by design or accident. The Meta bands are made from an extra-terrestrial metal that bond to wearer at a genetic level. They can be removed when powered down, but are useless to anyone else (at least until the wearer is dead). The bands magnify the wearer’s physical attributes and grant them various super powers, in Omni’s case, flight, teleportation, super-strength and speed, the ability to freeze. The other interesting development in Reynold’s world is that human’s inspired by the Meta-powered decided to put on masks and become vigilantes too, with varying degrees of success. Some were pretty much fan-clubs and fodder for criminals and super-villains to pound on, others became side-kicks to Metas, but a few managed to make a name for themselves, chief amongst the latter being, Midnight, Reynolds homage to Batman.
Connor Connolly comes across as the average teen, trying to get through school without drawing too much attention to himself, which is even more difficult when you’re the only person in the class who lost someone during the Battle; especially when the current topic of study is the Battle. Even when he receives his powers, Connor comes across as being well-grounded and morally upstanding, which kind of makes him a little boring. For most part, he follows instructions (from Midnight and Iris) and tries and stay off the Controller’s radar. He would have been a lot more interesting if he had shown more angst over his loss and more adventurous in exploring his powers. Reynolds does try to illustrate Connor’s internal struggle and perhaps his personal past is what stops Connor from going all out with his powers.
The writing is solid enough and the plot doesn’t seem to vary much from the typical comic book hero’s journey. The comic book influences are clear throughout (leaning more towards DC comics), and yet despite this (or maybe because of this) I found Meta compelling reading. There are better examples of this kind of fiction out there, namely Jade Kerrion’s Double Helix series, and the Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart and Legion, but nevertheless this is a decent superhero story and a good YA novel. I wasn’t blown away by this book but I most certainly did enjoy it and on that basis recommend this book to you.
To learn more about Tom Reynolds and his book, check out his website: http://tomreynolds.com/meta-today/