Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Tales of the Astonishing Black Spark by Charlie J. Eskew

This is a science fiction/fantasy title in the genre of comic book superhero novelizations except that it is written by the Black Spark himself (Donald McDonald) in first person as if he were telling you a story on the bus.  I found this book a change of pace from your typical SF/F titles because it is written tongue-in-cheek and mostly makes fun of itself.  I enjoyed the novel and found the characters engaging and exciting, particularly the Black Spark himself.
Ronald McDonald, first of all, is black.  This makes the novel refreshing in itself as there are so few black characters written as superheroes.  Spark, as he call himself, is hit by lightening that should have killed him (like the Flash!) but somehow survives and retains the ability to control and propagate electrical charges from himself.  At first, he doesn't know how to control this power, but he manages, in a stumbling manner, to defeat the 'Maverick Moralist,' who is an evil superpower hero who preaches people to death (I love it!), and he gains notoriety on You-Tube.  He continues on to discover his powers with Nick, who later turns out to be a villain, design a costume with Kat, his best friend from grade school, and gradually join the only Avengers-type group in this world called the 'American Collective for Resolving Overtly Negative Yowled Misconduct.'
The book winks at itself during the story and probably its strongest point is the snappy, snarky narrative of Donald telling us the story of his life.  Here is an example of the snappy dialogue in the book:
     "Okay, well I need your help," I said plopping down on her couch.
     "How can a mild-mannered woman possibly be of use to the Midwest Marvel?"
     "Mild-mannered?  Where is she?" I said.
     She tossed a pillow at my face.  "You should be less of a douche to people your asking favors from."

The narrative is also laced with interrupting commentary in the form of "The tales of..."  For example, "These are the astonishing tales of Finding X brand of napkins at X location on X day" and "These are the astonishing tales of Yahtzee."  I found these interruptions amusing at time, but also tiresome at times.  It is the author interjecting himself into the narrative, and it works, but just barely.  
On of his pals in the "American Collective..." is Patches, the Boy Band-aid.  His name alone is a reason to read on.  Patches has the ability to heal anyone of anything, but only once a day.  Patches also like to smoke weed and there are some funny scenes of Donald stoned trying to control his electrical powers.  Other characters, GRAVI-tina (who can control gravity), Asper (Who can fly), and the villain Nick (who can also control electricity) make for some funny reading.
Overall, this is an entertaining book and a change of pace for anyone bored with reading a standard SF/F book or a mystery/thriller.  Recommended.  4/5 stars.  Publication date: September 4, 2018.

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