Vicious by V. E. Schwab
Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.
Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?
V. E. Schwab can write anything and I will read it. As I have said before somewhere, her books and writing remind me a lot of the writing of my favourite authors (who wrote in the 70-80’s). Vicious is not an exception.
The story has a brutality that you don’t see much of, it is too close to reality, yet it is also not real at all. Victor and Eli pose interesting questions as characters and how they approach the vents (and becoming EOs).
For me it was interesting to read this, as I understood a little of each. I understood Victor’s stubborness and his drive to move forward, to do. And also I know how he felt by being invisible. I used to be the smart invisible friend, the shadow of someone better at people than I was (I have since found I am my own light, but that is a different story) so I got it all too well. And his EO power is something that at times I wish I had (specially having HMS/EDS).
On the other hand I also understood Eli’s faith, his drive to make things “good” and to be the hero. I was brought up in a very religious family (my parents champion the science in the Bible and how it matches science and give talks on it) and I do have faith but this I have developed on my own (asking so many questions of it and God, but again, another story).
I understood a little bit of Serena and Sydney, being a sister and all that sibling life.
There is also the whole NDE (Near Death Experience) part of it that triggers the EO, and I loved that. It ties in with City of Ghosts, and I wonder if they happen in a way in the same universe or in somewhat parallel ones (which reminds me a little of Steelheart).
All in all, this is a brutal book. It is about pain, about dying and what makes you want to stay in this world and how that shapes you. It is about morals and power. But it is mostly about broken people.
I wholly recommend Vicious, however I also believe it is one of those books that not everyone will stomach and that is absolutely fine. If you find the concept of NDE intriguing, why not try City of Ghosts? And if you’re into superpowers and interesting “superheroes”, I highly recommend Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (who also tends to work with broken people a lot in his writing).