Starter Villain
December 13, 2023 11:19 AM - Subscribe

Inheriting your uncle's supervillain business is more complicated than you might think. Particularly when you discover who's running the place.

Charlie's life is going nowhere fast. A divorced substitute teacher living with his cat in a house his siblings want to sell, all he wants is to open a pub downtown, if only the bank will approve his loan.

Then his long-lost uncle Jake dies and leaves his supervillain business (complete with island volcano lair) to Charlie.

But becoming a supervillain isn't all giant laser death rays and lava pits. Jake had enemies, and now they're coming after Charlie. His uncle might have been a stand-up, old-fashioned kind of villain, but these are the real thing: rich, soulless predators backed by multinational corporations and venture capital.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit (14 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
oh I just read this a few days ago. I have been enjoying Scalzi's writing this summer. its smart and fun, and although lighter than my usual (grim, dark) fare, its far from vacuous. this book is so much fun!

I love Hera and Persephone!!
posted by supermedusa at 12:21 PM on December 13, 2023 [4 favorites]

I hadn't had so much fun reading a novel in a long while. The foul-mouthed IWW-adjacent dolphins were so great.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 12:33 PM on December 13, 2023 [10 favorites]

The foul-mouthed IWW-adjacent dolphins were so great.

Weren't they? I think they were my favorite part. And you're right about the fun quotient--Starter Villain is just a romp. That deadpan line: "He was a practical villain." I cackled.

I read the book, and I couldn't help but think that the audio version would be fun. It reminded me oddly (and pleasantly) of a radio play, a piece written to be read aloud, with great banter and lots of room for tones of voice (especially the dolphins!). And can we talk about that fantastic cover? I am tired of cartoon covers. I like this because it's witty and different, and it really stands out. It's a big change of pace for me to read something this light, but I enjoyed it and have been recommending it to patrons.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:41 PM on December 13, 2023 [5 favorites]

My favorite part: the apology to Hera for feeding her kibble for years, and her reply. So good!

I really like Scalzi's Old Man's War books, but this less-grim output is a lot more enjoyable given the weltschmerz that I feel these days.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 8:49 PM on December 13, 2023 [5 favorites]

My colleague at work recommended this book to me and described it as "delightful" and that's about the best word to describe it. Just so much fun. I don't usually go looking for Scalzi's books but every time one finds me I enjoy it.

I bought the audio version for my husband and he liked it too.
posted by eekernohan at 6:02 AM on December 14, 2023 [2 favorites]

My hold for this at the library came through a couple days ago. I’m roughly half-way through and am enjoying the hell out of it. I love the underlying absurdity/humor that keeps things from getting too serious, and bubbling-along. I mean, spycats and Marxist dolphins? What’s not to love?
posted by Thorzdad at 7:12 AM on December 14, 2023 [5 favorites]

This was a lot of fun to read. The dolphins encouraging their cousins to form Local 2 was especially nice.
posted by expialidocious at 3:34 PM on December 14, 2023 [4 favorites]

Love'd it! Great Romp! Eagerly awaiting the sequel:

Charlie awakes to scratches and bites from both kitties. Pulls the covers up but the kitties pull them off, they are hissing at the door. He chases them to the computer room where on the screen it says "Gotta go now, wear your hiking boots. He sees out the window a huge limo in the street....
posted by sammyo at 6:07 PM on December 14, 2023 [1 favorite]

Finished it last night. What a fun read!

The ending was, I think, not quite as satisfying as I may have hoped for, but fine nonetheless. The moment the cave supposedly full of looted artifacts was introduced, I kind of assumed the crates would be empty. Dunno why I thought that, but it just seemed to fit well.

I was a little disappointed that it was Anton who showed up at the end. I was holding out hope throughout most of the last half of the book that Jake would miraculously reappear (along with a wild story about some crazy biotech invented on the island.)

And disassembling Jakes evil empire seemed a little unnecessary to me. I mean, with the rest of the cartel heads gone, that’s a huge power vacuum. The evil they did doesn’t simply disappear now. It disperses, and eventually re-coalesces under the control of new leadership...probably some of the young bros who were so hungry to join the cartel. I would have liked to see Jake’s empire continue on, but act as kind of like an evil overseer of the underworld. It would continue to do what it’s always done, doing evil shit, while competing with the new evil groups, but also act as a check on those noobs who threaten to take their evil too far and possibly fuck it up for everyone else.

Also: Why don’t the cats have a translation doohickey like the dolphins had?

Also, also: I have to say, I really enjoy Skalzi’s one-offs like this, The Kaiju Preservation Society, and Redshirts. They’re like little, fleshed-out ideas that pop into your head in the middle of a shower. Just fun, self-contained, what-ifs.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:28 AM on December 15, 2023 [7 favorites]

I'm listening to the audio book version of it right now and at this point I can't read a Scalzi story without hearing Wil Wheaton. Also agree Thorzdad, I love the one-offs with a quick jolt of world building without having to bear the structural weight of an epic multi book arc.
posted by drewbage1847 at 12:08 PM on December 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

Not just a starter villain, but also a good starter Scalzi -- I've given away three copies so far to people I think might like his books.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:30 PM on December 15, 2023 [2 favorites]

Also: Why don’t the cats have a translation doohickey like the dolphins had?

I would assume it is because cats like keyboards.

My wife doesn't have quite the same interest in science fiction that I have, so I really have to thank Scalzi for creating this book, The Kaiju Preservation Society, Lock In, Head On and The Dispatcher series. We have been able to listen to all of these audiobooks together, and have had a great time doing so.
posted by eckeric at 12:32 PM on December 15, 2023 [4 favorites]

Totally unimportant sidenote, but Ji-jong Kim is noted as having an aquarium outside of Busan which reminded me that S Korea banned the ownership of new cetaceans just last week! Ones that are already out there are grandfathered in, which sucks, but this is pretty cool news. :)

Regarding the book, I liked it a lot but also kind of felt that the ending didn't quite land. Not the part with him getting the bar and the cats back, but before that when Tobias shoots everyone and the crates are empty. I feel like no way that would have ended as it did, and also I know they are all villains, but no one blinks as Tobias murders like five people in cold blood? Phew.
posted by Literaryhero at 2:30 PM on December 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

Hey - he is Tobias the Stabber, after all. I wasn't surprised one bit.
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 5:27 PM on May 10

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