Review of Broken by Susan Jane Bigelow
// January 10th, 2011 // Blog
I received an ARC (advance reader copy) of Broken from the book’s publisher, Candlemark and Gleam. At first I was worried that I’d overcommitted and didn’t have time to read the book. But once I started reading I made time to finish it. So without further ado, here’s my review.
If superheroes ever come to be, the dystopian future of Susan Jane Bigelow’s Broken is entirely probable. Broken is set a hundred years in the future, where humanity is seemingly united under one government and the United States is a backwater. Extrahumans like the titular character Broken are required by law to live in the Extrahuman Union Tower, a gleaming skyscraper towering over the half-ruined New York City.
Broken is similarly ruined. After losing the ability to fly, she fled the Tower and moved to Skid Row. Michael, a young Extrahuman who sees possible futures, drags her out of her self-imposed exile. He needs her help to flee Earth to escape the increasingly oppressive government. Michael carries with him two burdens: multiple bleak futures for himself, and an infant in his backpack. All of the possible futures show the orphan to be a great leader. Whether the boy becomes a liberator or despot depends on Michael’s and Broken’s journey.
Bigelow skillfully weaves multiple plot threads and character arcs through the detailed world she’s created. Broken, Michael, and their ally Monica are well-developed and sympathetic characters. Rooting for them during their trials came naturally. Along the way we meet multiple secondary and tertiary characters. Each is appropriately imagined and fleshed-out. Despite the large cast, I was never confused or forgot who a character was.
The aspect of Broken that I enjoyed the most is the juxtaposition of superhero tropes like silly names and costumes with the dark side of humanity. Humans are slightly evolved animals; it doesn’t take much for a demagogue to whip his or her followers into a xenophobic mob. Bigelow explains why caped crusaders with names like Silverwyng and Sky Ranger exist in the Broken universe. The explanation and the world’s history are doled out gradually through the plot and character interaction. Between that and the book’s quick pace, I had trouble putting it down.
If you’re in the mood for a dystopian, superhuman, sci-fi adventure, I highly recommend Broken. It’s a fun yet serious read; no cackling supervillains necessary.
Broken makes its debut on January 25, 2011.