Readers who have never read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Slaughterhouse Five, or Catch-22, would likely be blown away by Kenneth H. Kim’s novel, THE SUPERHERO MEMOIRS. It’s non-linear, whirlwind, time-hopping, backwards, sideways, chaotic approach to story-telling has kicky and fun moments that will keep readers turning pages just figure out what the heck is going on. But Cuckoo, Slaughterhouse and Catch have all covered this ground before, raising the question: is there a problem with an extremely derivative book?
It depends on who you are. Most sixth grade English teachers would be highly offended and probably file a complaint with the originality bureau, if there were such a group, and claim the authors of Cuckoo, Slaughterhouse and Catch have all been mimicked. THE SUPERHERO MEMOIRS include the theme of a person pretending to be insane to find refuge in a mental ward, and then changing his mind and finding it very hard to get out (like Cuckoo). And then there’s the jumping back and forth in time to the present, the past and into the future featured in both Slaughterhouse and Catch. And just like in those two best-selling novels, readers will wonder about the veracity of the protagonist. Is he telling a real story to himself and readers about what happened? Or just projecting a tall tale that makes him look good to himself?
A young boy named Christian wakes up in a mental hospital, surrounded by a memoir manuscript that he may or may not have written, one that explains how he is really Captain Cosmos, a super hero and not some poor emotionally challenged nerdy child on the verge of becoming a teen. And just what is Captain Cosmos’ power? He makes beautiful women fall in love with him, whether he wants to or not. He has no choice. Neither do they. What a terrible burden for a young male just becoming aware of sex and his own sexuality, right? No one in the mental hospital believes Christian is a superhero except Molly, a nearby patient who is also a character in the memoirs and perhaps is falling in love. Christian and Molly decide they need to escape to find answers and that’s where the actions begins.
At this point the problem of the unreliable narrator intensifies. Readers are not sure if Molly and Christian actually escape and visit New York City and Hollywood. At times the exploits of the pair seem real and the author seems to demand we take this seriously. And then Kim drops clues that it’s all a fantasy to help the kids deal with their own inadequate and troubled lives.
Teen readers who have never read Ken Kesey, Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller will likely enjoy the highly derivative but fast moving SUPERHERO MEMOIRS, by Kenneth H. Kim, who knows how to spin a yarn, create tension and keep the action moving quickly.
~Brian Thornton for IndieReader