Title: Vicious (2013)
Series: Vicious – Book 1
Author: V. E. Schwab
Genre: Science Fiction
Extent: 364 pages
Release Date: September 24, 2013
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?
Guys. Guys. I think I’m in love with V. E. Schwab. After a full month without any five-star read, it was just so good to tuck into a book that was super fun, super addictive, and super gripping from the start to the end. I didn’t put Vicious down even once and pretty much finished it in one sitting. In a way, this book kind of reminds me of X-Men (which I love) in book form.
Vicious is about two young men who, ten years ago, experimented with death and gained extraordinary abilities, making them ExtraOrdinary (EO). One of them, Victor, is our protagonist, who just spent the last decade in jail, while the other is Eli, his college roommate and current arch-nemesis. The story alternates between the past and the present, delving deep into their relationship then as well as what it is now.
“I want to believe that there’s more. That we could be more. Hell, we could be heroes.”
What carries this book is definitely the characters. Victor was ambitious, arrogant, and the bone he wanted to pick with Eli was highly personal. Eli, on the other hand, had taken kind of a ‘hero’ role in society, killing other EOs he could find because he deemed them unnatural and dangerous to humans. Both of them have a support team with them: Victor has Sydney, a thirteen-year-old EO who can raise the dead, and Mitch, his cellmate from the jail, whereas Eli has Serena, another EO whose ability can be rivalled by no other.
The unique history between these two characters lends for some very interesting themes to be explored. Victor might be our protagonist, but he’s really more of an anti-hero: cold, calculating, and utterly unconcerned by the thought of inflicting violence on others when it suits his purpose. Eli fancied himself a hero, but though his intentions might be good, he was clearly misguided in his beliefs and didn’t even flinch when committing evil.
“Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”
Vicious is a great demonstration of Schwab’s masterful, efficient storytelling. Everything had a purpose — no character was a throwaway, no single moment was filler, no setting was left unutilised to the full. Pacing-wise it was also simply wonderful: the opening of caught my attention, kept it fully engaged until the end, and I constantly found myself skipping a few pages forward just because I couldn’t wait any second longer to know what would happen and the tension was simply killing me.
I’m actually still not sure what it was about this book that I loved so much — I even looked up negative reviews on Goodreads, just to see if I’d been on too much an emotional high to look at it more objectively (it sometimes happens)! The characters are flawed and complex, yes, and the story was super fun, but many books are like that too. What about this one made it special to me?
“Everything starts with belief. With faith.”
The best way I could think of putting it right now is that the story feels alive. It was a bit like my very own Vicious movie was happening inside my head, and I just had to sit back and let myself be taken for a wild, wonderful ride — and I just really, really, really loved that. Highly recommended. 🙂