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The Quantum Prophecy

Style: Weak → Average

Attitude: Take Care → Unobjectionable

In Brief: Comic-book style superhero action; moral dilemmas, some driven by visions of the future.

Cover of The Quantum Prophecy

Author: Michael Carroll

Series: The New Heroes

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published in: 2006

Age Range: Young Teens

Period: Near Future

Setting: Britain & USA

Genres:  Growing-UpSciFi


Characters:

  • Colin is a 13-year-old who must use his newly-found powers of strength and hearing to track down his parents and his friend Danny who have been kidnapped and taken to America.
  • Danny finds that he has inherited superspeed from his father, but that his father is not who he seems.
  • 14-year-old Renata has been locked in her diamond-like state of invulnerability for 14 years until Colin and Danny are brought to the place where she is being kept.
  • Facade is a shape-shifter who has, for reasons he believes to be noble, masqueraded as another for 10 years, which has included fathering a child by this other man's wife.
  • Paragon is a non-superpowered superhero who simply renounced that way of life and now has a wife and daughters. He agrees to help Colin to find his parents and friend.

Synopsis:

10 years after all the superheroes and supervillains in the world disappeared in the wake of a titanic battle, a few youngsters start to develop superpowers, but are soon kidnapped by a mysterious organisation. Danny & Colin both discover their own powers, and learn that their parents were superheroes before losing all their powers 10 years ago. Meanwhile, an evil scientist is trying to perfect the device which stripped the powers from both heroes and villains while secretly developing a shield so that he alone will retain his enhanced mental powers. He has Colin & Danny kidnapped along with their superhero parents, and the youngsters learn that 10 years ago, a prophecy was made which saw an army led by one of the boys devastating the planet.

Notes:

I admit that my first reaction to this book was that it wouldn't take long to write up. After all it's really just a Graphic Novel without the pictures, driven by superpowered action sequences, with a veneer of personal dilemmas and the occasional intrusion of angst to fuel character development. Well, while all that is true, I realised that there was more to be said for this book. Although not much more.

Overall, my initial reaction is still sound: there's enough interest in the different characters and the situations they face to pull you along, the story is action and dialogue-driven and some, at least, of the characters are painted by numbers. Half the plot rides on some scheme which Victor — the bad guy — has hatched, but his character isn't really coherent enough for the reader to understand his motives, and the whole affair just looks like the conventional Doomsday Device plotline.

The main characters — the two boys, and to a lesser extent Renata — have to come to terms with their condition, and then almost immediately with being kidnapped and told the truth about certain things. They're only thirteen, but thirteen is old enough to grow up quickly when needs be. The characters of Facade and Paragon have perhaps the most interest as each must face up to decisions they made long ago.

Families are a bit of a tricky number in this story. Certainly, you have the appearance of three normal families: mother, father, one or two children. But one of the parents is not who he says he is, and in the ten years' masquerade, has — obviously — lived with the wife of the man he's impersonating, and they've had a son. Furthermore, we meet his real counterpart, who's then killed accidentally by his real son, after revealing his motives. There's some attempt at polyfilla when someone points out that the impostor may in fact have come to love the woman he's been living with, but there's no attempt to consider the deeper issues. In addition, Renata's the fourteen she was ten years ago while her family will have moved on. The matter isn't resolved in his book, but you could see her becoming an effective orphan.

The opening scene is set in a classroom and its sole purpose is for the teacher to describe for the reader the events of ten years previously.

A prophecy by one character ten years before forms the major plot premise, but seems to be motivating too many people at once. The idea is that Quantum sees one of the youngsters leading an army which will devastate the Earth. This is justification in several people's eyes, including the boy's father, for damaging his powers and risking the lives of anyone else in the vicinity. Sadly, the storyline degenerates into a “let's just get out of here” superpowered mayhem, and the issue of the prophecy is lost.

Disturbingly, but handled with a certain sensibility, one of the youngsters kills his own father by underestimating his own enhanced strength. This isn't condoned by anyone, least of all the boy, and the circumstances of the meeting are complicated.

There is a very little byplay when Colin is given a spare bed by a friend with two very attractive teenage daughters. One of them comes in to wake him up and embarrasses him by pretending to have noticed that he's wearing nothing under the sheets.

Several characters stress the fact that the power they possess requires that they have a responsibility, while someone else points out that there may well be many enhanced humans who have never wanted to take up that responsibility; we only see those who have. By the end of the book, while neither of the boys has really grown beyond what circumstances have demanded, they have at least some understanding of what challenges are faced by those with greater power.

Colin persuades another youngster from a Youth Shelter to help him find a friend of his parents. The other lad is an adept car thief and is thinking of moving into alcohol smuggling. Colin tries to point out where this is wrong and the lad is offered a straight job by someone.

Themes:

  • Should you commit significant acts on the basis of prophecy?
  • If you are super-powered, how much responsibility do you have to use that power for good?

Joseph said, “Danny, when I saw that vision of you, I knew that I couldn't just sit back and let it happen. I had to do something about it. All this came about as a result of that.”

“If I'm such a threat to the world, wouldn't it have been simpler to just have killed me when I was a baby?”

Rachel said, “We had to be certain that your powers would develop. Just because your father had powers didn't mean that you would. It's not like we could test your blood or profile your DNA to see whether you were a carrier. That's not how it works. It does happen that the powers are passed on from one generation to the next, but it's certainly not guaranteed.”

Saturday 3rd June 2006