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Sakkara

Style: Weak → Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable

In Brief: Lightweight young superhero thriller with typically violent action scenes. Slightly disturbing prophetic images. Impossible moral decision leading to a character's death.

Cover of Sakkara

Author: Michael Carroll

Series: The New Heroes

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published in: 2006

Age Range: Young Teens

Period: Near Future

Setting: USA

Genres:  AdventureSciFiThought-provoking


Characters:

  • Colin, Danny and Renata are superhuman teenagers who are lying low in Sakkara, a US base for the study of superhumans. There they meet Yvonne and Mina, superhuman twins, and Butler who can extend forcefields around his body.
  • Solomon Cord has come to Sakkara with his family, including his daughters Alia and Stephanie, who's sweet on Colin.
  • Dioxin, a supervillain who survived losing his powers ten years before, has teamed up with Victor Cross who's masquerading as the leader of the Trutopians. They plan together to discredit the New Heroes and to have revenge on Solomon for his actions ten years before.

Synopsis:

Sakkara is a secret US base to which young superheroes Danny, Colin and Renata are taken when their identities are exposed. There they meet other young superheroes and Solomon Cord, formerly Paragon, with his family. It becomes clear that there's a traitor in their midst and a terrorist-style group captures Paragon's battle armour and uses it to cause high-profile destruction linked to Sakkara and the New Heroes.

Notes:

This is the second in the New Heroes series and, looking past the relatively shallow plot, the thing which strikes me the most is that the author does seem to have some kind of idea of where he wants to take this series. The first book set the scene and could pretty much have ended there. (I imagine the way these things work is that no publisher will touch a series from an unknown author until the first book has had a measure of success). This book sets a more violent tone, mostly within in the expected realms of no-one-gets-hurt superheroism, although with a nasty sting in its tail. But mixed in with all this is the idea that an uber-villain has a plan for the world which really could turn nasty, and that some of the consequences of the plan were foreseen by Quantum years before and by his son Danny in the previous book. There's a really quite spooky moment as Danny & Colin arrive at Sakkara and set off a recording of Quantum relating his apocalpytic vision on the day Danny was born. He describes the devastating war he sees come about as a result of the superpowers he and the others possess. But then he describes Danny, Colin and Solomon Cord watching him say this 13 years in the future! You can take the prophecy parts of this series or leave them, but this particular moment is eerily effective.

There's a certain amount you can say about the different characters and the decisions they have to make and their responsibilities and so on. But really there's nothing here you wouldn't find in a Teen Titans comic. The usual issues arise of youngsters having powers which their parents and other adults do not. And lacking the wisdom and experience which their elders possess. While in Doomspell, for example, that is addressed by giving some children a certain measure of prudence and responsibility, having trustworthy parents and credible mentor characters, it isn't really addressed here. True, the New Heroes do go on a couple of training trips to the local town to try out their powers in the face of real situations. They do this to acquire some kind of experience, tactical or strategic or merely physical. But there's no real moral guidance. This becomes particularly relevant as one of the youngsters turns out to be a double agent and wields tremendous power. Obviously the point is that this character is rogue and is clearly A Bad Thing in league with the hyperintelligent uber-villain. But there's no moral counterbalance to this pair of immoral heavyweights.

In summary, don't expect too much from this book or this series. It has moments of triumph and humour, of valour and heroism, of evil triumphing over good and of good surviving to fight another day. But to expect more than a kind of surface reflection on all this is to expect too much.

Themes:

  • Impossible moral decisions
  • The extent to which prophecies can dictate our actions

Sunday 9th September 2007