First sentence: Watch Sam burn. Or sort of burn. Well, more like light up, then burn. But only his head.
Synopsis: Sam has a weak power which he barely can control. A video of his spontaneous combustion went viral, cost him his job and his boyfriend and Sam joined the minority of superheroes. The society distrusts superheroes in general and doesn’t want to integrate living hazards like Sam.
That’s why he applied for “Super”, a team of superheroes who want to prove to society that they are a valuable asset for all. They mostly want him for his experience as an accountant, because someone really needs to keep the paperwork in order. The previous accountant had a problem with electricity destroying the computers, so Sam found everything in staples of unordered paper – a nightmare.
Slowly, he befriends the office team and then the real superheroes. He’d like to know one of them, Cyrus better.
Review: This novelette has been nominated for this year’s Nebula Award season (check out the list with references to online available stories and my reviews). Last year, the author won the short story category with “Give the Family My Love” (review) which I really enjoyed reading.
The society reminds me a lot of the Marvel universe. Powers are more a burden than a source for admiration, because people hate that you have an unearned privilege, they distrust you and shut you out of the society.
This one is far more light-hearted but has a similarly touching subject. It seems to be about Sam fitting into the team. But his teammates already accept him easily. It’s more about Sam’s learning to accept himself. He always wants to be in the action team instead of in the backoffice and tries to figure out how he could help and impress people.
Sam is easily relatable, especially for me as a Computer Scientist – nobody knows what we do, and girls don’t get ecstatic when they learn our job. Add to that that Sam is a really nice guy, a complex character with hopes and fears, lacking just a little bit self-confidence. Over the course of the story, Sam changes. First his expectations what this new group might bring for him, then his dreams about society.
There’s not much action or suspension in the story, but it’s moving in a heartwarming fashion. A really atypical superhero story looking behind the scenes.