I never know to say in these things. I guess that says something about me. I read a lot, write stories, and like books. I like a good debate. Nothing else is to say. :-)
If you are into fantasy, comic books, complicated heroes and just plan dark fun...then this book is for you. It is dark, and every character is a mess and not good by any standard, but you love them anyway.
Basically this book is about the breakup of relationship of two sociopaths. Neither Eli nor Victor are very nice people. And something is missing from both of them, which is apparent from the start. So once they start their quest to find out more about EO's and how they are made, it was just a matter of time before they implode and take the world with them.
In this world, there are EOs: people with ExtraOrdinary powers, and Eli and Victor...two brilliant college students, who are obvious sociopaths to me, decide that they are going to study these people and find out how they gained their abilities. It starts off somewhat innocently enough, but it ends with both Victor and Eli looking for ways to kill themselves, so they can be brought back from the brink of death and gain powers. It was Eli's theory that EOs were created from traumatic near death experiences. Those that came back from that, gained abilities. So what better way to test that theory than to kill each other and try to bring each other back. The first attempt by Victor, ends with no success, but when it is Eli's turn, it works. Then Victor is determined to try again, and Eli refuses to help him (because Eli was already convincing himself that he was chosen by a higher power, and if Victor succeeded, Eli was no longer special. That's my theory). So Victor tricks Eli's girlfriend to help him, and this time he succeeds. And it goes downhill from there.
Without giving the entire story away, I will just talk about some of the characters
Eli: Eli is convinced that EOs are unnatural and against God, and because of their powers, also a danger to society. He thinks that when these people die and come back, they come back broken and with their souls missing, so he makes it his duty to rid the world of them. Literally. He develops a way to find these people and hunts them and kills them. He is a cold blooded killer. But what makes him really scary, is that like most villains, he has convinced himself that all of his murders were justified. That this is what God wants. He is working for a higher purpose. And the pleasure and satisfaction he gets from killing these people, is God's way of showing his approval. He is jacked in the head. He is the worst kind of killer: the one who convinces himself that he is the hero, and that all he does is for good. He is saving the world by getting rid of these dangerous people! It is all bullshit of course. Just a rationalization. Every other EO is bad and wrong and against God....except him. He is special. He was chosen by God. His power has no potential to harm anyone, so he wasn't a danger to others, so that makes his gifts from God, while everyone else is of the devil. This is what he tells himself. And he breaks his rules all the times. He just likes killing and has no remorse, but he can only accept that about himself, if he can convince himself he kills for a good reason. Like he used Angie as a band aid in college to convince himself, and act like he was normal...he was now using the idea of being holy and chosen to pretend to be good and normal. There are hints that Eli's early life was terrible. He has scars and parents that he never discusses. And it is obvious, religion played a role in his early life as well. That shapes who he reacted to his new gift. There were many hints that he was damaged long before his death. He just could ignore it then.
Victor: Victor, is not a nice person. And, like Eli, he was broken before he died and came back. It is obvious from the start that he is not quite right. But after coming back and gaining his power...he became even more wrong. He has no problem killing you if he finds it necessary. And he will use his powers against you, if it can get him what he wants. Yet despite all of this, he is kind of the hero of the book. But in the world they live in, Eli is the hero, and Victor thinks, if Eli is the hero, then he will be the villain. His focus is always Eli, even before they gained their powers, his focus was Eli. He resented Angie for "stealing" Eli from him. He resented her because he knew that Eli around her, was not the real Eli. Eli was two people, the shiny, charming one he was in public, and this dark, cold person who he was with Victor. Victor knew that was the real Eli, and the other was just Eli mimicking the emotions and action of a person Angie and the rest of the world wanted him to be, because this was also what Victor was doing. So Angle she "stole" Eli away from Victor. He was always trying to get Eli's attention. He got rid of all of his other roommates, but he kept Eli around because he saw in Eli, someone who was just like him. They were both missing something, something that made them normal. Victor mention many times that he could "mimic" the emotions of the people around him. He could respond the way a normal person would respond in a situation, but he never felt it. I think both of them were sociopaths to begin with, and when they died and came back, whatever was holding them back, was gone. And they could no longer hide their true natures. Victor wants to stop/kill Eli, so that made him the hero in our story. But he was not much of a step up from Eli. His saving grace, I think is that, unlike Eli, Victor still seeks connections with other people, and to a small extent, could make and maintain these connections. This helped ground him. If he got out of hand he had Mitch or Sydney to tell him he was being a scary asshole. They kept him tethered and pulled him back from going full tilt over the edge. And also, unlike Eli, Victor killed out of necessity. He did not enjoy it, but if your being dead was more convenient for him...then he'd make you dead. He had no remorse or mercy...like Eli, but has no desire to deliberately hurt anyone. Even when he used his power, it was mainly in defense, or to further his plan stop Eli. Victor would kill you just as easily, and coldly as Eli...but he rather not. It's not his first choice. Her rather keep you around, in case you became useful to him. What Victor always had over Eli, was self-awareness. Victor knows he is broken and always had been. So Victor can't fool himself. If he kills someone, he knows he should care and feel bad. But he doesn't, and never will. But that is who he is, and he accept it. He doesn't live in denial, and that saves him lots of conflict.
Serena: Serena's power is terrifying, and I can see why she is messed up in the head. But once again, she is someone who convinces herself that what she does is for a higher reason. She could have stopped Eli from hurting her sister. She could. But she didn't. Eli, though he fought her, was still under her control. He still did what she told him. She protected herself from him every day by telling him he would not kill her today. But when he tried to kill her sister she just turned away. And she rationalizes it, by buying into Eli's excuse that Sydney was not Sydney, but some evil that came back in her place. So that person Eli hurt was not her sister...just an imposter. She buys it because she thinks because she came back wrong and missing something, that means they all came back wrong. And because, due to her power, Eli is the only thing in her life that makes it interesting. And she doesn't want to lose that. Eli fights her, everyone else submits. She was bored before he popped into her life with his theory and murders. . Yet...she still saved herself. She made sure she was not on Eli's hit list. She saves herself, but not her sister. And once again, she thinks she is the hero in this tale, but is she?
This is what I liked most about the book, the question of who is a hero and who is a villain. Most villains think they are the hero in their own story. They convince themselves that all the terrible things they do are for a higher purpose. What is good and what is evil? I could apply both to Eli and Victor....but one was more evil than the other. Our hero is the lesser of two evils. And I loved it.
After reading this book, I realized that yea, it is pretty realistic; if mankind ever developed superpowers....it was be a damn mess. More people would use these powers to harm and kill, and rob banks...rather than actually helping people. I think that is what was "missing" when these people came back is consequences. Because when you do not fear consequences for your actions, then you no longer care about your actions and how they affect others. And if you were already broken before you died, like Eli and Victor, then the powers just strip you bare of any pretense. It ruins you. Like it ruined Eli and Serena. Their mistake was thinking that their failings, were also everyone else's failings, and deciding to play God.
I loved this book. It gave you a lot to think about. What is good? What is evil? Who is the hero? Who is the villain? And the answers seems to be...it's all relative. We are all capable of being both. And you may think you are a hero...but in someone else's story...you might be the villain that needs to be stopped.