Starter Villain by John Scalzi: Hilarious Villain Send Up

Charlie’s life is going nowhere fast. A divorced substitute teacher living with his cat in a house his siblings want to sell, all he wants is to open a pub downtown, if only the bank will approve his loan.

Then his long-lost uncle Jake dies and leaves his supervillain business (complete with island volcano lair) to Charlie.

But becoming a supervillain isn’t all giant laser death rays and lava pits. Jake had enemies, and now they’re coming after Charlie. His uncle might have been a stand-up, old-fashioned kind of villain, but these are the real thing: rich, soulless predators backed by multinational corporations and venture capital.

It’s up to Charlie to win the war his uncle started against a league of supervillains. But with unionized dolphins, hyper-intelligent talking spy cats, and a terrifying henchperson at his side, going bad is starting to look pretty good.

In a dog-eat-dog world…be a cat.

In Starter Villain, John Scalzi has created a hilarious villain send up, gathering inspiration from Bond villains and spy movies but rewriting the definition of what it means to be a villain. From the very start, this novel is tongue in cheek as we meet our main protagonist Charlie who unwittingly inherits the business of being a villain from his uncle, along with sentient cats, a volcano lair and dolphins on strike. He also has a ton of enemies who want his uncle’s money and power. Part of the reason I loved this book was the comedic elements stitched throughout this book.  Scalzi has a wry tongue in cheek approach that made me chuckle right to the end.

One of the other reasons this novel is so good is the main character Charlie. Charlie is out of his depth and he expresses it. The writing doesn’t pretend that he suddenly gets good at running things. He has a lot of help and he leans on that help. While Charlie is intelligent, there is far more going on than just Charlie running things. The secondary characters like Matilda Morrison and Hera as well as Charlie’s enemies make for distinctive interesting characters that keep the story intriguing and suspenseful. Matilda in particular is witty and fun to read. 

If you love spy novels, unlikely villains, comedy, and sentient cats, I totally recommend this book. It is just fun with a fantastic unexpected ending that keeps the tone light, giving readers a hilarious villain send up that will keep you in stitches.

Rating: 5 out of 5 sentient cats

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