Review: Vicious ~ by V.E. Schwab
364 pages ~ Adult Fantasy
My Rating: 4/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.
Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?
This story was such a unique and interesting twist on what someone would be willing to do to gain power. It reminded me a lot of the film, Flatliners. This film was both horrific to watch, but also strangely insightful for many different reasons. You are watching these kids destroy themselves for the sake of “science” and for the sake of gaining power, and it is kind of traumatizing but fascinating at the same time. But it also brings up so many interesting questions about what role religion and science play in convincing us of what is right and wrong, and how far humans should go in their desire to control life and death.
Below were some high points for me:
- The blurred line between villain and hero- How do we define a hero or a villain?- it’s really such a messy and complicated question that a lot of books try to grapple with, but Schwab has managed to do it in such a unique way. It’s all about outside perception in this book- how the world perceives Eli and Victor- they are seen as both throughout the book- Victor claims: “these words people threw around – humans, monsters, heroes, villains – to Victor it was all just a matter of semantics. Someone could call themselves a hero and still walk around killing dozens. Someone else could be labeled a villain for trying to stop them. Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”
- “The paper called Eli a hero. The word made Victor laugh. Not just because it was absurd, but because it posed a question. If Eli was really a hero, and Victor meant to stop him, did that make him a villain? He took a long sip of his drink, tipped his head back against the couch, and decided he could live with that.”
- Victor’s blackout poetry- “a sight, a civilian hero, nameless, a bad feeling, fearless unarmed, and in the mayhem uninjured. It was a remarkable display.” Victor’s desire to turn his parent’s self-help books into something creative and self-expressive was a really clever element. It felt like a comment on the power that creativity and fiction can have over psychology/self-help.
- The question of what Religion/Faith can convince us to do- Eli used religion to convince himself that what he was doing was right and part of some divine plan- “the unnatural made natural,” but he is a walking contradiction due to his own status as an EO. I felt like this was Schwab’s clever way of commenting on the dangers of religion and what crimes it can convince us to commit.
- The “gifts” that can be attributed to God vs. Science- After his “experiment,” Eli attributes his new “gifts” to God’s divine intervention:
Eli: “Why of all the potential powers I ended up with his one. Maybe it’s not random. Maybe there’s some correlation between a person’s character and their resulting ability?
Victor: “According to your thesis, an influx of adrenaline and a desire to survive gave you that talent. Not God. This isn’t divinity, Eli. It’s science and chance.”
- I thought it was a really fascination twist that a medical student, trained in the power of Science, could attribute the results of a Science experience, to the divine. That he saw himself not as a monster, but an “avenging angel.” Major props to Schwab on this one- this was a fascinating twist.
What was missing?
- I felt like there wasn’t enough background on Victor and Eli’s relationship. When the eventual rift between the two comes, the intensity of it didn’t feel fully believable to me because I didn’t feel like I knew or understood their previous relationship. The connection between the two wasn’t built up enough to warrant such an intense hatred.
- Victor and Eli- because I didn’t have much background on them, I didn’t find a lot of connection with them. I think I just wanted to know and understand them more. Because I didn’t, I wasn’t fully invested in who came out on top. I was more concerned about the people who they managed to drag into their feud- mainly Mitch, Sydney, and Dol.
Overall, it was an interesting read with a crazy cool twist on Superheroes vs. Villains. Schwab is a great writer and she managed to seamlessly blend in some really complex questions while also just being purely entertaining and fun! I will definitely be reading Vengeful soon!