All Those ExplosionsEvery species has an ecological niche, according to author James Alan Gardner. A superhero’s niche was coincidence. “They inhaled luck and exhaled unintended consequences,” he said. “They were born in fluke accidents, died in dramatic irony, and came back to life at the precise moment it would have maximum impact.”

Superheroes didn’t get their powers through merit. “They won the lottery without buying a ticket,” said Gardner. Supervillains, on the other hand, embodied order. They were organizers. Leaders. They managed resources to leverage prosperity and maximize their return. They were the ones who steered their own fate.

Becoming superheroes was certainly a pleasant surprise for Kim and her friends Miranda, Shar, and Jools. By happenstance, they stumbled upon a yonic-shaped rift in reality (sexy!) and were exposed to otherworldly forces. Like the Fantastic Four and the Powerpuff Girls, the four college roommates experienced a shared origin story. Like it or not, they were now superheroes.

Conversely, supervillains got their powers by going through a Dark Conversion (price tag: $10 million). Once they signed the Dark Pact, they became vampires, werewolves, goblins, and all sorts of shady bogeymen. Only the rich and powerful were allowed to become “Darklings.” And unlike all the old movies, where the monsters tried to make everyone else like them, these monsters did their damnedest to keep the riffraff out.

Naturally, these creatures of dark and light didn’t see eye to eye. Heroes and villains rarely belonged to the same country club. After 20 years of conversions, Darklings controlled the show. Money and privilege flowed uphill. And you know what they say about absolute power, right? You can’t expect a vampire to govern selflessly and with good prudence.

Something big and nasty was unfolding in Kim’s hometown of Waterloo, Ontario, and coincidence had dragged her and her friends into the middle of it. To their credit, the girls didn’t shrink from their newfound responsibilities. They were eager to join the fray. “The game’s afoot, bitches!” said Kim with a big grin on her face. “Tally-fucking-ho.”

All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault is a book filled with a mad jumble of superheroes and Halloween monsters. Over all, we liked it very much. Gardner is a clever writer with an outsized imagination, and he’s peppered his novel with a never-ending list of pop culture signifiers from Thomas Pynchon to Kimmy Schmidt and everything in between. Gardner seems like the kind of guy who would be an interesting dinner companion. If he were ever in our neck of the woods, we’d love to spend an evening with him talking about math, science, geology, and (of course) superheroes.

In the end, Kim and her friends survived their superhero learning curve, reset the Doomsday Clock, and saved Christmas. Mission accomplished. Kim – a diminutive and asexual Chinese-Canadian keener – was the hero of the story, but all of the young ladies were terrific in their own way. Our favorite of the bunch was Julietta Walsh.

Jools was an indefatigable sparkplug with a quip for every situation. She dressed like a hockey playing samurai warrior and wielded a stick made of blazing green energy that was “a thing of power like Excalibur.” She called herself Ninety-Nine (in honor of the Great One, Wayne Gretzky) and was a beguiling mix of brains and brawn. Truly she had an unquenchable lust for life.

Jools, Kim, Miranda, and Shar embraced their superheroic destiny without a moment of hesitation. But there was one thing they couldn’t agree on. Going forward, what would they call themselves? Alpha Flight was already taken – so too was Defenders, Protectors, and Guardians. The “Thirty-Six Triple Ds” didn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and “Heroes of Science” was a lousy acronym. Here’s an idea: Maybe Kim and her crew could call themselves the Wonder Women of Waterloo? That’s got a nice ring to it.

[All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault / By James Alan Gardner / First Printing: November 2017 / ISBN: 9780765392633]

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