Broken is a speculative fiction novel by Susan J Bigelow.
When Broken lost her ability to fly, she thought she was finished with being an extrahuman, a superhero. Then the world around her started to break apart and the mysterious teenager Michael found her, bringing with him the promise of rebirth and retribution. Michael has the extrahuman ability to see people's possible future's and he needs the help of a homeless ex-superhero to save a baby who may just be the key to humanity's freedom.
Broken is set in a future dystopian earth ruled with an iron fist by a ruthless dictator, an earth where superhero's are real and tightly controlled by the "union". The vision that is presented here by the author is a very very dark but wonderfully written story combining a slightly futuristic world and then filling it with superheros.
The atmosphere is fantastic and works incredibly well with a very muted back story and very little time given over to introspection. This includes a very pervasive and slowly building tension as the world around the characters continues to crumble as time moves on. Some of the back story is built by the use of flashbacks but these are handled very well and are not prolonged enough to overly disturb the pace. The script is very tightly written and in places quite visually dramatic, there are some great scenes that really leap from the page.
The characters are described well and despite being lightly detailed in places they are very lively and likable (even the overly grumpy Broken). The incidental elements help, like Broken's love of cats and Michael's striving to reach a maturity beyond his years. I am occasionally reminded of Watchmen (which I have always loved), there is the same sense of futility despite living in a world where superheros really do exist.
What I loved about this novel is the way the author manages to get the important messages across without it seeming at all forced or shoehorned in. We have the big fight against oppression, the way it's sometimes so easy to give up on life's goals and then the humanising of the superhuman's. Here, despite Michael's ability to see the future, it's also clear that we have no pre-ordained path and no fate other than what we make for ourselves (cue Terminator music).
Broken is a powerful, bleak and wonderfully written piece of dystopian fiction.
Written on Monday 7th March 2011 by Antony Jones.
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