Vicious by V. E. Schwab
I finally found a copy of this book in the wild this summer (thanks, Bull Moose!) and dived into it as soon as I could. However, it was a slow read for me because it is a very tensely constructed and plotted book, telling a very tense sort of story. (True confession -- once I skipped to the end and read the last chapter, I was able to go back to the middle and read on without problem -- that's me and my difficultues with stress, nothing bad about the book).
Here we have the most "it could happen just this way" superhero story I've run across. Wait, scratch that. Take out "superhero". The superhero aspect is there, but it's not a cliche, not a comfortable, familiar trope. That worked for me.
This is a science fiction story that cuts very close to the bone, that puts forth a what if idea that leads right into "how the hell?" It does something that makes complete sense to me -- it leaves a big swatch of unknown because, for all we know, for all science teaches us, there is always more that is unknown. Every discovery results in far more questions than answers.
More to the point, the particular area of unknown isn't crucial to the story. The characters don't know, but they accept what's happening and keep going, so as a reader it was easy to accept what's happening and keep going. I must admit, I like that in a story. I just don't buy it when characters know everything there is to know about their particular situation or the weird things that are happening to them or their world. There is always the unknown (and the unknown unknown, the stuff you don't even known you don't know). Schwab uses that well.
Of course, the various switches in time, point of view, and action creates a sort of "spiral' effect in the narrative, as the reader gathers all the parts of the story together to the ultimate end, as inevitably as water going down a hole. And then? and then, there's a little postlude where something we should have been expecting all along but might have forgotten about in the big boom of the ending takes place.
In short, I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the way the characters, all painted in shades of grey, interacted. I enjoyed the ideas about what is a hero and what is a villain were played with, but weren't hammered on. I kinda wish there was a follow up book, although I'm not sure what it would be about or what is left to be said with these characters. Still, I had such a good time with them that I wouldn't mind spending more time in their world.