Last year I wrote an article fangirling over Big Bang Press, an indie publisher that set out to publish original fiction by fan fiction authors. They blew past their Kickstarter funding goal at the end of last year, and since then they have been working towards publishing three novels by well-loved fan fiction authors. Their hard work is about to pay off because the first novel, A Hero at the End of the World (written by Erin Claiborne, with illustrations by Jade Liebes) will be released on November 11, 2014. A Hero at the End of the World is super fun and an insightful look at the ever present “chosen one” narrative – it’s a brilliant way to begin your love affair with Big Bang Press.
A Hero at the End of the World stems from a simple enough idea: what if the Chosen One didn’t do what he or she was chosen to do? Imagine if Harry Potter, Percy Jackson or Neo froze up right when the moment of destiny was upon them, and while they were frozen, their best friend jumped in and killed the bad guy before they got the chance to try. Talk about awkward! Well, that’s what happened to Ewan Mao, the former slayer of Duff Slan. Five years after his destiny was stolen from him, Ewan is working in a minimum wage job while his ex-best friend Oliver is rising through the ranks of the Serious Magical Crimes Agency.
Things are not going all that well for Ewan and they get decidedly worse as the novel progresses. I don’t want to give it all away, but it involves giant chickens, a magical cult, a disco ball, the destruction of the universe, and a coffee shop.
I’ve always been an advocate for the support of fan-produced projects, so I was already inclined to enjoy A Hero at the End of the World even before I began reading it. That said, I don’t usually read books with male protagonists. So although I wanted to love this book, and though I was definitely intrigued by the premise, the lack of female characters meant that it needed a little something extra to really get me involved. I’ll admit that for the first third of the novel I wasn’t sure I’d actually get there. These boys whine A LOT, and while Sophie Stuart is an awesome addition she was still essentially the lone women in this battle to save the universe. Fortunately the story really picks up towards the middle and I literally couldn’t put it down during the final third (which resulted in a mad dash to find a powerpoint when my iPad almost died on me in the middle of the library).
This story does have a lot to offer, even without a bunch of girls to get the job done. There is a queer romance and two of the main characters are POC. I have to admit that I ended up shipping the wrong thing again (because I never ship what I’m supposed to) but I just have a thing about estranged best friends that end up fighting on opposite sides, okay? That said, this book isn’t a romance, although the couples are presented quite well (in fact the same-gender pairing gets more development than the heterosexual couple). But I do hope it inspires its own fan fiction, because I can think of a lot of things I would like to see these characters get up to.
Do bare in mind that this book tends towards the younger side of Young Adult. And anyone that saw the fan fiction connection and assumes this is some 50 Shades of Grey – bad pornography – will be disappointed. But the good news is that it is perfect for younger readers 12 and up, especially boys who could use a little racial and sexual diversity in the sea of straight white male heroes they look up too. That’s not to say that older readers won’t find anything to love, because the Douglas Adams-esque satirical style will be enjoyable for anyone that has ever encountered the “Chosen One” narrative (which is basically everyone).
Despite the lack of girls, A Hero a the End of the World won me over with a quirky concept, a queer protagonist, and a fabulous twist. It’s also hilarious; I laughed out loud a number of times. I’m no good at the star rating system so I won’t bother with it – all I will say is that I very much doubt that anyone who picks up a copy of A Hero at the End of the World will end up regretting it.
You can pre-order A Hero at the End of the World at the Big Bang Press website.
Author: Undie Girl
Undie Girl (aka Von) has a BA (Hons) Major in Cultural Studies. The title of her honours thesis was “It’s just gay and porn”: Power, Identity and the Fangirl’s Gaze. She’s currently pursuing a Masters of Media Practice at University of Sydney. Von’s a former contributor The Backlot’s column The Shipping News and a current co-host of The Geekiary’s monthly webcast FEELINGS… with The Geekiary.
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