Review: In Hero Years… I’m Dead, by Michael Stackpole

This was an odd little superhero story where an aging hero comes back for one last shot at glory. The hero-narrator (a man with a dozen secret identities, going by the old hero title of Coyote) tells his tale of returning to his Capital City after twenty years of captivity in foreign lands, his will focused on taking revenge on those who betrayed him long ago. Alas, too much has changed. A whole new breed of heroes and villains have emerged, and not only is our aging hero a little off his game, but the nature of the game has changed. No longer are heroes fighting for justice against villains bent on wanton destruction. Instead, everyone is fighting for shares of the biggest game in town, betting on hero vs. villain matchups, the ultimate in sports/reality/crime events.

The back story of how the world changed during his absence is interesting and is delivered to us in appropriately sized chunks over the course of the novel, and we get to see what has become of all the great heroes and villains of old. Many are simply gone. A few hang on, lurking in the shadows. And then there’s the bad blood of the old sidekicks, forever deprived of their time in the spotlight.

Does our hero get his revenge? Will he bring the new system down? Will he restore us back to a world of proper heroes? Well, that’s actually my main complaint about the book. While the journey he took was an interesting one, our protagonist kept vacillating back and forth on what he wanted to do. After three cycles of “I must get revenge” to “no, I’m retired” and then back to “Revenge!” I stopped counting. At about that time, I lost sympathy for the protagonist. I was still interested in what happened to the world – because other characters had caught my interest – but I no longer really cared whether or not our protagonist got what he wanted or not.