In a world with magic and superpowers, reality gets hard to pin down.
I would like to thank Macmillan-Tor and the good folks at NetGalley for giving me this free early copy of ALL THOSE EXPLOSIONS WERE SOMEONE ELSE’S FAULT and the opportunity to review it.
I knew I would like All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault the moment I came across it. Three lines into the synopsis and I was already hooked: “Monsters are real. But so are heroes. Sparks are champions of weird science.“ I didn’t need to know more about the story to know I was going to like where it was going. And once I looked into it further, I was even more sold! Talk about an author with science fiction chops … James A. Gardner has been writing inspiring and challenging science fiction since at least the ‘90s, and writes both science fiction and science fact – he’s even written a computer science textbook used throughout Canada.
Now that I’ve read All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault, I can say without doubt or hesitation that this was one of the most thoroughly enjoyable books I’ve read all year. This book has everything: light and dark, magic and science, order and chaos, Canada and … other places in Canada. And it’s funny! Garner really has a way with comedy, and balances epic fights and mysterious investigations with jokes (of the dark and the dad variety in equal measure).
At its heart, this story is about “finding the hero within”, and understanding not just what strengths you have but also where your strengths make you vulnerable – and where they might make you fall.
Gardner isn’t precious about his prose. His voice is immediately approachable and serves at all times to help illuminate the character of our narrator, Kim. It is through Kim’s eyes we witness the story unfolding, and from Kim’s perspective that we interpret and come to understand the rules of bad guys and good guys, of magic and science. It really helps that Kim is so charming, so relatable, so witty.
In addition to Kim is a whole cast of characters, whose personalities are varied and very human. Kim’s core group of friends are each entertaining and illuminating in their own way, and Gardner has worked to give each their own personality and sense of humor, as well as confronting each with their own challenges to face. They make a great ensemble cast, and I can’t wait to see how each grows in the next book!
But the characters don’t exist on their own. They inhabit a world – and this is a world full of dark magic and superheroes (called Sparks), and a war they’re just beginning to wage the world over. When we enter the fray, conflict has been in full swing throughout the world for a while, but is just now encroaching on the sleepy college town of Waterloo. As Kim and the rest learn the rules of Sparks and the Dark (the dark magic baddies) we learn them, too. Gardner does an excellent job of using Kim’s voice as the narrator to anticipate questions we the readers might have and answers them – either through exposition, or Kim’s ruminations, or even bouts of metahumor – Kim is very aware that theirs is a superhero story.
As it turns out, the rules of magic and superhero powers Gardner has put together are one of this book’s hands-down triumphs. The universe he has created for this book is one of established rules for both magic and science, and each adheres internally to their rules. Where they clash, those rules are broken (and danger and hilarity ensue!) but they break in internally consistent ways. This allows us as readers to follow along, to anticipate danger, and to understand gentle foreshadowing in a universe that would otherwise be overwhelmingly foreign.
All-in-all, this book was a wonderful read and I heartily recommend it. It’s an excellent light read, perfect to relax with. So head to your nearest bookstore and grab a copy, then sit down with some snacks, kick your feet up, and settle in for one hilarious and superpowered romp!