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Audiobook Review: "We Could Be Heroes" by Mike Chen

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Rebekah has worked over 8 years in public libraries. She has recommended books to readers of all ages and hopes you'll enjoy her suggestion!

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We Could Be Heroes

Written by Mike Chen (Here and Now and Then, A Beginning at the End)

Mike Chen began his writing life with scifi fan fiction, and realized he was meant to be a writer when his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles parody of Grapes of Wrath gained excellent reviews from his high school English class. After some twists and turns that took him through such career paths as technical writing, website development, and sports journalism (with an extra fun diversion as a bartender at a gay club in London), he finally returned to true storytelling. In his own words, he prefers to write books about "family and friendship and humor that just happen to have some time travel or an apocalypse." In all, the best thing about Mike Chen (in the eyes of this humble reviewer) is that he believes Jean-Luc Picard of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and the wonderful Sir Patrick Stewart who portrays him, is just about the best and most wonderful human in all the fictional and nonfictional world. You can follow him, @mikechenwriter on Twitter. His next book, Second Contact, is set to be published in 2022.


Narrated by Emily Woo Zeller (The Poppy War, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Fate/stay night, Trinity Blood, Cyberpunk 2011)

Emily Woo Zeller has provided the voices of a variety of characters in dozens of anime and animated shows. Some of the present reviewer's favorites happen to include .hack//Roots, Trinity Blood, and Hell Girl, but others such as Yakitate!! and Fate/stay night feature her in leading roles. In addition to anime and video games, she has provided the voice of Dr Aphra in the audio drama, and narration in From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back. She has won various awards for voice acting, most recently 2020's Independent Audiobook Award for Best Female Narrator (Kintsugi by Celine Santini). Outside of voice acting and narration, Emily Woo Zeller is a certified yoga teacher. Follow her @zwooman on Twitter.

Summary

Jamie Sorenson and Zoe Wong are two extraordinary people with extraordinary abilities. What could be better than reading memories, or having super strength? Well, being able to remember who you are, for one. Neither Jamie nor Zoe have any clue as to who they are or why they have these abilities, but they certainly know how to use them. Gentle, caring Jamie just wants a quiet life where he can drink coffee and read books, preferably with a cat in his lap. To achieve this lofty goal, Jamie dons a mask and becomes the Mind Robber, a villain who uses his power to rob banks (not people) and erase their memories. As he goes home after each robbery, dragging his guilt-ridden conscience in tow, he greets his cat and counts his money, tallying the days until he can retire to a private resort.

Zoe Wong, on the other hand, is exasperated. Constantly living life at super speed, she uses her abilities to get high ratings on her food delivery service. If she's in the mood, she'll pull on her suit to become the Throwing Star. Brash, drunken, and perpetually annoyed with her missing memory, Zoe just wants to get through life. Then, at one of her memory loss support meetings, she notices Jamie for the first time. What's more, the Mind Robber and the Throwing Star discover each other's civilian alter ego. Just as they begin to face off, a fiery disaster forces them into working together to save their fellow group members and the two of them realize there is much more to themselves than what they can remember.

Together, they uncover a sinister plot behind their memory loss, and the reason why they have these extraordinary powers. Determined to find out who they really are, and get to the bottom of everything that's happening, they form an unlikely friendship. Their friendship is quickly put to the test as they learn more about their stolen memories. When disaster strikes, Jamie begins to question his own motives in helping Zoe, and wonders if he really is a villain, after all.

Review

This was the first book I've read by Mike Chen. I picked up the audiobook randomly after finishing book two of the Poppy War trilogy by R.F. Kuang, and while I was waiting on book 3. I was so enthralled and enchanted by the narrator that I was curious to see what other audiobooks Zeller had read, and thought this book sounded like a fun detour from the grimdark fantasy of The Dragon Republic. I was in no way disappointed. Not only was Zeller's reading spectacular, the story was every bit as fun and sweet as I had hoped. It was simple and straightforward without being predictable. In fact, there were so many points where I knew for sure what was going to happen, only to have a nice little twist prove me wrong.

The novel is full of love and friendship, and the bonds that tie us together through pain and suffering. It is at once joyful and bittersweet without the excessive romance that seems to be so prolific between the two main characters in most novels. In this way, it was a very refreshing read. Chen's ability to convince me of certain truths and then show why I was clearly wrong for believing those truths highlights his ability as a writer. In many books I read, there ups and downs, but events escalate quickly and even when they slow down, it is never boring. The characters do what characters should do: disappoint us, uplift us, make us want to root for them and then make us so mad we want to reach in slap them with their own book.

Chen's twist on the superhero story is a great one. It shows the superheroes and villains mostly in their civilian identity, just trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be. If you’re a reader who enjoys humor, adventure, mad scientists, and mystery, We Could Be Heroes is the light-hearted journey that just might save the day. There is some language in it, and drinking, but the content is otherwise pretty lowkey and easy, so I would recommend it for older teens and adults. I highly recommend the audiobook to enjoy Chen's humor and Zeller's wonderful voice, but if that isn't your cup of coffee, don't let it keep you from picking up a text copy. We Could Be Heroes was published in January 2021 by Mira Books.

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Comments

EnderDW on March 23, 2021:

Great review! I look forward to reading this book!

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