3 out of 4 stars
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Superhighway 2 is the second book in the trilogy of that name, and continues the story of Alexander Fine, a young man with a genetic superpower. The book starts in an unfamiliar context, with Alex being tortured by scientists who wish to understand his incredible ability that allows him to teleport through the World Wide Web (or as Alex calls it, “electroportation”). After this scene is established, the story moves into a prolonged flashback format for a large portion of the book, showing the events of the ten years that followed the end of the first book.
We read that Alex has had an eventful life. He was initially on the run from the Russian mobster he stole a fortune from, and was forced to forge a new identity. He meets a new love interest named Yana, and they create a life together. As in the previous book, there’s a lot of time devoted to his sexual dalliances and drug usage, which his newfound mate joins him in. But finally, the two of them find out they are pregnant and turn their life around to provide a healthy environment for their child. All is well, and the pregnancy is the motivation that Alex needs to become a reformed character for the first time in his life.
Unfortunately, tragedy strikes and the rest of the story focuses on the decisions Alex must make as he finds himself involved in international intrigue once again — this time with the safety of his child in the balance.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. The author, Alex Fayman, does a good job of creating a story that is hard to step away from, and I enjoyed seeing Alex develop as a character into something more than an irresponsible teenager with absolutely no willpower to make moral decisions. Alex as a father is a far more relatable and principled (but still flawed) character than Alex the lonely orphan.
There were some noteworthy drawbacks to the story, however, as well as a consistent smattering of grammatical and spelling errors. I didn’t feel like any characters aside from Alex were developed at all — the entire story is written rigidly from his perspective, and because he tends to objectify the people in his life, every other character in the book reads as just that: an object.
This was especially disappointing when it came to Yana, his long-term love interest and the mother of Alex’ child. She was never grounded in any personality of her own, merely serving the purpose of being the woman Alex could project his fantasies onto. There was a moment shortly after Yana gave birth to their baby when Alex sees “the motherly look he’d always wanted to see” on her face. That would have been an endearing moment if I had been able to see her growing into that role, but as it occurred in the book she flips from sex object to beautiful picture of maternal instinct personified without any meaningful transition.
The other downside that I ran into was that the book starts with Alex in a position of having nothing and no-one — he is entirely bereft of companionship and it’s explicitly clear that he has lost everything. So, there’s not really much surprise later in the flashback portion when he, well… loses everything. You see it coming from the start. This put me in a position of feeling like every good thing in his life was merely a manipulative trick to get me invested in the story so the author could score an emotional reaction by taking it away.
It’s also worth noting, if you read the first book and didn’t enjoy the constant monologue that Alex engages in regarding his own depravity and morally bankrupt thought processes, this book doesn’t do any better, so don’t pick it up thinking the storytelling has improved in that aspect. Additionally, the themes of substance abuse, addiction, and sex probably make this book a definite pass for younger readers, and an iffy one for teens.
All that said, the concept of this book is still quite engaging. While I couldn’t give it four stars, I would recommend it to anyone who is enjoyed the first book, or is intrigued by the concept of “electroportation”. Beyond that, this book dives more into the global-political challenges of introducing a superhuman into the world, so if you want to read something that mixes sci-fi and “political thriller” this may be the book for you.
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