The Never Hero by T. Ellery Hodges – “It’s that very formula.” The Quest writ large.
“This was never about good and evil” is the phrase which prefaces the book. The dedication reads: “Dedicated to all who wondered where their Mr. Miyagi was while life was beating them down.” (Mr. Miyagi is the fictional karate master who advised The Karate Kid in times of trouble, prized for his philosophy as much as, if not more than, his martial arts skills.)
Finding The Never Hero was pure serendipity made possible by the cyber world of bloggers, twitter and indie authors. The Never Hero is a surprisingly philosophical novel, full of well-developed characters who do NOT think in bubbles.
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
Friedrich Nietzsche, the author of that quote, undoubtedly inspired The Never Hero, as did Joseph Campbell (The Hero With A Thousand Faces is explicitly mentioned by Hodges).
This novel also owes its considerable substance to the author’s understanding of any number of comic book and/or graphic novel heroes and antiheroes: Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, The Hulk, Neo and others unknown to me.
One of Hodges’s characters explains to the reluctant hero: “Tibbs, you have to understand, in comic books superheroes and super villains are essentially the same character,” Hayden explained. “The hero or villain has something bad happen to him, and then they [sic] either become good or bad.”
These are the weighty issues examined in this novel: “To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” Friedrich Nietzsche.
“All things are subject to interpretation whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.” Friedrich Nietzsche.
The heaviest weight faced by the hero in this book is the weight of inevitability – maybe faced by all heroes.
We follow Jonathan Tibbs from his calling by an other-worldly Übermensch, the flawed and not-all-powerful Heyer (who is Aryan in his appearance), to Tibbs’s apotheosis at the top of an unfinished skyscraper (remember Howard Roark?).
However, this particular apotheosis means a life-or-death struggle with a monster from another planet. The result of this struggle will determine the fate of human kind on the planet earth.
Now, if this sounds a bit grandiose, it is. But then, are not all of the divine myths explored by Campbell? Hodges ambitiously explores these mythologies in a very complex way. The protagonist’s two best friends are writing a comic book based on the New Testament while their friend, Tibbs, is living out the same story unbeknownst to them. His heroics will never be known or understood by anyone other than Heyer and the monsters that he slays. The reader will have to purchase and read the novel to determine why.
There is a nod to the jewel in the lotus, to supernatural aid when necessary, the quest, the dreams, the crossing of thresholds. Let us not forget the main trope or device in this work is the comic book.
“Hayden, come on. Ask an atheist if the Bible is a work of fiction. They’d hold it with the same esteem they do legends of Zeus and Hercules, which I might add are both also comic book characters ,” Collin argued. “If I get a Superman tattoo on my arm, it would be a symbol of values that I happen to find inspiring, just like a crucifix would be on your arm.” “A crucifix isn’t just a symbol. It’s not based on a work of fiction!” Hayden said.
Gentle reader, you will have to abide the usual silliness found in other science fiction books about incomplete knowledge. Neither the government nor the aliens can explain why they are breaching our time and space because humans cannot handle the truth. There are plenty of instances in which the explanations make no sense, but then perhaps they are part of the trope. The battles between and among the Roman and Greek gods were often explained by the ancients in incredible terms.
But to counter the silliness, there is a serious examination of growing up male in the United States:
“When his mother had told him his father was gone, when what she was saying had truly sunk in, he’d been ashamed at his initial reaction. It hadn’t been grief, although that had come later. It had been a suffocating fear. Jonathan had known, quite suddenly, that the shield between him and the world, the force that had defied reality to keep him sheltered, was suddenly gone, and he was afraid; afraid that he wasn’t ready to rely on himself.”
There is a serious examination of the loneliness faced by a reluctant hero who knows death is inevitable.
“This isn’t a comic book.” “Yes!” Hayden said. “That is exactly what it is. It’s exactly what those stories are about. You have to get down there.” “I didn’t volunteer for this!” Jonathan yelled, his fear spilling over into anger at Hayden for taking some moral stance when the situation required nothing of him.”
“There was no choice; it had the strength to move that he couldn’t find. When he let the thing take hold of him, its fury wrenched his eyes from the broken body of the girl and back to the monster in the street. Part of Jonathan curled down into a ball as the thing grew stronger. It fed on the responsibility, the disgust, the frustration, the unfairness, the very adrenaline pumping through his veins and silenced the part of him that wouldn’t act.”
For the comic book fans, there are plenty of “kaboom” and “kapow” moments and the writing is quite cinematic (no actual pictures necessary). For the action fans, there are battles. For the science fiction fans there are teleportation and transformation. For the romance fans, you will find romance. But for serious readers willing to sidestep the implications of a comic book trope, there is some fine writing contained in The Never Hero.
Leila Smith for The Kindle Book Review.
The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair, and honest review. We are not associated with the author nor with Amazon.