There's no loyalty among thieves or supervillains in Starter Villain, the laugh-out-loud science fiction comedy from John Scalzi (The Kaiju Preservation Society; The Last Emperox; The End of All Things). Charlie's life has hit a wall. He's a divorced journalist-turned-substitute teacher, living in a house owned by his late father's estate, and has hopes to buy the local pub. But he can't put the house up for collateral on a loan without the agreement of his half-siblings, who would rather sell it. Then his estranged Uncle Jake dies, and what initially seems like a small provision in the will to reward him for representing the family at the funeral turns out to be much more. Besides the parking-structure empire via which Jake allegedly made his billions, he had a thriving supervillain business, and Charlie has inherited it all. That includes a feud with a band of villainous competitors.
Starter Villain is one of Scalzi's lighter works, as evident by the premise. There is the occasional pointed jab at the nefarious and frequently incompetent nature of billionaires as a class, but things like talking dolphins who go on strike and discussions of the logistics of throwing somebody into a volcano make for a summer blockbuster action-comedy of a novel. The genetically enhanced cats employed as spies and trained in typing are particularly delightful, especially when it comes to Charlie's bond with Hera, whom he unwittingly took in as a stray. Fans of Scalzi's more comedic novels will find this to be everything they could want. --Kristen Allen-Vogel, information services librarian at Dayton Metro Library