• The Good: Lighthearted and fun, and full of quippy banter
  • The Bad: For a Hugo nominee, this one is lacking in scifi elements
  • The Literary: Plenty of references to classic Bond

Charlie is down on his luck. He’s recently divorced, laid off from his job as a journalist, working as a substitute teacher, and living in his recently deceased father’s house. Charlie’s not a bad guy though and can’t help but take in stray cats.

Also recently deceased is Charlie’s estranged and very rich uncle Jake. Just as Charlie is denied a bank loan, his former uncle’s personal assistant asks him to officiate the funeral, which quickly leads to Charlie taking over Jake’s supervillain business.

Scalzi knows how to write easy and fun stories, and this one is no exception. There’s lots of laughs and hijinks, with an escalating series of outrageous bond-esque scenarios. The more traditional island volcano lair and giant laser is modernized with bio-engineered intelligent talking dolphins who want to unionize and villains who forget to unmute themselves on zoom calls. This one is silly, even absurd at times, but you’re guaranteed some good chuckles.

There’s some serious underlying themes here too, though it may be difficult to see through the fluff. Turns out, all the supervillian billionaires are not only soulless predators, but they’re all pretty dumb too, having earned their status through nepotism. A few crypto-bros are satisfyingly catapulted into a lake. Uncle Jake is also not immune to criticism about income inequality, workers’ rights, and unions. Even discussions of animal rights arise with the inclusion of hyper-intelligent dolphins and cats.

Recommended for anyone who is looking for some light-hearted entertainment, complete with signature Scalzi snappy banter!