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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of Starter Villain by John Scalzi

First: this amazing cover. Second: Starter Villain is playful, darkly funny, big-hearted, and wonderfully weird. I loved it and I can't wait to read more John Scalzi books.


“I can’t tell if you’re joking with me,” I said.

“I’m mostly joking with you.”

“That ‘mostly’ is doing a lot of work in that sentence.”

The cover of Starter Villain shows a grumpy-seeming cat's head on a human torso clad in a suit with "Meet the new boss" across the top, so obviously this was going to be a Bossy read. And I love that this is my first review of 2024. Bring on the weird and wonderful books!

In Starter Villain, Charlie's a substitute teacher, divorced, struggling emotionally, socially, and financially, and living in a house his half-siblings want to sell. Then he inherits his long-lost uncle's parking-garage empire. Which turns out to be a cover for a vast supervillain business--complete with an evil lair in an island volcano.

I held up my hand, and then looked around the room, at the room full of probably-assassins.

"Do any of you know my uncle personally?’"

No one responded.

"How many of you are here to make sure that he’s dead?"

All the hands went up.

Could this be an unexpected new start that will point Charlie in a productive new direction?

The recently deceased Uncle Jake, an old-fashioned villain, made a lot of enemies--and they're ruthless, well-funded, and out for revenge. Charlie will have to quickly get up to speed and figure out friend from foe in order to stay alive. This villain business is more complicated than it seems.

There's crossing, double-crossing, a wonderfully savvy and knowledgeable second-in-command, nefarious plots, sentient cats, and more. This was playful, smart, funny, and weird.

I loved it, and I can't wait to read more John Scalzi books.


Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

The premise of this novel calls to my mind another book, which I loved, Natalie Zina Walschots's Hench, as well as loose associations with How to Date a Superhero (And Not Die Trying).


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