Starter Villain, much like John Scalzi’s previous stand-alone novel, The Kaiju Preservation Society, is a delightful fish-out-of-water escapade, though this time there are no mammoth mythical monsters, just cryptic, corporate CEOs… and they’re all stroking fluffy cats!
When down-on-his-luck Charlie Fritzer hears that his long distant uncle has recently died, he finds himself suddenly inheriting the ‘family business’. Thinking this is a lucrative career in car park ownership, Charlie soon realises he didn’t know his uncle at all as he takes over as head of a Dr. Evil-style corporate empire. Plucked from the monotony of everyday life, Charlie hurtles headfirst into a James Bond world, tackling weaponised animal intelligence, death rays, and (of course) diabolical volcano lairs.
One of the best things about Scalzi’s writing is his ability to use a soft touch in his satirical take on modern corporate villainy; piercing the veneer of corrupted capitalism with incisive ethical questions while laughing maniacally at the absurdity of it all. Scalzi’s trademark wit keeps you in on the joke of it all, striking a harmonious balance between humour and astute social commentary.
With sharp dialogue, eccentric characters, and uproarious scenarios, Scalzi tackles corporate malevolence with an easy charm and comedic flair, navigating the treacherous terrain of big business, income disparities, workers’ rights, and the banality of villainy in our modern capitalist world. The book’s antagonists mirror real-world titans of industry, crypto magnates, and self-proclaimed disruptors, and Scalzi expertly dissects the fine line between the brilliance and idiocy that epitomises them.
Entertaining, educational and surprisingly heartwarming, Starter Villain is a showcase for John Scalzi’s innate ability to weave a hilariously absurdist thread through a tapestry of uncomfortable social issues. A joyous romp through the behind-the-scenes world of what it takes to be a self-made villain in the modern world.
Starter Villain is out now.