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Starter Villain    by John Scalzi order for
Starter Villain
by John Scalzi
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2023 (2023)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I'll read anything I can get my hands on by John Scalzi, so opened Starter Villain with great anticipation, and was in no way disappointed. It's a must read for both SF fans and cat lovers. The lead, Charlie, starts out as a divorced substitute teacher, who has retreated to his childhood home and been adopted by an orange-and-white feline, Hera. His sole ambition is to acquire a bank loan to buy McDougal's Pub

Charlie's life changes dramatically on the death of his billionaire uncle Jake. Mathilda Morrison shows up on his porch (just as a smaller feline, Persephone, joins his household) and informs him that Jake wanted Charlie to represent him at his memorial service. He agrees and the messages attached to the floral arrangements are just the beginning of a bizarre set of adventures.

Charlie takes on an id as Des and gradually learns about his uncle's business interests as a VILLAIN, who dealt in 'the sort of technologies and services that bring disruptive change' and then sold them to interested parties. Turns out Jake was the super-villain, Charlie is now a starter villain, and all sorts of villainous organizations are jockeying (with extreme violence) to take over!

It's quite a ride from the explosion of Charlie's childhood home (other explosions follow) to a James Bond villain enclave covering the island of Saint Genevieve (owned by uncle Jake). Along the way, cats and sea mammals talk, he learns some family history, and he morphs into a pub owner. Great fun like all Scalzi' works!

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