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A Once Crowded Sky

3.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  749 Ratings  ·  162 Reviews
A tour de force debut novel from a former CIA counter-terrorism officer, A Once Crowded Sky fuses the sensibility of bombastic, comic-book-style storytelling with modern literary fiction to bring to life a universe of super men stripped of their powers, newly mortal men forced to confront danger in a world without heroes.

The superheroes of Arcadia City fight a wonderful w
Hardcover, First, 326 pages
Published July 10th 2012 by Touchstone, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,153)
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Oct 12, 2013 seak rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc-review, 2013
Superheroes seem to be the new thing these days, not that they've ever not been the thing, it's just that they seem to be more of a thing now. Not only are they in the movies but now they're even combined with zombies.

Superheroes with no powers, well all except one of them, reflect on the meaning of being a hero. No this isn't The Watchmen silly, it's not even a graphic novel.

But seriously, it's hard not to compare to The Watchmen when you start reading. And after a while you realize it's actual
Oct 15, 2012 Sharon rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this. I just didn't.

A good editor may have had a chance to save this. Verbose doesn't even begin to describe how overly-wordy this book is. Drags, drags, drags. A main character is shot and dodges the bullet, which takes FOUR PAGES. Four pages to explain the emotional backstory to dodging a bullet? Backstory is rehashed so much, so much, over and over again, treading the same territory, retold, explained again and... oh wait, where was I? Oh yes: backstory is rehashed so
Tasha Robinson
Jul 12, 2012 Tasha Robinson rated it it was ok
Interesting superhero plot involving a cataclysmic event that took all the superheroes and villains out of a comic-book world, but the execution is maddeningly oblique and repetitive. The author attempts to preserve an air of mystery throughout the first half of the book by deliberately obfuscating identities and events, omitting names and specifics, which is more often confusing than exciting. And the characters are mostly caught in traumatized states where their mental monologues just repeat t ...more
Timothy Ward
Dec 15, 2012 Timothy Ward rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, superhero
Full review at SF Signal.

REVIEW SUMMARY: Comic book in prose sends us inside the heads of heroes and villains fighting for the world and those they love.

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A mysterious threat to Arcadia forces the last superhero to choose between being a husband and saving the world.

PROS: Superhero adventure with heart, mystery, and immersive action that makes reading about these characters a moving experience.

CONS: The prose may take too many liberties in what the reader understands to be happenin
Oct 03, 2012 Lauren rated it it was ok
Amazing concept. Fantastic concept. Let me think of a few more adjectives to describe how much I like the idea and plot of this book before I discuss the execution of said concept and plot … Stunning, that’s a good one. Enthralling would also work. But man, this book needed someone to save it from its own adolescent self-indulgence (let me pause here to say none of what I say is intended to sleight Mr. King, who strikes me as an intelligent, thoughtful man). Or, as another review put it (albeit ...more
Aug 04, 2013 Beth rated it liked it
All the super heroes, except 1, have given up their powers to Ultimate to fight the Blue. Some energy force cause the villains to kill themselves so now the use to be heroes must adjust to life without villains and powers. While they are still adjusting to their new roles, The Blue shows up on earth.

The powerless heroes must rally together, including the reluctant side lick, Pen Ultimate. Pen Ultimate was Ultimate's side kick and the only one that chose to keep his powers. A choice that was rid
Chris Bauer
Aug 20, 2012 Chris Bauer rated it liked it
As a comic book junkie with decades of experience I jumped a the chance to read "A Once Crowded Sky" by Tom King. The author has a very unique background of working for both DC and Marvel and I was looking forward to reading some excellent "four color" writing.

I was disappointed. The book is either a story about "the end of a beginning" or "the beginning of an end" depending on how you view the story as it unfolds.

The ideas behind the book started out fresh and exciting. The most powerful "supe
Sep 04, 2012 Noel rated it it was ok
Shelves: superhero
I am going to start by saying that I really wanted to like this book more than I did. The author knows the genre of comic book based superheroes really well, and clearly loves it. And I am glad I read it.

I'll start with what I liked.

The book was structured and presented wonderfully for comic hero prose. Each chapter is broken into segments, and each segment comes from a perspective of one of the characters. Each segment is identified by a title & number of a comic book that would correspond
Tobin Elliott
Dec 11, 2015 Tobin Elliott rated it did not like it
Shelves: hard-copy, fiction, comics
Yet another great premise killed by lousy writing. Couldn't finish this, which pisses me off, because it was a great idea, and with some cool graphic panels thrown in, just like a comic book, it looked like it was a well-thought out package.

Then I started to read it.

In the 56 pages I read, it felt like King randomly forgot sentences or paragraphs. There was a whole lotta missing context at times. I'm sure he thought this was edgy, or mysterious, but it was simply annoying.

However, the final nail
Eric Mesa
Mar 31, 2014 Eric Mesa rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who is a fan of comics
If you love or have ever loved reading comics, you need to read this book. It is essentially a love letter to comic book fans. This is a world in which the characters are slightly self-aware. They don't really know they're in a story, but it does still have some of the same vibes of Redshirts. The characters know that they always come back after death (view spoiler) and they know they monologue and then save the world. But they d ...more
Shanshad Whelan
Jul 20, 2012 Shanshad Whelan rated it really liked it
I've read a lot of superhero novels. Some have hit the mark--understanding what superhero comics are and how to evoke that in a narrative plot. Some are a bit far off base and never quite capture that vantage point that "gets" superheroes. There's no doubt this author gets the genre--King recognizes the tropes and cycles and feeling of the comics without hesitation.

What I will say is this--if you're looking for a comic book story told in novel form, this won't be it. The author's take on this is
When I first spotted this book during check-in at the library I was really excited to check it out. The concept sounded fascinating to me. Unfortunately, once I started reading, I just couldn't get into it. I gave up without even making it in to my usual 100-page cut off.

I like the format, but the content just felt lacking to me. I felt like the reader was supposed to just KNOW who these characters were. There wasn't enough offered to me to endear the characters to me quickly, probably something
Rick MacDonnell
Jan 01, 2015 Rick MacDonnell rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: graphic novel fans with a penchant for repetition
One of these days I'm going to stumble across a superhero novel I actually like. I'm not sure what it is about the genre that makes the transition from "graphic" to "novel" so difficult, but my patience is starting to wear a little thin. I guess I'll just have to grit my teeth and put my hopes into Seven Wonders.

A Once Crowded Sky is set in Arcadia, a city teeming with former superheroes who gave up their powers in order to prevent the end of the world from The Blue—a nebulous force that requir
Apr 30, 2013 Anton rated it really liked it
“A Once Crowded Sky” is a comic book in novel form. Like many comic stories, it centers around a huge crisis event that brings all of the worlds superheroes together to fight a great evil. But this time, winning the battle means losing their greatest champion — and all of their powers.

The story beings six months after all of the heroes of Arcadia gave their powers to Ultimate, the superhero robot that inspired them all, so that he could fly off to defeat the threat known as The Blue (and die in
Sep 15, 2012 Shelleyb rated it it was amazing
I am in love with this book! I am a manager for chapters and when this book came in put it on my reading list right away!
Being a huge (secret) Fangirl, And avid reader (did you see where I work!) I was very excited to finally get to read "A once crowded sky" ( I had 5 other books ahead on my list, cuz ya gotta keep a list!)
I am not even half done but I can't stop talking about it! Truly hope Tom King writes MORE!!! (and what the heck, He was CIA and worked at Marvel comics?
Ryan Thomason
Nov 29, 2012 Ryan Thomason rated it it was ok
Let me tell you why you shouldn’t let this crowd your bookshelf.

Ok, maybe that was a bit harsh, how bout, if you find this book in the discount bin and you like superheroes you can determine what to do with the book yourself after you buy it.

I accepted a review copy based on the premise of this book by Tom King, A world where superheroes had lost all of their powers to save the world from a blue energy destroying foce and the villains all committed suicide. There is one person left with powers,
Jesse Carrasco
Aug 25, 2012 Jesse Carrasco rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
Sorry, I couldn't finish this book. I'm a huge fan of superhero stories so I was excited to read this one. The premise sounded very promising (all of the superheroes gave their power to one guy so he could defeat the villain but in doing so he was killed. Now all of the survivors has to live their lives as normal people) the writing style really made the story drag. We got nothing but inner monologue after inner monologue (often with phrases being repeated over and over and over). None of the he ...more
Amanda Thompson
The idea of this story sounds absolutely amazing. It's a superhero world in which all but one hero had to sacrifice their superpowers in order to save the world, and it follows the aftermath of these immortals suddenly dealing with their own mortality. I wanted to love this book so, so much.

Unfortunately, only ten pages in, the f-word had already been used close to twenty times in a single conversation. Yeah, I'm not putting up with that.

For those who don't mind the swearing, the storytelling 1
Mar 25, 2016 Adr_enne rated it did not like it
Ok. So to be fair, I am not a fan of superhero comics. Or anything that goes on for EVER and EVER in circles and never resolves itself. I broke my teeth on Love and Rockets and Elfquest and even those worried me when they started to grow too long. I've stopped watching Walking Dead because it's Just Another Place to Try to Find Refuge every season. You get the idea.

So that said ...

Those were the WORST first chapters I may have ever read that were written by an adult. The painful repetition and c
Mar 11, 2016 Yuhuai rated it did not like it
King's setting up of premises appeared to have solid payoff as the story approaches the end, but convulses into a huge mess right as it finishes.

The metafictional themes King explores in this story were in part explored in comics like DC's Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis, but unlike the those stories King did not have the benefit of decades of storytelling to set it up beyond what he tries to derive from the readers' knowledge of comic book superhero tropes. This, along with King's excessive, h
Matt King
Jul 01, 2013 Matt King rated it liked it
It's difficult for me to get into any superhero story where the main character isn't really interested in being a hero, so this book kind of started behind the 8-ball. The writing kept me going, though, and there are some really brilliant passages in here. I think next time I'd like to see a little less deconstruction of the genre and more application of what makes it so great. Still, this was well worth the read.
Faye Bierbower
May 24, 2012 Faye Bierbower rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Jonathon
I received the book as a Goodreads first read. This reads like a comic book (or series of comics) in the form of a novel. Love the classic/epic illustrations inside. I enjoyed the read, but it's been a while since I've read comic books; therefore it threw me for a loop between the jumping about and the plot/characters flip-flopping wildly. I'd like to read this one again soon, to better evaluate it.
David V.
Apr 21, 2012 David V. rated it did not like it
Received as an ARC from the publisher. I don't even know what to say about this book. Maybe I just didn't "get it." Fictional superheroes and villains all know each other. They give their powers to one of them so he can save the world, dying in the process. The remaining ones aren't happy with their ordinary lives. I'd love to sit down with the author to discuss the book.
Nov 04, 2014 Rebecca rated it liked it
This book was... a mixed bag.

I loved the concept. And the characters were fascinating - they clearly nod to classic comic book heroes, but they're unique enough to be interesting in their own rights. And the story itself is creative and imaginative and thoughtful.

It just... it's the wrong length. It's either too short or way too long - the last 40-50 pages just drag endlessly in a repetitive stream of rambling and moralizing; if it had ended just that much earlier it would have been perfect. Or
Aug 11, 2014 Jonathan rated it did not like it
Fair Warning: a few spoilers here and there.
Superhero novels are, apparently a trend these days. The tone of A Once Crowded Sky is different from other books dealing with some of the same subjects. Soon I Will Be Invincible, Prepare to Die, and even Emperor Mollusk versus the Sinister Brain have a few serious moments, but all are more lighthearted and funny than A Once Crowded Sky. That's fine. Tom King isn't trying to be funny, but he doesn't do a good job of telling a more serious super hero s
Joel Flank
Jan 11, 2014 Joel Flank rated it really liked it
A strong debut novel from King, rich in superhero tropes, but uses that intimate knowledge of the genre to turn things on their head, and play with the formulaic assumptions of super hero comics. In this book, Arcadia City had a rich and diverse super hero pantheon, made up of semi-familiar heroes, but all original variants of common heroes. The book takes place after the heroes band together to stop a mysterious force that could destroy the world - in the process, they sacrifice all of their po ...more
May 24, 2015 Katelynn rated it it was ok
Disappointing execution of an interesting premise. Mostly, this just didn't go down the way I thought it was going to. And that wasn't necessarily a bad thing--there were definitely some parts of this I did enjoy--but it wasn't enough to redeem the book overall. Especially not with such poor treatment of every character that is not a white dude. I mean really. Subvert the genre you're paying homage to, at least!

That said, there was some really gorgeous artwork interwoven with the text that I abs
Feb 13, 2015 Garrett rated it it was ok
A deconstructionist novel about comics and their role as modern mythology that gets caught up so much in what it is trying to do that it maybe forgets exactly what it is. Actual comics in this day and age are better written, with more depth and backstory than this novel about them, and so this left me cold. There is a point where the reader is meant to see what's happening, and this was about 100 pages after I saw it. Heavy with tropes on purpose, making a point by them, but this is a point poss ...more
Mar 06, 2015 Marci rated it it was ok
A depressing super hero book where all the villains are dead and the heroes have been stripped of their powers. Lots of wondering about the meaning of it all, musings on the constant repetition of good fighting evil and how it never ends, and a desire to be "out of the game." I kept feeling like I was reading the author's own views from his time in the CIA and wondered if our world is so screwed that the people in our government feel like throwing in the towel constantly. I liked some of the cha ...more
Feb 05, 2015 Veronikka rated it really liked it
3.5/5 stars!

This was an interesting read. I'm not much of a superhero or comic book fan to be quite honest but the plot was too cool to resist. Admittedly, it took me awhile to really get into the story (months through the first 100 pages tbh), but once I did, I couldn't take a break for long in between studying. Coupled with cool comics/illustrations, Dante's Paradiso quotations and the general awesome idea of a book about superheroes and their secret identities--all in all, I thought it was a
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“You have to draw a line. I just think I drew it in the wrong fucking place.” 8 likes
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