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A Once Crowded Sky
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A Once Crowded Sky

3.09 of 5 stars 3.09  ·  rating details  ·  587 ratings  ·  134 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 wa
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published July 10th 2012 by Touchstone
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Watchmen by Alan MooreSoon I Will Be Invincible by Austin GrossmanThe Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael ChabonAmerican Gods by Neil GaimanHero by Perry Moore
Superhero Fiction
67th out of 435 books — 755 voters
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Super Hero Books
29th out of 145 books — 144 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,764)
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Seak (Bryce L.)
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
Tasha Robinson
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Shanshad Whelan
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
“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
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
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,
Rick at
Aug 12, 2012 Rick at rated it 2 of 5 stars
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. It's Superman ... a total bust. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay ... I just couldn't get into it. A Once Crowded Sky ... so much promise, such poor execution. 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 intoSeven Wonders.

On the face of it
Jesse Carrasco
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
Matt King
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 4 of 5 stars
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.
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.
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
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
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
From beginning to end great book.
Eric Mesa
Mar 31, 2014 Eric Mesa rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
David Edmonds
Review originally posted at From My Bookshelf

I don't think it's any surprise around here that I love comic books. They captured my imagination when I was a kid, and 30ish years later, they still capture my imagination. Over the years, the stories have grown up too (at least, I think so), and characters and trends have come and gone, and my interest has waxed and waned, yet I always come back to them. And I hope that they continue to capture my imagination far into the future, because they can se
P. Aaron Potter
This was, for me, a gripping and challenging novel, with a unique voice and a compelling plot. Yet I still don't know how universally I can reccommend it to other readers.

King's first novel (not his first foray into writing) is a love letter to comic books, both in their over-the-top golden- and silver-age spandex-clad glory and in their more fully realized, gritty, Frank-Miller and Alan Moore maturity. Like the former, this is an adventure tale of a hero who, against Overwhelming Odds, makes th
I received this book for free through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

I really really enjoyed it. The story is that of a comic book (with heroes, villains, monsters, battles, etc), but (except for a few pages) it is written out in words. This is a unique way to write & I thought it was really well done. Comic books and heroes also exist in this world, so the characters openly recognize and admit how silly some things are in their own universe. This helped a lot, since the heroes were now su
Jared Rasic
A Once Crowded Sky takes everything I loved about Watchmen and combines it with the purity of the Golden Age of comic books and then divides it by spending much of the time living in its heroes heads, seeing how the wheels turn. It's a truly character driven superhero story and a damned fine one at that. It's all original characters from author Tom King and they all feel like they could have existed in comic mythology for the last five decades.

Ultimate, The Man With the Metal Face, sacrifices h
I've read comics since I was a kid but I could hardly be called a devoted fan. I've always found it too difficult to keep up with the individual arcs - there were no comic shops nearby and so there were great periods of time where I was out of the loop. Having recently moved to the city it has become easier to get my hands on comics but I much prefer graphic novels as it's a much simpler way to follow the story. Modern comics cost far too much to sample a wide variety of characters and half the ...more
This was a well-conceived book about the realities of a world of superheroes. It asked what would happen if all but one hero chose to give up their powers to fight a great evil - and then evil came back. Fascinating setup! And as a fan of superhero stories... man, I just did not enjoy it.

(view spoiler)
Honestly, its about a 1.75 stars.

I got this book on my 18th birthday and I went into this book with great expectations because its got superheroes and crime fighting like what I read in past comic books. Also, this author interned for DC and Marvel so, I also went into this knowing that he knew a lot about the general aspect of a hero.

HOWEVER, as I got about 50 or so pages into it, my expectations slowly fizzled down; though I still held onto some hope....but to no avail.

The characters in here w
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