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A Once Crowded Sky

3.14  ·  Rating details ·  974 Ratings  ·  199 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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Jul 10, 2013 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 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 09, 2012 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
Sep 29, 2012 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
Aug 26, 2012 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
Sep 25, 2012 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
Apr 30, 2013 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
Aug 01, 2013 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
Tobin Elliott
Jun 09, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: comics, fiction, hard-copy
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
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
Timothy Boyd
Jul 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
I could not get into this book at all. I know any superhero story is in some way going to be a reflection of the big name heroes and their history but the characters in this book just seem to be cardboard cutouts of already established superheros. The writing never seemed to reach out and grab me and pull me into the story like a good book should. While not one of the worst books I have ever read (see my reviews for Catcher in the Rye, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Fahrenheit 451 for those) it ...more
Rick | Another Book Blog
Jul 22, 2012 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
Eric Mesa
Dec 13, 2013 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
Ryan Thomason
Nov 29, 2012 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,
Chris Bauer
Aug 13, 2012 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
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
Shanshad Whelan
Jul 20, 2012 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
Aug 29, 2012 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?
Kevin Smythe
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was expecting a book about a world where superheroes lost their powers. What I got was much, much more. An ambitious book, King proves that superheroes can be used to tell any story. Much of this book deals with themes of mortality, family, sacrifice, and the relationship between humans and gods. At times I felt like King was writing a critique of comics; at other times, a love letter. I suspect this was meant as a bit of both.

The style of the book is very non-conventional (which I loved, as
Jul 13, 2016 rated it liked it

So I do just have to say initially that I love Tom King. I loved the first issues of Vision and Sheriff of Babylon and Grayson and The Omega Men (unfortunately I still have to read the rest of what's come so far, as I've been waiting for trades to continue the series), and the current Batman series he's been putting out has been great. I'm a huge fan and I'll probably buy any comic he does.

As such, I picked this up expecting to love it. And for the last third-ish, I kinda did. Unfortunately
Matt King
Jan 25, 2013 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 19, 2012 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 13, 2012 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.
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
From beginning to end great book.
Tony Laplume
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Well, this is the work that started Tom King's career. It was a good start. It did a good job of setting things up. Hell yeah!

Okay. So, A Once Crowded Sky might be said to have many parents. Obviously, Watchmen is one of them. Kingdom Come, Grant Morrison's Animal Man, Infinite Crisis, Brightest Day. Even Heroes, the TV series. Even Unbreakable, the movie. And probably other stuff.

But put them all together, and you're still missing Tom King. Maybe it's more obvious, now that he's written his fa
Nicholas Karpuk
As a novelist, Tom King is a pretty good comic book writer.

I'm going to hazard a guess that a lot of people who bought this book probably got steered towards Tom King either by his excellent Vision miniseries or his current work on Batman and Mister Miracle. For those who haven't bought this book, I would suggest you stop reading this and immediately go pick up Sheriff of Babylon if you're craving another Tom King fix.

This is a damn comic book script. It's effectively Tom King's attempt at writi
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
Tom King's debut novel is a difficult exercise. While portrayed as a novel about superheroes for the comic book set, I don't think it's any such thing in reality. Instead, it's actually a deeply cynical, angry tale that has much more in common with a horror novel than anything else.

Don't read it if you love comics, because the author seems much more interested in destroying any myths about heroism, ripping apart any positivity or hope that someone might find from those stories, and demanding th
May 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book. I'm a fan of Tom King's writing in comic books and thought his literary style would translate to a novel. The Vision is overwhelmingly literary and one of my favorite superhero comics ever. But his style did not transfer well at all. After reading this I have a theory that he's best suited to comics because it forces him to use a minimal amount of words for the greatest effect and the art forces the plot to move forward whether the characters want to go or not. ...more
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
"The day he met Anna she was a gray blur set against a placid-blue background. Ultimate was wrestling Hawkhead in the clouds above Arcadia, and the two men slammed into the side of a large office building. A woman tumbled out. Ultimate threw a fist and focused on the fight because he knew she'd be fine. Someone else was looking out for her. Pen[Ultimate] unhooked his windboard and glided through the sky, sweeping Anna up in his arms, instantly falling in love, kissing her passionately, longingly ...more
Eric Mellor
Dec 02, 2017 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book, I kept telling myself how much I love this book. The prose was so advanced that I could barely concentrate on it, and the plot wound so much that I could barely follow. It wasn't until I found myself a month after I started it, only halfway done, and overly anxious every time I picked up the book that I admitted the truth. It's just not that great.

I came to Tom King from his fantastic run on "The Vision" for Marvel and his even better "Batman" for DC, and this, I bel
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