Robin Laughlin (a.k.a. the superhero Failstate) has finally achieved his dream. Not only is he a licensed vigilante, but he’s respected by his fellow heroes, feared by criminals, and he’s finally achieved peace in his family, especially with his brother, Ben (a.k.a. the superhero Gauntlet). That, plus the love of his girlfriend, Charlene, has made life good.
But then Failstate learns a secret about his father. Rather than the loving family man he remembers, Failstate’s father was a criminal who got himself killed when he crossed the wrong people. Before he can process this new information, he receives a warning that a villain named Abaddon is coming to New Chayton. The message is all the more disturbing since it’s delivered by Lux. She died in Failstate’s arms a year earlier. How can she possibly be alive?
Those mysteries will have to wait, though, as Abaddon storms New Chayton, strewing death and destruction in his wake. But he’s not the only newcomer. Unusual heroes are appearing throughout the city.
Can Failstate get to the bottom of the reappearance of Lux, the influx of new heroes, and the truth behind his father's past--all while keeping Abaddon at bay? Abaddon may prove to be Failstate’s greatest nemesis. But what will Failstate have to sacrifice along the way?
In the final book of this series, Rob/Failstate is pushed to his limits. The stakes are higher than ever and the villains stronger and more cunning. In addition, Failstates—yes, multiple Failstates/Robs—from other dimensions begin to appear, complicating matters even more. As before, the action is nonstop without feeling rushed. Failstate continues to grow as a person and a superhero.
Filled with twists and turns, the plot here is a solid as the characters. I have enjoyed each book in this series and highly recommend all three for anyone who likes a well-written, exciting superhero story with an admirable main character and a rounded cast of support players. I was delighted to see the enigmatic character of Etzal’el once again play a pivotal role in this story. If there was a fourth book in this series, I would be reading it now.
Nemesis clarifies the weaknesses of this series as a whole. Each of the Failstate stories favour the element of surprise to the point that it bends realism. Why do the heroes hear about rampaging robots released in a city only when the villain announces his plans over national television? Don't people know to ring the Vigilante Oversight Commission (VOC) when supervillains capture their family members? The danger in trying to dramatise this sort of twist leaves readers with a sense of incompetency on the part of the heroes, a sense that, unfortunately, pervades the Failstate series. The more realistic alternative is to send the heroes into the battle without sufficient information, make them play a game where they don't have the handbook. Show off their competency despite their disadvantage, not their lack of ability when they should have been on top of the game. Overall, a more mature and realised world would have been beneficial to the series.
In contrast, the strength of Nemesis is that it challenges Failstate on a deep personal level, picking apart his life by showing him what and who is important to him and who he could have become if events had been different. Once again, I enjoyed the character relationship between Robin/Failstate and Ben/Gauntlet, which I consider to be the most important relationship in the series. I also enjoyed seeing more development for Mike/Veritas, and I thought this story resolved his character arc throughout the series in an excellent way.
So, one star?
I could have suspended disbelief a while longer. I could have accepted one particular weakness of the story and moved on with a note to myself of what not to do.
Nemesis is the epitome of all the reasons why I hate most fictional romance.
As part of running Failstate through a gauntlet of very personal trials, the story takes him through the inevitable breakup with his girlfriend. I'm disappointed in the way this part was written. The discussion is in spoiler tags, as it deals with some significant plot points: Essentially, the romantic subplot demonstrates the immaturity of both parties, setting them up for significant personal growth. Then it bungles the resolution by asserting that in fact, the immaturity of these characters is actually all right, and they don't need to grow.
I enjoyed most of the story. I can take a poorly realised world. But you can’t vindicate a character’s fatal flaw like this.
So it is finished. The last of the Failstate books. I have really enjoyed these stories and sad to see them end. This book had a lot of great twists in it. I feel so much of what I like are spoilers, it makes it hard to talk about. But, I like what the author did, letting Failstate see different paths he could have taken in life from alternate reality copies of himself and what that would have meant for him. And this was an exciting story, a really big one for all that happened in it, for the ending. It felt like a big boss level of a video game kinda story (probably from all the destruction). I also cried a could of times. And the ultimate message of the book was that God works all for the good. That was beautiful. Unfortunately, I did feel the other characters and Failstate's relationships with them were not as developed (is that the right word?) as in his previous books. I would have loved more time with the alternate reality characters and a lot of encounters with other people, even ones from previous books, were really quick, not that in depth as it could have been. Several times, actions by characters felt unbelievable which I found unfortunate. I also have a few unanswered questions from the end. But, that might also be the point. Life goes on an you don't get all the answers at once. All in all though, I like the Failstate stories, I'm sad to see them end, and I would like to see more of them in the future (but at least I could still read the novellas).
A satisfying wrap-up to the Failstate trilogy. In fact it wasn’t obvious this was the last in the series until the author’s afterword. There’s no reason it couldn’t go on—however, it’s great to see an author who isn’t wanting to spin out a good thing beyond a pleasing conclusion.
Failstate is a superhero stationed in the town of New Chayton. Having weathered a few crises, he’s a whole lot wiser than he used to be. However, his sense of inadequacy hasn’t disappeared, even though his reputation is beginning to shine. On top of his fears that he never quite knows what to do next when it comes to tangling with a supervillain, he’s in trouble with the girlfriend he keeps standing up—their dates tend to get overridden by unexpected crises.
The relationship problems continue when he discovers his mother has kept from him the knowledge that his deceased father—whom he adored—was involved with a criminal gang. In fact, it transpires that his father might actually have been grooming him as a supervillain not a superhero. The mental turmoil this creates plays havoc with his schoolwork, church life and nightly patrols to keep the city safe.
But the biggest chink in his emotional armour opens up when Lux—his mentor’s superhero daughter who died in his arms a year previously—turns up alive but not-so-well. ‘Abaddon … He will destroy you all,’ she says as she collapses on escaping from a street gang. Taken to a secret facility with a secure hospital, Lux slowly recovers.
Her brother Mike, aka the superhero Veritas, who has hung up his cape is drawn back into helping Failstate against Abaddon. Actually, that should be Failstates. One after another, various Failstates are turning up from different dimensions. Just to distinguish one from another, they are variously dubbed the Artist, Twitch, the Sidekick, the Survivor. Small choices and slight marginal differences in events in their worlds have resulted in significant disparity over time in their life situations. And all of them are needed, as well as Failstate’s brother, the impeccably groomed Gauntlet, plus Dr Olympus as well as tall, dark and holy Etzal’el—the shadowy figure who terrifies even superheroes simply by appearing in the room.
Abaddon is truly ruthless in his desire for domination and control. He breaks into the supervillain prison and releases the inmates—only to immediately exterminate them all. Then, discovering Failstate’s normal alter-ego, he hunts down his mother as well as his supervisor in the Oversight Committee.
Things do not go well in New Chayton… and they go even worse for Failstate.
Just as good as the previous two! I love these characters; very well thought out and developed. The story line was fun and interesting. Great action and emotion. I would've liked to have seen more of a connection with the his dad/Wolff thing (trying not to give spoilers) and what was happening in the rest of the story, but that's just personal opinion. Awesome story. I love the characters' faith in the Lord and how they turn to him for help. I'll definitely be re-reading all three books in the future.
I sort of wish this book had been twice as long. Everything happens so fast and poor Robin is trying to push through to save the world (or at least his city, his friends and family.) He has a lot to process and I wanted him to have more time to think about everything! I wanted more time to think about everything. I guess I'll just have to read it again. :)
It's the moment Failstate fans have been waiting for, the conclusion to John W. Otte's superhero tale about a boy with destructive powers bound to save his hometown. If you're already a fan, suffice to say you'll love the ending. But like the series as a whole, Failstate: Nemesis doesn't offer a grand epic or flawless character study. It's more like an entertaining B-movie that offers some fun surprises for the reader who follows it through to the end.
Otte's able to juggle multiple tugs at the story while still keeping his eye on the prize, staying one step ahead of the game and drawing the reader to a rousing conclusion. Even the love plot with its requisite angst didn't faze me; it's there, and given proper respect, but it didn't drown the story out or succumb to the worst excesses of relationship drama.
The peek into other potentially dimensional futures, especially of our main characters' lives, was a unique twist on the superhero third act, adding just enough introspection to spice up a fairly straightforward action adventure. There were one two many scenes of character sitting around rehashing the same facts over again to suit me, and I felt like one of the main plot threads revolving around Failtsate's family wasn't developed far enough.
Still, give Otte his due: I didn't see the final reveal until halfway through the book. Even seeing what was coming, the showdown played out nicely and gave our hero enough good moments to give him a rousing sendoff.
Every time I made the mistake of taking these books at surface level, Otte would slip in a morsel of thought that forced me to sit up and pay attention. He's got a knack for interweaving moral and story that few others can pull off with such success, especially in this genre. It may not be amazing, but the Failstate books are certainly fun reads.