“The Secret World Chronicles” A podcast novel by Mercedes Lackey and Steve Libbey

This Podcast Fiction Review is from the Listening News ( www.audiblefiction.com )

The power of this podcast blew me away. I had listened to several chapters of J.C. Hutchins ‘Seventh Son’ novel, but was losing interest when I found “Secret World” on iTunes. “The Invasion Was Delivered by Overnight Express” set up the ‘verse perfectly and pulled me into it. I had to ration myself to one story a day, it was so overwhelming. I assume you have had a similar experience with either this podcast or another before finding this site, so I will try to refrain from drooling too much.

The action is set in the present day with a history of superheros since WWII. The heros are mostly affiliated with ECHO, a global security contractor run by Nicola Tesla’s great nephew. The Bad Guys are Nazis in nine-foot tall powered armour who seem to appear out of nowhere after six decades. The style is very Pulp, but the characters are much deeper than those of the ‘Golden Age of Comics’ Handsome Devil, with his luck and arrogance, is my favorite character. His luck should qualify him as a Mach 2, as he makes clear in his internal dialogue. Part of his character development occurs when he realizes that while his power may be near unbeatable, it cares nothing for the preservation of those he cares for. Spurred by concern for a loved one, he goes above and beyond in true heroic fashion, scoring one of the few victories in the novel.

I was suprised at how strongly I reacted to mere descriptions of the Nazi symbols. We see a lot of Nazis in movies and videogames these days, and the swastika has lost some of its shock value. While individual Neo-Nazis may be dangerous, their movement is viewed by the mainstream as distatestful but only slightly more credible than Satan worshipers. Hearing the thoughts and reactions of those facing powerful and organized forces bearing the swastika brought home a sense of horror and menace that I had not felt since reading all I could find on WWII in high school.

Another aspect of the collection I appreciate is the relatively low power levels of many characters. I was never a fan of Superman, or the Avengers who often had a god or two on the roster. I was a fan of the X-Men in the ’80s. Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, ShadowCat, or Collossus alone were not all-powerfull, but as a team they could face any challenge. I am eager to hear what teams form and how they interact in the face of the greatest challenge their world has ever faced.

In a recent interview, Mercedes Lackey and Steve Libbey recounted the origin of this braided novel. Lackey had begun to play ‘City of Heroes,’ a mmrpg in the superhero genre, and gravitated towards Libbey’s group ‘CCCP’ who were serious roleplayers. Soon the game could not support the interaction and storytelling that built up between this group of creative people, so they started writing and collaborating on what was essentialy fanfic. As the Secret World took shape, Lackey looked into publishing options for this new (to her) genre. Despite her great number of sucessful series, no one wanted to take a chance on her outside of the fantasy genre.

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