To put it simply, Vicious is a super villain novel with its own unique twist. Super heros, or super villains, known in Vicious as EOs (ExtraOrdinaries) aren’t born or get their powers from radioactive goo. Instead, they are the result of NDEs (near-death experiences).
Our two main villains, Victor and Eli, were old school friends; young, brilliant, arrogant, and a little too impulsive when they decide to test their EO theory. To avoid spoilers, some shit happens, Eli betrays Victor, Victor goes to jail, Eli begins this self-righteous mission to rid the world of all the “unnatural” EOs. But then, Victor escapes from prison after 10 years and is hell-bent on finding Eli and putting an end to him.
Victoria Schwab does a great job with characterization. She really gets into the heads of her characters and allows the reader to be privy to their thoughts and feelings and fears in a way that makes you feel connected. Even with Victor and Eli, both of who are completely messed up in one way or another and have done plenty of terrible things in their life, you can’t help but feel some sympathy and relate-ability to each of them. It’s sort of a ‘character you love to hate’ kind of thing. Schwab gives her secondary characters their time in the spotlight as well, which I always appreciate.
The plot is always moving forward at a good pace, not too slow, not too fast, and even when you jump back in time to when Eli and Victor were in school together the momentum keeps going, you aren’t jarred out of what was just happening. All the time jumps and location jumps and shifts in character view are all very seamless.
Vicious touches on the more philosophical aspects of mortality, morality and the nature of super heros/villains than most books. I think this gave it more depth and didn’t just let the book fall into the already vast pool of books more solely focused on good vs. evil. It shows that, even though Victor (who I think is really the main character) has had a traumatic life and is clearly infected with a good deal of revenge and anger and indifference to other people, he is still capable of compassion and has some idea of the distinction between right and wrong.
There is an amount of talk about second chances in the book, and while second chances can be very important, I think something even more important, which also plays its part in the book, is giving people a first chance.