A Review of Launch (Rise of the Anointed) by Jason Joyner

Recently I’ve been looking into superhero fiction. I’ve been trying my hand at writing it, and so I decided that I would read some. Only makes sense, right? Well, since I write Christian fiction, I was wondering if any superhero Christian fiction even existed or not. My brother told me about Launch, a new book released by author Jason Joyner, and I decided to give it a try.

 

Launch is a book about a group of teens with supernatural abilities who are invited to a social media conference by a group called Alturas. Some of them are already aware of their abilities, while others have no clue that they are gifted. These teens soon discover that there’s more to the conference than is apparent on the surface. An elderly janitor named John (a very enjoyable and amusing character) befriends two of the teens, Demarcus and Harry, and tries to help them to navigate their powers and what they mean.

 

From start to finish, I had a tough time putting the book down. I tried to read in spurts, so that I did not plow through it too fast, because I wanted to take my time to enjoy it. But each chapter only got better, and it became harder to stop reading the farther into the book I got. Joyner builds a sense of suspense and drama that pulls the reader in and makes them want to know what’s going to happen next.

 

Pop culture is woven seamlessly into Joyner’s world, and his fictional social media, Flare, comes off as a very plausible and realistic platform. Joyner grounds the book with mentions of Facebook, Snapchat, In-N-Out Burger, and other real-life references while still making it his own.

 

He also manages to sneak in a few references to more well-known superhero works, which I loved (he even managed to get a Spider-Man reference and an Incredibles reference in the same sentence). But it’s pretty obvious early on that this isn’t your typical superhero fare. No city-wide explosions or alien invasions threaten our heroes; no cackling Jokers or menacing Red Skulls terrorize the teens. And aside from some matching jackets referenced toward the end of the book, there’s no “suit up” moment where the heroes get leather or spandex masked costumes. But the heroes still get to be heroes and the antagonist, although not maniacally cackling, is definitely a villain.

 

I loved the way Joyner worked biblical references into the book, especially with the heroes’ abilities. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but there are some fantastic biblical parallels with each of the heroes’ abilities that I thought were very cool. There was one hero whose powers weren’t quite paralleled with a Bible passage, unless I missed it at some point, but her abilities were an obvious enough allegory that it didn’t bother me.

 

All of the characters are very well-written and likeable. Even the antagonist is not a cackling, hand-wringing villain, but someone that all of the protagonists enjoy being around. His motives are understandable even as his methods leave the reader rooting against him. He also has a unique quirk related to gummy bears that I found interesting.

 

But the heroes of the book are where Joyner’s character writing truly shine. From the first page, Demarcus Bartlett is a likeable, heroic protagonist with a fun-loving side. No moralistic pondering here–Demarcus just wants to do the right thing. His friend Harry is an awkward but lovable sidekick who more than holds his own even as he struggles to understand and use his own abilities.

 

Lily, who is arguably as much the lead as Demarcus, shines–literally. Her character, which is marred by tragedy, carries a sense of sympathy that has you rooting for her for most of the book. And Sarah Jane, her friend, is equally sympathetic and well-written, though of the four protagonists she is probably the least present. That Joyner manages to make her so likeable despite her relatively small contributions until the last 50 or so pages is a credit to his writing.

 

The plot was woven together tightly, and though it took place in one setting for almost the entire book, it never felt restricted or closed in. Joyner leaves hints of a much larger story that has yet to come into play, while still nicely wrapping up the individual plot of this book.

 

Overall, I can’t say enough good about Joyner’s book. If anything, I wish it was longer. I just enjoyed it that much. I’m glad to see that he’s working on a sequel, and I eagerly anticipate its release. Launch is exactly the kind of book I needed to read at this point in my writing, and I am glad I took the time to read it. Joyner’s debut novel is, in my opinion, a massive success, and I look forward to what he has next.

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