The Violent Century is yet another tale with which Lavie Tidhar demonstrates his superb skills as a storyteller. The Violent Century reads like a Silver Age superhero comic.
Every scene in the book is like a page in a comic, the whole novel feels like a comic book but yet is so much more. Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself, let’s star at the beginning:
The Violent Century follows the life of Henry Fogg, or simply Fog, a working-class English boy who gets caught in an event that will later be called the Vomacht event. This event is caused by a scientific experiment is caused accidentally during an experiment by German scientist Joachim Vomacht and as a result, in best Silver Age comic style, some people receive special powers, people all over the world. Henry Fogg is one of them, he can control fog.
As a result, Henry gets recruited by a special branch of the British government in the late 1930’s to fight in the coming war. There, he meets other Beyond People like himself, Blur, Tank, Spit, and Oblivion, amongst others, and the reader follows them through the Second World War, the Cold War and right to the present.
Fog, most often accompanied by Oblivion, goes on scouting missions on the eastern front, is active in occupied Paris and later in Normandy. After the War, he disappears for some years and the story focuses on Oblivion, who goes on to fight the enemies of the West, humans and beyond men (or „Übermenschen“ as they come to be universally called after the war) alike in Vietnam, alongside US Übermenschen, and Afghanistan in the 1980’s.
The Violent Century is not all about action, though. The Übermenschen on all sides, British, German, Soviet and US, soon become disillusioned. Since every country has Übermenschen, they are nothing special, yet, they have to fight, lest the other side, whoever they are in the shifting alliances of the Violent Century, gains a significant advantage. Also, they are stuck in time, the never age, and must cope with a world that is increasingly alien to them through simple advancement of technology. Also, there are several love stories in there, of all shades, The Violent Century is rather gritty in every subject it touches.
Lavie has created a gripping and stark tale of what life for a superhero is like when your powers are nothing special in the grand theme of things and your very existence becomes a burden.
The Violent Century is a dark, uncompromising and cynically philosophical novel, it keeps you enthralled right to the end and this end is bittersweet with yet another twist.
PS: I only wish Fog and Sommertag had been reunited earlier.