I liked the premise of No Hero—a British cop thinks he’s hunting a serial killer and gets drafted into the top secret MI37 in order to fight eldritch abominations. The newly minted Agent Wallace copes with this new frightening reality by asking himself “What would Kurt Russell do?” Jonathan Wood, the author of No Hero, has a lot of fun playing with both action movie tropes and cosmic horror tropes, and I enjoyed going along for the ride.
In the world of No Hero magic is powered by electricity, “the universal lubricant” and mages cast spells with the aid of batteries and metallic tattoos—or copper wire implanted beneath the skin, in one case. It’s also a world of psychics and oracles, and Dreamers—reality warping gods in formal attire. And then there’s the Progeny—parasitic mini-versions of the above-mentioned eldritch abominations. They exist for one purpose, to bring their “parents”, the Feeders, through to our reality so that they can devour it. But first they’ve got to get through the Dreamers and, unfortunately for the world, they’ve recently found a weakness.
No Hero does a good job building the weirdness and the atmosphere, which walks well the line where horror and humor blur.
2—Lights, Tentacles, Action
No Hero is self aware of action movie tropes, including the misogynistic ones (literally, Detective/Agent Wallace, the first person narrator is a big action movie fan) but that didn’t stop the author from fridging a female character. I’m not sure if the use was deliberate or if the author was unaware of the implications, but either way sometimes being aware isn’t enough, you have to do something different. Especially as there’s a lot of “use the girl against her loved ones” happening—at least four major plot instances.
On the other hand, there actually are a variety of female characters both major and minor who’re all very different. On the major character list, there’s Kayla, a scary-ruthless killer and protective mother of oracular twins, whose first scene sees her chopping someone’s head in half and then stabbing Detective Wallace. There’s Director Shaw, in control and fighting a war on two fronts—against the Progeny and against her own superiors who who want to save costs by shutting down MI37. And Tabitha, a brilliant researcher, not a field agent, and very unhappy about being put in that situation—not that she’s ever happy, Tabby runs on anger.
And while the women do need the male characters, the male characters need the female ones just as much. And it turns out the protagonist is ultimately as helpless to “save the girl” as they are. So a mixed bag on the gender stuff.
3—So Many Plot Holes
As I said, I’m a reader who enjoys going along for the ride. Sometimes I see things coming because I know how those tropes work, but I don’t actively try to figure out whodunnit before the detective (so to speak…unless it’s a mystery, then yes, literally). I do think about the plot though, and once I finished No Hero I found a lot of plot holes. Be aware—this next paragraph is nothing but major spoilers. If you intend on reading the book, you may want to skip to the conclusion.
If it’s so easy for the Progeny to kill normal people like they did Swann, why didn’t they just kill Wallace? Sadism? And if the Progeny were intending to infect Kayla’s girls while they were human, why didn’t they do it while the girls were babies and the Progeny had them? Something to do with brain development? Also, why didn’t the Dreamers just pull all the Progeny out of existence before this point? Too many Progeny? Or some internal schism in the Dreamers?
I’ve concocted answers to some of these questions but they only bring more questions. Some of the lack of answers might be logistical—the reader only gets to know what the narrator does in first person POV. But I feel like there were ways to work in a few more answers.
In a world with cosmic horrors, a bittersweet ending is the best you can hope for. And while the sweet is sweet, the bitter is dearly bitter. I saw the thing with Clyde coming, though the details were a surprise, which is nice. Overall, I enjoyed No Hero. It was a hell of a ride.