“ESPER FILES—A Steampunk Superhero Series”
by Egan Brass
The book starts with a prolog, set in something resembling Victorian times, in which a grandstanding professor creates a machine that blows up. The resulting explosion alters… something. And as a result, twenty percent of Earth’s population become Espers—mutants whose abilities are based on their personalities. So an easily-enraged individual can suddenly shoot fire from his hands and melt metal. Or a timid girl can do the same with ice. They’re called superheroes for a good reason: the Espers have powers commonly seen in the pages of comic books, especially Marvel’s X-Men.
Firebrand has a fiery touch like Pyro. James teleports like Kitty Pride. Shadow can take on anyone’s form, just like Mystique. Aria manipulates air like Wind Dancer. Freya has the same power as Iceman. And Nathan? Like Rogue, he can absorb and replicate any other mutant, er, Esper ability. They even have an Institute and a Professor leading them!
Only they’re set in Victorian England.
Well, OK. If that’s what you’re looking for, this is your (comic) book. And like a comic book, “Espers” is charged with nonstop action. Right from the start we have Nathan and James battling Firebrand and the Shadow. And the bits with the vampiric trio of Carla, Marla, and Darla, channeling Huey, Dewey, and Louie, are funny.
The characters are likeable and appealing. The writing is sharp and fast-paced. Clearly, Brass has a lot of enthusiasm for the subject and it shows. If you like high fantasy without any plausibility, check out this book.
But it didn’t work for me.
Fiction is based on the willing suspension of disbelief. Readers of this series will need to suspend disbelief by the truckload. Not only is there nothing provided like a scientific explanation of why people can suddenly teleport or catch on fire but their abilities fly in the face of physics and common sense.
We expect that of superheroes, but not Steampunk.