As part of the Blog Tour de Force, I was given a review copy of this YA contemporary science fiction novel. Excelsior is Sirois’ second novel, and among the first contemp scifi novels I’ve read, so I was definitely intrigued. Here’s my review!
Excelsior narrates the transformation of high school senior and webcomic author Matthew Peters as he discovers that the world he’s created in his webcomic is actually a real place that he’s destined to save. That world is Denab IV, an alien planet under the oppressive regime of the lizard-like Krunations who thrive on crushing the human-like Denarian race. What follows is a classic tale of self-discovery and growth as Matthew slowly turns into Excelsior, the hero of his webcomic and the only man who can save Earth and Denab IV from destruction.
With the plethora of female-led YA fantasy novels being published today, it comes as a breath of fresh air to find a title aimed at the male end of the YA market… and maybe for that very reason I didn’t quite enjoy Excelsior as much as I would have liked.
This fast-paced action/adventure story has many of the elements of a typical superhero story, starting with an underachieving, unpopular character and turning him into someone to be admired, someone who dedicates his life to a cause greater than himself. Matthew Peters is a likeable character and I empathised with his plight, with his concern that turning into Excelsior will erase his own identity. His insecurities are typical of a teenager and his strength of character is admirable. I found myself rooting for him when Matthew isn’t even sure whether he really is Excelsior, yet still chooses to stand and fight.
Excelsior, however, is a completely different story. For all of the reassurances Matthew received that he would still be himself after Excelsior’s lifeforce was awakened within him, I have to admit I was a little disappointed by the change. Excelsior is too strong, too perfect, lacking the angst and indecision that brought Matthew to life as a character. I would have preferred it had Matthew remained in his scrawny, teenaged body, with all his angst intact, and yet somehow have managed to overcome that and realize his potential — because that, for me, is what YA is about.
While I am an enthusiastic science fiction fan, what I love about scifi is its portrayal of the human condition, its analysis of human behaviour in extreme circumstances — something which wasn’t covered in great depth here because once the transformation to Excelsior is complete, I could not find traces of the Matthew I’d grown to like.
By far the most developed aspect of this novel was the world-building, and I found myself thinking that Excelsior might make a good scifi/action film. Excelsior shows a lot of promise and I respect Sirois for filling a gap in the YA market. I would definitely like see more boy-targeted YA titles in circulation and — seeing as Sirois has several more Excelsior novels in the works — I expect my wish will soon be fulfilled.
In sum, if you like superhero adventure stories, this might be a book for you — and if so you can get a copy online through Smashwords.