review by VJ Miller, Sr.
How Did I Miss This One?
Every once in a while a book slips by your notice; It’s Superman, ©2005, is one that got by me. After the book came to my attention I was pleased to learn it was to take place in 1935 and would be a retelling of Clark Kent’s early years and his subsequent move from Smallville to the big city. In this case the big city was not Metropolis, but would be instead, New York City. This did not seem out of the ordinary and I accepted the change.
Tom De Haven has taken one of my favorite superheroes and put his particular spin on the Man of Steel’s very beginnings and crafted and interesting novel. The writing is superb, in-depth and thorough. It scrutinizes life in a rural community and later in the big cities from coast to coast. Tom has crammed in a lot of information, leaving no stone unturned while chronicling Superman’s debut years. With all of this great writing, it was somewhat of a disappointment to me; and this is why.
The PB book I acquired totals 453 pages of which only about an aggregate of 35 pages contained anything of Clark/Superman; Lois Lane got more ink. Even the secondary and tertiary characters received more in depth attention. Don’t misunderstand, disappointed does not mean I didn’t like or hated the book. To the contrary I enjoyed most of it. I would have preferred a book about Superman to have a lot more about Superman in its pages.
There is a lot of name-dropping in these pages. Just about every politician (good or evil) along with Mobsters and several actors from that era were made mention. It was a veritable Who’s Who of 1935, but I don’t mind a little actual history being put in place to make the novel seem like an actual series of events. Even the fictional characters blended in seamlessly with actual persons.
At times Tom got into very minute details of some of the characters, scenes, and situations that befell key characters in his narrative. No doubt there are many readers who are pleased with such fine detail; wanting to know everything that can be known. I, on the other hand, am not a fan of such detail. I would prefer that some things be left up to my own imagination as were the radio plays of the era. Less is more at times. I actually found them to only slow down the action not enhance the drama that was unfolding. I was obliged to wade through the dearth of prose to get to the subject of the novel; Superman.
While this is an excellent, well-crafted novel, I would have preferred to have read a lot more about Superman and less of everyone else. In the books final pages I was amused by the gift that Lex Luthor chose to bestow on Superman. An inside joke on his part, or just a means to an end. You decide.