Kid Dark Against the Machine – Tansy Rayner Roberts
The Book Smugglers, 2016
You just can’t get away from superheroes these days. Every six months a new name is called up by the mysterious machine that gives ordinary humans extraordinary powers, but the detail people tend to overlook is what happens when those powers get taken away. It’s a detail Griff doesn’t want people to think about too deeply, or something he wants to think about himself for that matter. That’s what the ‘secret’ in ‘secret identity’ is for. Between helping out at the Boys Home where he grew up and figuring out what to do next with his life, he’s got enough to worry about. But then one of the boys under his care starts having dreams about a second machine, a machine that makes supervillains and from the sound of it, is calling up its next candidate. And it looks like this is Griff’s problem after all.
This new novella is set in the same universe as Tansy Rayner Roberts’ story Cookie Cutter Superhero, first published in the anthology Kaleidoscope, but you don’t need to have read it to understand Kid Dark Against the Machine. Both stories evoke, critique and generally mess about with all sorts of superhero tropes – in this case, what happens to the kid sidekicks? It’s bright and sharp and sarcastic, and I would happily read a series of novels set in this universe. You can read the story for free or buy the e-book on the Book Smugglers website, and Roberts has also written an essay on her inspiration and influences.