No More Heroes is a dystopian thriller by Roo Macleod, the first in the Heroes series. It takes place in England, specifically London’s Ostere district in the far future, so both setting and character voice were refreshing for dystopian thriller.
It opens with Ben Jackman describing the horrors of life on the street in Ostere. He’s soon pulled aside by an old friend-turned-enemy of his, Marvin, who gives him a bag for safekeeping and asks him to get it to his mother-in-law. Shortly afterward, bombs go off in the town square, and he’s sent running for his life. He ditches the bag, not realizing its importance, and when he returns it’s gone. Everyone he knows seems to want that bag. He’s a marked man from then on, both by the richest men in the area and the cops, as well as his own gang when they find out.
And that’s most of the plot. The author’s writing style is gritty and unique, but I found myself struggling to get into the story to begin with. I didn’t learn much about Ben besides his angst until almost a third of the way through the book, and that’s about when I became interested in what was going on with the bag and what fate might befall his friends. In some places I felt like there were too many characters to keep track of, all with one and two syllable names that sounded similar or at least weren’t said enough times to give them significance.
That said, his action sequences were fantastic. Once I did get into the rhythm of the story, I found myself drawn into the more action-heavy portions, and loved that the author didn’t make Ben into a practical superhero in every encounter. There were several where he laid low and described things as he heard them, waiting for other factions to play things out rather than jumping in and risking his life. You’d think that would make for a boring story, but in this case it was fitting with the character and added increased tension to those scenes. Well done.
I also got a strong sense of the setting from the protagonist’s monologues. There were some truly unique (if vulgar) turns of phrase in some of them, even if a few felt like we’d shifted out of first person into a sort of omniscient just to capture the ambiance.
I figured out where the bag was and what was in it before the author intended, but I could also chalk that up to good foreshadowing and writers’ intuition. To sum up, the strongest points were setting, writing style, and well written action sequences. The weakest parts were character development, pacing, and sometimes overly lengthy dialogue sequences.
The ending also wasn’t quite satisfying, as several plot threads were left dangling for the next book in the series. All in all it was an enjoyable romp, but as a character driven author and reader, it wasn’t quite what I’d usually read.
4/5 stars, great for people deep in the action genre, but expect a slow build if you’re looking for strong characters.