Bystander 27

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Pub Date Aug 11 2020 | Archive Date Jul 01 2020

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After his pregnant wife is senselessly killed in a clash between the mysterious super-powered 'costumes', ex-Navy SEAL Jon Hayes fights to discover the truth about their identity and origins.

For Jon Hayes, the super-powered 'costumes' are just part of ordinary life in New York City, until the day his pregnant wife Melanie is senselessly killed in a clash between Captain Light and The Jade Shade. 

But as Hayes struggles to come to terms with his loss, and questions for the first time who the costumes are and where they come from, the once sharp lines of his reality begin to blur...

If Hayes wants to uncover the shocking truth about the figures behind the costumes, and get justice for his fallen family, he'll have to step out of the background, and stop being a bystander.

File Under: Superhero Fantasy [ It’s Clobberin’ Time | Hayes One | Panel Beater | No Capes ]
After his pregnant wife is senselessly killed in a clash between the mysterious super-powered 'costumes', ex-Navy SEAL Jon Hayes fights to discover the truth about their identity and origins.

For Jon...

Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9780857668592
PRICE $14.99 (USD)

Average rating from 12 members

Featured Reviews

As much as i enjoyed this book (and I did, it’s very good) I wish that the “hero” for once could be a normal person pushed to the edge and not an ex SEAL/SF character as i would love to see the struggle and mistakes an average person could make but still persevere, that aside this book is fun, it has mystery and misery, violence and vindication, well worth a read

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Bystander 27 by Rik Hoskin | Aug 11, 2020 | Angry Robot

When former seal Jon Hayes sees his wife killed as collateral damage in a fight between superhero and supervillain, he is driven to understand why. When he looks through every uploaded video and photograph of superhero battles and finds himself and his wife at events they never attended, he knows he has to dig deeper into the superhero scene and uncover the truth behind everything. You should be careful what you wish for.

This is a wonderful romp through the superhero premise as Jon pulls on a thread that threatens to unravel his reality in his search for answers. Is it science fiction? Strictly speaking, probably not. Angry Robot tags it as Superhero Fantasy, and I can see that, but Rik Hoskin has written a novel about real people in an unreal world, and to me that speaks to the essence of science fiction, which asks “What if?” Not to mention the aliens, robots, and gadgets galore.

Fans of the Netflix series, “The Boys” or Amazon’s “The Tick” should find this engaging. There are a number of films that treat similar subjects, though not so many books. It’s not played for laughs, though one of the funniest things is that the main character, when confronted with the inconsistencies in his universe, can’t see them because he’s part of that universe.

Rik has written extensively for comics, novels, and video (both animated and game) so he’s unquestionably the right person to step outside those worlds and shine a light on them. It’s also a great read. Highly Recommended.

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Bystander 27 is one of those books that dumps a boxful of puzzle pieces in your lap, and slowly, you begin to piece together the picture until that last piece fits and you realize you've done the puzzle upside-down. Rik Hoskin has written a captivating action novel that, when the last piece fits together and you turn it over, completely changes the way you'll think about what you've read. I can't really go into more detail without spoiling the reveal (that makes the book), but let's just say this book is worth the read.

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Bystander 27 is a thriller set in a world where superheroes are real; you walk past them in the street every day barely blinking an eye until one day their actions have a devastating impact on your life. This is exactly what happened to ex-Navy Seal Jon Hayes. Jon and his pregnant wife, Melanie, are living their best lives together awaiting the arrival of their baby as the perfect accompaniment to their partnership. When a violent altercation breaks out between superhero, Captain Light, and supervillain, The Jade Shade, Melanie is caught in the crossfire and is killed as collateral damage when a helicopter descends on her. Hayes really just wants to move on, to heal and to mourn his loss but he can't help but wonder why. He begins to investigate the superheroes and villains who inhabit the city alongside him and needs to know exactly who is behind the costumes and capes in order to gain justice for his late wife. But the deeper he dives the more dangerous and disturbing it becomes and he then comes to the realisation that the quest for truth is not going to be an easy one.

This is a gripping action novel with plenty of danger and dark deeds but with a touch of emotion too as we feel for protagonist, Jon, and his situation. It's a fun and highly entertaining read packed with strangeness — aliens, robots and fae roam the city and there is a selection of interesting gadgets mentioned throughout. I must admit that I rarely read superhero fantasy fiction as normally it isn't my thing but I found this engaging, well-plotted and decently paced and what I particularly appreciated was instead of the caped crusaders being front and centre in the story Jon, a bystander, was the central figure which makes a refreshing change. But when Melanie is killed he decides he must act rather than just stand by and look as it is the only way to achieve the justice he very much craves. His tenacity and ceaseless effort is admirable and makes clear just how much he loved his wife. The narrative flows easily and this is very much a book you can race through in a couple of hours. Oh, and the twist at the end blew me away. Unexpected and satisfying. Many thanks to Angry Robot for an ARC.

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The past twenty years or so has seen a massive increase in the visibility of Superheroes. The likes of Superman, Batman and Spiderman have been around for decades, but the market is so rich that many niche properties are having their time in the sun. The boom has not only promoted Superheroes, but the genre as a whole. Writers can now play with the fabric of comic books themselves. Forget the hero, who are all the people standing around watching or running away screaming? Isn’t it about time they had their story told?

Jon Hayes is living a happy if unremarkable life. He is a former Navy SEAL, works in a factory, is married, and has a child on the way. He is a lot like us, but where he lives is different. This New York is home to Supers, a breed of men and women that fight the forces of evil with their powers. During one battle Jon witnesses a helicopter fall from the sky that kills his wife and unborn child. As Captain Light soars away in victory with the cheers of thousands behind him, who thinks of Jon and his grief, a bit part player in his own life?

As a card-carrying superhero fan ever since Tim Burton’s Batman, I have been in clover. I enjoy a traditional hero versus villain tale, but the recent popularity of the Marvel films in particular have allowed the likes of Bystander 27 by Rik Hoskin to exist. My niche hobby is now a juggernaut of a genre in its own right. A sandpit that can be played in. Hoskin is aware of this. Bystander is a book that relies on the reader understanding the vocabulary of the comic book scene and then chooses to write using a different language.

This is not a tale told from the point of view of a hero or even a super villain. Instead, it is that bloke you may see in the corner of the frame. Hoskin plays the book very straight. This is an alternative reality that includes Supers, but Hayes’ grief is real. There is a darkness in tone you would expect – the man lost his wife and unborn child. Hayes’ despair, coupled with his ex-SEAL training, means that he decides to do something, thus giving the book its drive.

Hayes sets out to discover who these Supers are. He discovers patterns; locations that are popular, match ups that are more common than others. With patience and skill, he starts to stalk the heroes. He realises that the lesser villains are easier to catch and interrogate. In this way be starts to build up some understanding and his own arsenal of villainous weaponry. Is this a book about grief or an origin story of some kind? Hoskin keeps you guessing throughout. The key to the book is that it is played very straight. Hayes’ situation may seem unreal to us, but he has known no other.

Bystander is a book that slowly comes to the boil. A large portion of the book deals with Hayes’ grief as it evolves into anger. During a pivotal moment in the narrative, everything changes. In a world in which Supers regularly trap their enemies in parallel plains, almost anything can happen. I am in two minds how this element plays out in the story as witnessing an everyman (who is military trained) interacting in a Super world was enough for me. The final section alters how you can interpret events.

By the conclusion, I think it was necessary as Hoskin plays with the form in this way and it leaves events in an intriguing place. Like so many genre fiction properties things start off small with a close-knit collection of characters only to end with endless possibilities. If Hoskin decides to return to the character of Hayes, you can imagine an even more interesting dissection of what makes the superhero genre tick. It all works because Hayes is such a serious-minded character who methodically goes about his business of finding the truth behind the Supers. Rigid fans of high octane and simple form superhero fiction will suggest there is a reason why stories usually concentrate on the powerful, but they will be missing out on how Hoskin’s stretches the form itself and then plays with it.

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A gripping and enjoyable read. I loved this superhero fantasy that kept me hooked and entertained till the last page.
The world building is excellent, I loved the storytelling and the character development, and couldn't put this book down.
I strongly recommend it.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.

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Superheroes have become a major part of today’s popular culture thanks to bajillion dollar film franchises and the many television series that have graced the airwaves for the past decade, but that wasn’t always the case. Comic books have driven decades long fandoms, giving way to the many heroes we now know and love. I guarantee every one of us has wondered what it would be like to live in a world of superheroes. Would we ourselves become heroes? Would the world be a safer place?

In Bystander 27, Rik Hoskin examines what it means to live in a world where street battles and constant fights for justice happen on a regular basis. With a start similar to that of The Boys, we follow a protagonist who is a hero in a more traditional sense, seeking to discover answers to a tragedy that rips his life away from him. What results is a fascinating look into these larger-than-life figures from the perspective of a guy on the streets who has more questions than are probably good for him. In the end, nothing is as it seems.

I was most impressed with Hoskin’s ability to keep the action running and the plot twists exciting. There are so many tropes in superhero stories and he playfully included them alongside the running narrative and the constant twists and turns of a world that’s clearly distanced from any kind of stable reality. I continued to find myself riveted by the unfolding mysteries and couldn’t put the book down. The story is fresh and interesting from start to finish, and it’s a fitting addition to the genre.

On top of the general conversation about how terrifying and dangerous a superhero world truly is, there was an ongoing conversation about grief and its effect on the mind that I found particularly moving. Our protagonist is a man who can’t cope with the death of his wife, especially given that he witnessed the horrifying event itself. Throughout, it’s unclear as to whether he remains a reliable narrator as he begins to recount events that seem impossible. The story is integrated well into the action-packed timeline, giving us insight into the unimaginable pain of a man who has lost his family and the impossible path to overcoming that grief.

On a final note, the ending is done brilliantly – I won’t reveal anything beyond that, but it feels like it needs to be said. Everything you’ve read comes together into an ‘aha’ moment and makes you want to go back and read again given what’s revealed.

Overall, I was impressed by Bystander 27 for its twist on the superhero genre. Once again, Angry Robot comes through with a story that’s engaging, well written, and multifaceted. For superheroes, supervillains, and all of the innocent bystanders in between, this is the ultimate story that pairs reality and fiction to create a book that’s impossible to put down.

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The earth is protected by superheroes - who are really nothing more than vigilantes with some sort of unusual power. But this book isn't the story of one of those superheroes ... not really. This is the story of one of the many, an innocent bystander who happened to be in the area where a superhero and a supervillain are squaring off.

Former Navy SEAL Jon Hayes and his wife Melanie (pregnant with their first child) are witness to a moment when superhero Captain Light is attempting to bring the criminal Jade Shade to justice. A super-powered battle is always going to draw attention and a news helicopter was already in the area to get the best shots.

The fight was reaching a fevered pitch, creating a stampede of people trying to get out of the way of the supers. The fight takes to the air and Jade Shade reaches out and grabs the helicopter to hurl it at Captain Light, who knocks it aside. But by knocking it away, it goes hurling into the stampeding crowd below, which has swept up Melanie who is directly in the path of the falling helicopter and is killed instantly.

And so begins Jon Hayes' singular focus of avenging his wife and unborn child. To do so, he must study and learn everything he can about Captain Light and the other superheroes, and some surprising revelations come to light. Among them, he notices that the same people seem to be bystanders over and over again at superpowered fights. He even spots himself ... and his family? ... at one.

Jon recognizes that by seeking revenge against Captain Light it puts him in the role of villain, but he has no other choice. Perhaps literally? Is someone else behind it all, pulling the strings?

I really liked the concept of the book, although I do feel as though the idea of superheroes as a problem is almost too common now. I also found that I liked author Rik Hoskin's writing, but at the same time, the book was a bit over-written. There's a lot of action in the opening couple of chapters, and the ending, with its twists and turns, holds the reader's attention, but the very large middle portion of this book is one very long set-up which has Hayes planning what he'll do, then questioning himself, then planning, then questioning, and so on. Fortunately, Hoskin's prose keep the book flowing pretty smoothly, but if 100 pages were cut from the middle of the book, I don't think it would affect the story.

I liked Hayes, but the fact that we're told he was once a Navy SEAL (and told this more than once) always felt emboldening. I never really got the sense of this man as a SEAL - he seemed a lot more 'everyman-ish' than strong, military type.

I'm glad to have read this, and fans of superhero novels might find this an enjoyable read.

Looking for a good book? Bystander 27 by Rik Hoskin is a modern superhero story with a common Joe taking on a 'super' (if your common Joe is a Navy SEAL), and the story offers up some fun twists along the way.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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