Book Title:
Starter Villain
Book Author:
John Scalzi
Page Count:
Publishing Date:
September 19th, 2023
Tor Books
Date Read:
October 7th, 2023


Inheriting your uncle's supervillain business is more complicated than you might think. Particularly when you discover who's running the place.

Charlie's life is going nowhere fast. A divorced substitute teacher living with his cat in a house his siblings want to sell, all he wants is to open a pub downtown, if only the bank will approve his loan.

Then his long-lost uncle Jake dies and leaves his supervillain business (complete with island volcano lair) to Charlie.

But becoming a supervillain isn't all giant laser death rays and lava pits. Jake had enemies, and now they're coming after Charlie. His uncle might have been a stand-up, old-fashioned kind of villain, but these are the real thing: rich, soulless predators backed by multinational corporations and venture capital.

It's up to Charlie to win the war his uncle started against a league of supervillains. But with unionized dolphins, hyperintelligent talking spy cats, and a terrifying henchperson at his side, going bad is starting to look pretty good.

In a dog-eat-dog a cat.

My Review

Okay, so…this isn’t usually the kind of book I would read.

The cover drew me in, and the synopsis capture me with three words.




Yes, talking spy cats. With a book that boasts having talking freaking spy cats in it, how could you possibly turn it down?!

That being said, I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did.

“I didn’t need another cat. At this point in my brilliant career as an itinerant educator I could barely afford to feed myself. But then, no one ever needs a cat these days. That’s not why we have cats. We have cats because they amuse us and because otherwise our clothes would lack the texture only cat hair can provide.”

Starter Villain starts off with our main character, Charlie, who is a substitute teacher, trying to get a loan to purchase a pub. Unfortunately for Charlie, what is a typical, normal day will turn out to be anything but – and that begins with finding a kitten in the bushes on his way home. This kitten comes home with Charlie, who already has a cat named Hera. Hera is Charlie’s best (only) friend, and now he has another little friend, too.

“I couldn’t just abscond with the kitten; kitten pilfering is morally and probably legally wrong. I am not a monster, or not that kind of monster, anyway.”

However, from there, Charlie has a world of problems coming up. He learns about his Uncle Jake’s passing, and is visited by a strange woman who has come to discuss the details of his death, including wishing for him to be present at the viewing. Charlie agrees, and that’s where the fun starts.

After the funeral, Charlie walks home to find his cats sitting outside – and then his house explodes. This is a problem, considering he was supposed to sell the house with his siblings to begin with – and now he has nowhere else to live.

Until he learns the truth.

Charlie finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of chaos – first his house explodes, and then he is whisked off to another house nearby, where he discovers his cat, Hera, is actually a spy, and that she can talk (well, more like type messages on a computer, but hey!), and is a spy, watching over Charlie and reporting back to his uncle.

“…I’m here on an island in the Caribbean, being told I need to talk to the dolphins in the middle of a labor action about some whales that might have torpedoes, armed by a secret society of villains who want access to a storeroom full of objects probably looted from the victims of the friggin’ Nazis and who are maybe willing to blow up -my volcano lair- to get it.”

After he gets a brief shakedown on what is going on, Charlie is whisked away to his uncle’s volcano lair island – yes, a volcano lair island – complete with talking dolphins and crazy fellow villains that are hellbent on taking Charlie for everything his uncle was worth.

Can Charlie figure things out before they get any worse? Or is he about to lose everything?

Starter Villain is up there with one of the best books I have read in a long time.

And why is that, you ask?

Because it was fun.

Pure, nonsensical fun.

And I loved every page of it.

Sure, I read tons of books that are fun reads – psychological thrillers, which are my favorites (aside from horror, of course), tend to be fun and keep you on the edge of your seat. But Starter Villain is fun in a different way. It’s the kind of book where I literally found myself laughing out loud and quoting certain passages to my husband and daughters – including that amazing dedication (the author dedicates the book to his cats, and in the way he does so is completely hilarious). This book is full of stuff that just…isn’t the real world (at least to my knowledge!), and I enjoyed that. The plot was fun. The main character was the best written and most enjoyable main character I’ve come across in ages. And did I mention…talking spy cats? Definitely can’t forget about those.

The dialogue in this book is AMAZING. It is witty, fun, and it is something that I absolutely loved reading through – it made me laugh so much. I was initially worried that I wasn’t going to enjoy this because of the overall theme, but the characters were the best part! I loved Hera (of course!), and her witty remarks she would make when Charlie spoke to her. She was the best character in a book I’ve read in a long time. I worried she might just make a brief appearance here and there, but no – she is actually a major part of the book and appears a lot. I was also worried that something might happen to her, but let me assure you, it doesn’t.

No animals are harmed in this book. So if that’s something you worry about (it’s definitely something I worry about), please note that while plenty of people are getting shot at left and right, there is no violence towards animals.

Even if this isn’t your usual genre, I hope you pick it up and give it a read! It’s a complete action-packed fun thrill ride from the first page until the very last. I devoured it in one day because I just couldn’t put it down!

5 stars
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