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By John Dixon
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Authors of superhero novels have a unique opportunity to showcase their characters in a way that many comic books and movies could never pull off. Due to the sheer length of prose fiction, authors are not only able to tell the story of a hero who “saves the day” from the next big threat, but they’re given the freedom to create and explore dynamic characters with layered emotions, whose lives are not simply defined by the costume they wear or the power they possess, but by how their actions – at all times – affect their dual existence. The Point by John Dixon is a story that, based on its premise, has so much potential; however, the length of time without a “real threat,” the general pacing of the novel, and low-stakes deaths all contribute to The Point truly missing “the point.”
Scarlett Winter is a recent high school graduate with a checkered past. When one too many poor decisions force her to make a choice between prison or The Point – a secret branch of West Point Military Academy dedicated to training superhumans known as Posthumans – she’s stuck with following in the military footsteps of her father and brother. As her time at The Point progresses, Scarlett must come to terms with the revelations made regarding the role she and her family have played and will play in the evolution of the Posthumans.
The powers. Dixon’s use of powers in this story is not typical. Sure, some characters have super strength or super speed, the classics you’d see from any popular comic book character. But these are only given to minor characters throughout the novel. The unique abilities (though not entirely original), which in my mind, all happen to be some of the most terrifying abilities, are what truly make this story interesting. Scarlett’s ability to store up energy from the physical onslaught of others, and then release said energy in a melee of overwhelming capacity; Seamus’ telekinesis; Dalia’s dream walking/manipulation; and Jagger’s vocal persuasion all make for a fresh take on enhanced humans.
Jagger. Wow, Jagger is a terrifying villain! The enigmatic preacher is a cross between Marvel’s Kilgrave and Rogue. When Jagger speaks, people want to listen and desire to do his will. Every scene I read with Jagger made me cringe at what unexpected, and oftentimes awful, circumstance would befall those surrounding him. But this leads me to where The Point is truly lacking.
Jagger. That’s right, I just mentioned how much I liked (hated? Was afraid of?) Jagger, and now I’m going back on my word! Well, not entirely. My problem was with his development. Jagger is first introduced in the third chapter of The Point (mind you, the chapters are very short, so by page nine, it’s already clear that he’s up to no good). I had expected to read a few more chapters and then have another Jagger-centric scene, and so on; but that was not the case. No word of Jagger again until close to 200 pages in – out of a 306-page book! Even then, he’s only mentioned by other characters; we don’t actually get to see Jagger in action until the last 50 pages of the novel. So as awesome as his character is, he could have been so much more.
The pacing. As mentioned above, the chapters are short, and for a 300-page book, 55 chapters makes the entire story not only feel rushed, but underdeveloped in terms of characterization. Personally, I think The Point would fare well as a longer book… a much longer book. Supporting characters would have more time to grow, develop, and change; the plot would be less about “getting to the next place” and more about the personal journeys of each character; and the antagonists wouldn’t feel like two-dimensional cardboard cutouts, but would have had clearer motivations.
Unimportant deaths. Look, obviously no death is unimportant; however, when none unfold on the page but are instead mentioned by other characters after the fact (besides one throwaway character barely even mentioned in the book prior to her death), there is no emotional investment. Sure, you feel bad for those characters who may have been close to victims, but not enough to truly impact your mood. A character who we only meet once early in the story dies off-page, and whose demise becomes a huge plot device to make the story move forward; multiple mass killings occur off-page, also driving the plot along. And you know what? I didn’t care about any of them. That’s a problem.
I really wanted to like The Point. The premise sure sounds fascinating and fun, but unfortunately, the story doesn’t hold up on many levels. Just like a superpowered West Point dropout, The Point doesn’t quite live up to its full potential.
What if you had a power you had to hide from everyone””until now? In this bold sci-fi action thriller, a secret training program at West Point is turning misfits into a new generation of heroes.
Welcome to The Point, future leaders of the Posthuman Age.
New Cadets, society is not ready for you. The oldest, fiercest fear is ignorance. The general population would burn you at the metaphorical stake.
Here, you will train alongside other posthumans. You will learn to control and maximize your powers and to use them for the greater good. You will discover camaraderie and purpose.
You will become a part of something bigger than yourselves: the Long Gray Line.
Scarlett Winter has always been an outsider, and not only because she’s a hardcore daredevil and born troublemaker””she has been hiding superhuman powers she doesn’t yet understand. Now she’s been recruited by a secret West Point unit for cadets with extraordinary abilities. Scarlett and her fellow students are learning to hone their skills, from telekinetic combat to running recon missions through strangers’ dreamscapes. At The Point, Scarlett discovers that she may be the most powerful cadet of all. With the power to control pure energy, she’s a human nuclear bomb””and she’s not sure she can control her powers much longer.
Even in this army of outsiders, Scarlett feels like a misfit all over again, but when a threat that endangers her fellow students arises from the school’s dark past, duty calls and Scarlett must make a choice between being herself and becoming something even greater: a hero.