This is how self-publishing should be done. Too often, a self-published novel is let down instantly by a poorly designed cover that’s nothing more than a piece of stock photography with some text overlaid. But the cover of Axiom-man looks beautiful. Not only is it well drawn (the talents of Justin Shauf and Kyle Zajac), but it shows excellent marketing sense. The comicbook style is designed the capture the attention of superhero comic fans everywhere. I’m not even one of the those, and yet I was intrigued.
If you saw this on the shelves of your local bookshop, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a graphic novel. But it’s a straightforward novel. Superheroes and the written word – I can’t help thinking that’s got to be a hard nut to crack. The kind of stories such characters facilitate are usually visual, containing all kinds of thrills and spills – perfect material for movies and comics. For novels? Well, I can’t fault Fuchs for making a hearty attempt. Rather than going for all-out action, the novel Axiom-man actually spends many of its pages in domestic territory, telling the story of Gabriel Garrison and his struggle to fit his secret life as a hero into his normal life as a helpdesk operator. The story was interesting, and I found myself picking the book up at various points in the day, just to read a little more (this is something I rarely do; I normally just read at bed-time). I have to confess, though, that Gabriel’s dorky, bumbling put-ons were a little too reminiscent of Clark Kent, and his powers not dissimilar from Superman’s.
Partway into the story, a new hero arrives on the scene, calling himself Redsaw. He saves a few lives and soon steals the affection of the city. Although Redsaw’s abilities are on par with Axiom-man’s, Redsaw is a very different person. Axiom-man runs from the press, whereas Redsaw basks in the adoration of the public. Axiom-man wants to team up for the benefit of all, whereas Redsaw is unwilling to share the glory. You all know the saying, “With great power comes great responsibility.” This is the story of what happens when great power is given to the irresponsible – to a self-seeking man filled with pride and prone to outbursts of anger. It’s not long before Redsaw’s hot-headedness causes the accidental death of an innocent man. In one single moment, he is despised by all. Everything changes for him. And then, he changes. I loved this part of the story. Redsaw is a far more believable villain than the likes of the power-crazed General Zod from Superman II. If I have one criticism of this aspect of Fuchs’s novel, it’s merely that it didn’t quite go where I was hoping. I was more interested in reading about the deliberate fall of a man from grace than the possession of a man by an ethereal dark power. There was more potential to this side of the story than I feel was realised.
Towards the end, the story gets down to the anticipated high-octane fisticuffs between hero and villain. And this, for me, was the proof that superhero stories need a visual medium in order to have the proper impact. It was the least interesting part of the book. I can imagine the exciting comicbook frames in my mind, but they don’t carry the same weight in prose. I think the author made a good overall choice to write Axiom-man as a domestic story, with the action scenes sporadic and short.
The book is well edited, with few typing and typesetting errors – streets ahead of the majority of self-published fiction. I’ve read one other book by A.P. Fuchs: A Red Dark Night. Axiom-man shows a distinct improvement, not only in terms of presentation, but in Fuchs’s own maturing style as an author.
Although not marketed as a children’s book, I think Axiom-man would make great reading for boys, not only because boys love superheroes, but because the novel is written from a Christian standpoint, touching on matters such as selflessness, deception and ego. So, if there’s a birthday coming up near you and you can’t think of a gift to buy, consider a personally autographed copy of Axiom-man from the author’s website.