Series Review: Extrahumans by Susan Jane Bigelow

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March 15, 2013 by Heidi

Broken by Susan Jane Bigelow book coverFly Into Fire by Susan Jane BigelowThe Spark by Susan Jane Bigelow

Title: Extrahumans Trilogy
Author: Susan Jane Bigelow [Twitter]
Standing: Book 1: Broken [Amazon|Goodreads]
Book 2: Fly Into Fire [Amazon|Goodreads]
Book 3: The Spark [Amazon|Goodreads]
Genre: SciFi, Dystopian, Superhero, Fantasy
Published: Broken: January 22nd, 2011 by Candlemark and Gleam
Fly Into Fire: January 24th, 2012 by Candlemark and Gleam
The Spark: August, 2012 by Candlemark and Gleam
Format: Broken: E-book; 340 pages
Fly Into Fire: E-book; 384 pages
The Spark: E-book; 392 pages
Source: Broken: First read from publisher via NetGalley.
Fly Into Fire: Purchased
The Spark: Purchased
Spoilers: This review is SPOILER FREE for the entire series!  Enjoy.

Every so often in a reader’s life they come across a set of books that makes their jaw drop.  Not because they’re awesome, or surprising, or because they’re unlike anything you’ve read before, not even because they are so real. The Extrahumans series by Susan Jane Bigelow is all these things, but the jaw dropping results from the fact that they are absolutely criminally under-read.  Yes, every time you discover a new author and series to love it is shiny to you, and you get excited and want to tell everyone ever–but in the case of Extrahumans, this series isn’t just new to me, it’s new to nearly everyone in the book community.  So take notes, because I’m about to tell you why Extrahumans is worth your time and money (seriously folks, you can purchase this entire trilogy as e-books for less than one hardcover would cost you).

This was it, then.  No more waiting.

His heart pounded.  His possibilities all had this moment, but he didn’t have to take it.  He could put it down.  He could run away.  He could live.  The world would shift and change–he felt the possibilities morphing and twisting out ahead of him.  This moment, more than any other, could change them all.

“Take him,” the woman said shakily.  “Take him.” She pressed a warm, squirming bundle into his arms.

There was no choice, really.  He took it from her, and half of the possibilities winked out of existence.

Me attempting to pitch Extrahumans to the boyfriend:

“It’s the first series I’ve read and thought ‘Wow, this would make an amazing graphic novel, but it really works in prose format’.  It has a lot of the same moral issues as X-Men, with the grungy aftertaste of Watchmen.  You know, forcibly retired superheroes only with actual powers so they have an odd standing in society.

In fact, it’s like Watchmen and X-Men had a beautiful awesome baby that grew up to be it’s own thing instead of derivative.”

If that makes any sense.

Susan Jane Bigelow’s Extrahumans is a series that is greater than the sum of its parts.  She throws us into a dystopian-type setting just as the government shifts hands and wrests strict control over the human populated planets of the universe.  Through this change, we see how those who suffered prejudices under the old government would suffer more greatly under a new regime.  The Extrahumans, a group of humans with powers, have been forcibly rounded up and had their lives restricted to a single tower in New York City.  Compelled to work for the government, often as some sort of law enforcement, the Extrahumans were robbed of their families, names, and any choice in who they would become.

Over the years, some Extrahumans escaped the tower, while others avoided being found in the first place.  Broken, a former member of the Extrahuman’s enforcement squad, escapes with her healing powers after losing her ability to fly.  Lucky they let go when she became un-Lucky.  Michael the never found.  Michael is a prescient, able to see potential futures when he looks directly at someone.  Living outside of Extrahuman society he’s marked himself as a Cassandra, able to tell the future that no one will believe; no one until he meets Broken.  Together, Broken and Michael must work together to set events on a course with the best outcome possible for humanity.  Unfortunately, the other side has a prescient working for them as well.

Susan Jane Bigelow has done such an amazing job crafting this series.  We get to see the world fall apart, but it isn’t the world we care about in the long run, it’s the individuals.  It is a story that comes full circle through the letters of a prescient Extrahuman that dies several years before the first book opens.  If you’re looking for your standard dystopian rebellion and government collapse fare, I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere–this isn’t it.  What Extrahumans is is an amazingly written, action-packed, and very philisophical examination of what it means to be human.

The Extrahumans are a people who have to deal with the labels that have been pressed upon them, right down to the ridiculous superhero names the government gave them.  “Extrahumans.  Like we’re something extra.  Not really human.  Just something else that the rest of them don’t need.”  But it isn’t just the Extrahumans.  Susan Jane Bigelow uses this world to show us the parallel struggles of all marginalized groups, through gender and sexuality, religion, or political beliefs.  It is the type of series where the reader will take away as much as they want–you can just sit back and enjoy the ride, but you can also grab hold of this wonderful opportunity to really think about everything Susan Jane Bigelow so subtly deals with.

For me, Broken, was the most edge-of-my-seat exciting of the three, Fly Into Fire was much more slowly paced, but the stakes started to ramp up as the book went on.  However, The Spark was truly the book that shined of the three, showing how well plotted this story had been from the beginning and focusing on the character who easily became my favorite by the end.  Each book is different from the others in perspective, pace, and story, but what remains consistent is Susan Jane Bigelow’s ability to take the road less traveled.  She managed to surprise me consistently, and I wanted to hug her by the end for being willing to say “screw fate”, even if we’ll end up where we’re meant to be regardless.

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more:  Susan Jane Bigelow has a new book, The Daughter Star, coming out later this spring, and I am all over that.

Recommended for: As you can see, I highly recommend this series.  It’s perfect for anyone looking for an unconventional and surprising read, particularly those who enjoy genre bending and superhero fiction.

Get a second opinion:
The Book Smugglers reviewed Broken, Fly Into Fire, and The Spark
Chronicles of a Book Evangelist reviewed Broken

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11 comments »

  1. Ana says:

    YES TO ALL THIS.

    Heidi, I am so pleased that you loved this as I did, I completely agree about how under-read these are.

    SHE IS WRITING A FORTH BOOK BY THE WAY. : )

  2. I had never heard of this series but wow, they sound right up my alley. I’ll definitely be checking them out now! Thanks, Heidi.

  3. In fact, it’s like Watchmen and X-Men had a beautiful awesome baby that grew up to be it’s own thing instead of derivative.”

    I need it. I need it with the fire of a million suns. WANNNNNNNNTTTTTTTT

    • Wahhhh, these are 20 dollars for the paperbacks. What the hell is that? I hate buying ebooks. Well, I might not ever read them. Why don’t the big 6 ever pick up self-pubs like this? Why just the romances? *grumps*

      • Heidi says:

        This isn’t a self-pub, Christina, it’s just published by a small publishing house, Candlemark and Gleam, that focuses on sustainable publishing. For this reason, they primarily work with digital materials, and only print very limited editions of their hardcopies, which is why they’re so expensive. They focus on speculative fiction though, and have some really cool and unique titles. Wish you didn’t hate e-books so much!

  4. Lauren says:

    “it’s like Watchmen and X-Men had a beautiful awesome baby that grew up to be it’s own thing instead of derivative.” <–LOVE this. I'm not really sure I needed to read beyond this sentence, but I'm glad I did. What a thoughtful and persuasive review! I just bought all three e-books (and feel like I got away with something, they're so cheap). I'm thrilled to hear the last book is so strong and that it makes you marvel at the series plotting that came before. Such forethought and intelligence in series storytelling is really rare, and I'm always blown away when I see it. Wonderful review!

    • Heidi says:

      Yay! I’m SO EXCITED to hear that you bought all three of these, Lauren. They’re so incredibly affordable, and really worth every penny. I’m so excited to see what you think, I hope you enjoy these!!

  5. […] Bunbury in the Stacks has reviewed the entire Extrahumans series by Susan Jane Bigelow – and LOVED it. We agree: he series is criminally under-read and more people need to discover it! […]

  6. […]  I can’t express how enthusiastic I was when I realized SJB was writing more in her awesome Extrahumans series, and I’ll be looking for the next book in this one as […]

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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