Over the past decade, superheroes have supersaturated the entertainment industry. We’ve seen numerous films and television shows, and there’s no sign of the genre’s popularity dying anytime soon. With The Flying Woman, author Daniel Sherrier takes a relatively formulaic story and puts it in the medium where it seems we are least likely to see superheroes: the novel. This allows Sherrier to explore that formula from new angles, giving us a fresh addition to the genre.
The story is told from the perspective of Miranda Thomas, a relatively typical aspiring actress. She dreams of fame and fortune and lives for applause. Her family is worried about her ability to earn a living in her chosen career path. She is a relatable albeit not terribly original protagonist. After an incident with a mysterious woman, Miranda inexplicably acquires superpowers. She is thrust into a new life of saving civilians and collaborating with other superheroes.
Like any good superhero story, The Flying Woman embraces the genre while still finding subtle ways to rebel against it. At first, this is with relatively minor details, such as Miranda’s unwillingness to wear a traditional superhero costume. Later it comes in more dramatic ways, such as a relatively unconventional antagonist.
One of the things that sets The Flying Woman apart from all the contemporary movies and television shows with similar stories is the internal struggle within the protagonist. A large part of what makes The Flying Woman interesting is that Miranda’s definition of success has always been rooted in others’ perceptions of her. Even as a superhero, she seems to be motivated by a desire not to have anyone think poorly of her rather than a more purist desire to make the world a better place.
While she is not a bad person by any stretch of the imagination, Miranda has an ego and a thirst for external validation that are juxtaposed with traditional superhero expectations of nobility and selflessness. The confidence she has in her acting abilities contrasts with her insecurities as a superhero. In many ways, it’s that tension between Miranda the actor and Ultra Woman the superhero that causes drama and suspense, rather than any direct conflict between Ultra Woman and a villain.
This is where the novel is able to accomplish what most movies and TV shows don’t. We’re able to get in Miranda’s head and experience her inner doubts alongside her. Is she qualified to have her powers? Should she even try to do anything with them? Isn’t there a high likelihood she’ll make things worse?
On the flip side, there are times when the novel format holds the story back, most notably in the action sequences. Some of these scenes are a little too similar to one another. Something bad happens. Miranda questions her ability to be helpful but tries her best. Another superhero arrives to help save the day. Miranda reflects on how badly things could’ve gone but rejoices in the fact that they didn’t. If flashy action and slick stunts are the reason you go to see superhero movies, you may find this book slightly disappointing in this regard.
However, if your love of superheroes comes from the philosophical quandaries these stories often inspire, The Flying Woman will be right up your alley. Ultimately, the novel asks the fundamental question, “Can real human beings actually be trusted with superpowers?” It explores this question from several angles. Are real humans even capable of being 100 percent altruistic 100 percent of the time? Even if they were, would they be able to balance the responsibilities of herodom with their day-to-day life?
In The Flying Woman, it seems that even if a superperson has the best of intentions, it may not be physically possible for him or her to be a true superhero. Superpowers become a device for broader social discourse: to what extent can any human be trusted with any type of power?
One of the most intriguing things about The Flying Woman is that it is billed as “Terrific Book 1.” Sherrier does a great job of leaving enough questions unanswered to keep readers excited for Terrific Book 2. While we are introduced to two other superhero characters in this first installment, we learn only what we need to in order to follow Miranda’s story. We are not given the true essence of these other superheroes so much as Miranda’s impressions of them.
I found myself constantly guessing which characters in Miranda the actor’s life were secretly reappearing in Ultra Woman the superhero’s life. Not only did that make The Flying Woman a fun read, but it made me want book two right now. There’s a lot of potential for the universe to grow, and I can’t help but think that The Flying Woman will only get better after Sherrier has fleshed out his full Terrific Universe vision.
Overall, The Flying Woman is a fun escape that allows superhero fans to experience their favorite tropes in a fresh way. I also have high hopes that the subsequent books in the Terrific series will only enhance this story and the world that Sherrier has created.
Anne Butcher was homeschooled and became passionate about liberty at a young age. After studying communication in college, she became especially interested in using her writing talent to connect with audiences and finding creative ways to spread the ideas of liberty. You can keep up with her writing shenanigans at butcherthoughts.com, where she reviews movies, tv, and offers her own tips on writing.