Monday, 27 June 2016

Lois Lane: Double Down by Gwenda Bond

Lois Lane: Double Down by Gwenda Bond is the second novel about a teenage Lois Lane set in a near future world. I have previously read and reviewed the first novel, Fallout.

Lois Lane has settled in to her new school. She has friends, for maybe the first time in her life. She has a job that challenges her. And her friendship is growing with SmallvilleGuy, her online maybe-more-than-a-friend. But when her friend Maddy’s twin collapses in a part of town she never should’ve been in, Lois finds herself embroiled in a dangerous mystery that brings her closer to the dirty underbelly of Metropolis.

Like the first Lois Lane book, this one also features weird science fictional phenomena, teenaged reporters and teenaged Superman on the other end of an online chat. It also still has a lot of story elements in common with Veronica Mars (the TV show), which isn't a bad thing.

In this story, we see Lois trying very hard to maintain her friendship with Maddy — not because anything exactly goes wrong, but more because she's terrified of stuffing it up. The friendships that were established in the first book are developed further in this one, including Lois's non-school relationships, like with her sister and SmallvilleGuy. This is all set against the backdrop of trying to solve some weird stuff that's been going on with Maddy's twin sister, who we only met briefly in the previous book.

The most enticing aspect of this book, for me, was the background developments relating to superheroes. For example, speculation about a "flying man" intensifies on the conspiracy theory messageboards Lois frequents. While we, the reader, know about Superman and much more of SmallvilleGuy's backstory than Lois does, the story never mentions anything that would be outside Lois's knowledge. This is a really interesting method of storytelling and only works because the audience is guaranteed to make the additional links. And I say this as someone not especially invested in DC comics, who hasn't read any pertaining to these characters and has only been exposed to a bit of TV (mainly Supergirl, which has done a similar thing with Superman's character so far, and The New Adventures of Lois and Clarke, whenever that aired on Australian TV a loooong time ago). You don't have to be an expert on the Superman mythos to enjoy this book.

That said, I do know enough to know that the setting of these Lois Lane books is different to that of other renditions of the same characters. I would really like to see more of this universe. Both because I want more Lois stories, and because I am interested in how the future will play out given the higher technological level of the present. How does Superman growing up with smartphones change things? How will Lois and Clarke eventually work at the Daily Planet together in a world of dying print journalism? How will keeping in touch online from their teens affect their adult relationship? Aside from the key issue of being Superman, there's a lot of honesty between then, and I can't imagine Clarke coming to work at the Daily Planet without SmallvillGuy revealing that part of his identity to Lois (which would then make her even more suspicious...). What about facial recognition (because, wow, that's a problem I have with Supergirl and her "disguise" too...)? These are all questions I would love to see at least partially answered in future books.

I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to fans of Lois Lane (duh) and Veronica Mars. Any magical superhero elements are really minor, if that's not your sort of thing, and the near future technology is much more prominent. You don't have to have read the first book for this one to work, but I do recommend doing so, if only for the progression of Lois's friendships and so forth.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: May 2016, Switch Press
Series: Lois Lane book 2 of 2 (so far, but fingers crossed for more to come)
Format read: Hardcover
Source: Purchased at Minotaur

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