Read A Once Crowded Sky by Tom King Tom Fowler Steve Bryant Ruth Lee-Mui David Ter-Avanesyan Online


A tour de force debut novel from a former CIA counter-terrorism officer, A Once Crowded Sky fuses the sensibility of bombastic, comic-book-style storytelling with modern literary fiction to bring to life a universe of super men stripped of their powers, newly mortal men forced to confront danger in a world without heroes. The superheroes of Arcadia City fight a wonderful wA tour de force debut novel from a former CIA counter-terrorism officer, A Once Crowded Sky fuses the sensibility of bombastic, comic-book-style storytelling with modern literary fiction to bring to life a universe of super men stripped of their powers, newly mortal men forced to confront danger in a world without heroes. The superheroes of Arcadia City fight a wonderful war and play a wonderful game, forever saving yet another day. However, after sacrificing both their powers and Ultimate, the greatest hero of them all, to defeat the latest apocalypse, these comic book characters are transformed from the marvelous into the mundane.After too many battles won and too many friends lost, The Soldier of Freedom was fine letting all that glory go. But when a new threat blasts through his city, Soldier, as ever, accepts his duty and reenlists in this next war. Without his once amazing abilities, he's forced to seek the help of the one man who walked away, the sole hero who refused to make the sacrifice--PenUltimate, the sidekick of Ultimate, who through his own rejection of the game has become the most powerful man in the world, the only one left who might still, once again, save the day....

Title : A Once Crowded Sky
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781451652000
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 326 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

A Once Crowded Sky Reviews

  • seak
    2019-05-11 01:56

    Superheroes seem to be the new thing these days, not that they've ever not been the thing, it's just that they seem to be more of a thing now. Not only are they in the movies but now they're even combined with zombies.Superheroes with no powers, well all except one of them, reflect on the meaning of being a hero. No this isn't The Watchmen silly, it's not even a graphic novel.But seriously, it's hard not to compare to The Watchmen when you start reading. And after a while you realize it's actually quite a bit different.A Once Crowded Sky is a novel that starts with and is interspersed with comic pages in each "part," of which there are nine. It's really a very clever novel, from the slow reveal of the mysteries of the plot to the set up of novel/comic to the commentary it's making.The novel starts with all the superheroes gathered around while their powers are voluntarily stripped from them so that The Man With the Metal Face, Ultimate, can use them to destroy the "blue" that is threatening to destroy everything. Each superhero gives up their power for the sake of the entire world, never to be able to use those powers again and Ultimate is completely incinerated in the process.We slowly come to find out that Ultimate's sidekick, PenUltimate, actually never showed to the gathering to save the world and thus has kept his powers and simultaneously the ire of all his former friends who think he is a coward.So, instead of being regular people who never had powers to begin with, these superheroes are going through some really hard times coming down down from the high and having to be normal people again, if they ever were. As you can imagine, not everyone deals with it well and some, one in particular, actually need saving over and over again.In this superhero world, the superheroes we know about also exist in the form of comics, so the story ends up working as a post-modern/meta look at how we view superheroes and then how they view themselves. Some can no longer deal with the fact that they're useless, some continue to look for fights, and others have given up completely.The commentary it makes really only works in novel form as well. It's looking at what comics do and how they effect people and what superheroes are to people. At first I wondered why the entire story wasn't in comic form, but as it progresses, it starts to make sense especially with one of the main reveals that's hard to hold back right now, but terribly clever as I mentioned earlier. One thing I have to mention that bugged me was in the writing itself. There were a lot of odd contractions such as, "There're shots in the air," throughout the novel. The worst part is, I've been known to write like this, but suffice it to say, I will stop because it gets annoying and it's not smooth reading.In the end, it's not The Watchmen at all, but a clever story that makes you think. The themes in A Once Crowded Sky are a bit lighter, but no less interesting, especially to a comic fan. I would love to read a comic with all these superheroes in it and maybe that will happen one day because I think King did a great job thinking these ones up from powers to personality they're excellently crafted.4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)

  • Sharon
    2019-05-03 02:01

    I really wanted to like this. I just didn't. A good editor may have had a chance to save this. Verbose doesn't even begin to describe how overly-wordy this book is. Drags, drags, drags. A main character is shot and dodges the bullet, which takes FOUR PAGES. Four pages to explain the emotional backstory to dodging a bullet? Backstory is rehashed so much, so much, over and over again, treading the same territory, retold, explained again and... oh wait, where was I? Oh yes: backstory is rehashed so much that the main story barely moves along. For a comic book novel, I wanted more action, more punch. So much emotional weight was going on, even the fight scenes couldn't pick up the pace. For all that, it's pretty hard to follow what's going on (either that or I kept falling asleep over it.)Great concept, should've been 100 pages shorter (out of 322, that's saying something.) I kept finding other things to read to take my mind of this. There are some b&w panels throughout; The artwork is very good.

  • Tasha Robinson
    2019-04-24 22:08

    Interesting superhero plot involving a cataclysmic event that took all the superheroes and villains out of a comic-book world, but the execution is maddeningly oblique and repetitive. The author attempts to preserve an air of mystery throughout the first half of the book by deliberately obfuscating identities and events, omitting names and specifics, which is more often confusing than exciting. And the characters are mostly caught in traumatized states where their mental monologues just repeat the same catchphrases or thoughts or desires over and over and over, as if the goal is just to fill pages. The self-aware excursions into metatext and superhero deconstruction don't much help. I stuck with this to the end hoping the pieces would eventually fall together and the mysteries would be explained — which they were — but it was a frustrating slog getting there.

  • Timothy Ward
    2019-04-20 17:49

    Full review at SF Signal.REVIEW SUMMARY: Comic book in prose sends us inside the heads of heroes and villains fighting for the world and those they love.BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A mysterious threat to Arcadia forces the last superhero to choose between being a husband and saving the world.PROS: Superhero adventure with heart, mystery, and immersive action that makes reading about these characters a moving experience.CONS: The prose may take too many liberties in what the reader understands to be happening, and the mystery of The Blue may be too slow of a burn to hold some readers' attention.BOTTOM LINE: May require more concentration and patience than some readers will give, but if they do, they’ll be rewarded with a philosophical gem on heroes, sacrifice, and the meaning of life in a corrupt world.

  • Lauren
    2019-04-20 17:44

    Amazing concept. Fantastic concept. Let me think of a few more adjectives to describe how much I like the idea and plot of this book before I discuss the execution of said concept and plot … Stunning, that’s a good one. Enthralling would also work. But man, this book needed someone to save it from its own adolescent self-indulgence (let me pause here to say none of what I say is intended to sleight Mr. King, who strikes me as an intelligent, thoughtful man). Or, as another review put it (albeit more crassly): “Unfortunately, this book crawls straight up it's own ***hole about halfway through and never really recovers.” This is a high-concept book that hinted at elevating the superhero genre to highbrow, literary heights but is instead trapped in the mind of a preteen boy who still views woman as cardboard cutouts and confuses long-winded, rambling expositions with intelligent commentary. But man, the use of superheroes to comment on the modern War on Terror? Genius. And some of the twists … truly great stuff. I just wish the actual book lived up to the idea. Not recommended.

  • Noel
    2019-05-09 18:39

    I am going to start by saying that I really wanted to like this book more than I did. The author knows the genre of comic book based superheroes really well, and clearly loves it. And I am glad I read it. I'll start with what I liked.The book was structured and presented wonderfully for comic hero prose. Each chapter is broken into segments, and each segment comes from a perspective of one of the characters. Each segment is identified by a title & number of a comic book that would correspond to the character of the segment, including annuals and one-shots. It was nicely done and a great feature of the narrative. In addition some elements of the book were done in comic panels, and others had hand written pages that represents a 'script' describing comic panels. As well as fitting a purpose within the story, it was interesting and effective for those familiar with reading comics.Now for what I didn't like.First, the author's deep familiarity with the genre tied the narrative up. The entire story of the book is buried in comic tropes, at a level where the characters identify and reference the tropes directly. So rather than a story bringing super heroes into the real world... it just makes comic heroes real. And I found it jarring. I believe I could have taken it in small doses, but it was the central plot element and referenced continually.Second, was that while the story is told from differing character's perspective, the narrative tone of the story never changes. It came off as a single narrator's tone for each character. There were snatches of clear identity and perspective that stood out, particularly late, but the general tone and voice didn't vary as each segment did, which left the characters with less depth.Third, there is a key plot element ((I'll try to limit the spoiler reference here)) based on eyesight and shooting ability of a hero who is now old and without abilities. It is setup repeatedly about his in ability to hit a target and being old frequently. Then in the late middle of the book suddenly he hits accurately without comment more than once. Then in the climax, his inability to hit a target is again incredibly important. It just didn't hang together well enough. As inconsistent as it's source material, I guess. But that really bugs me about comics and ultimately one of the reasons why I stopped reading series.Anyway, in short, it is a fun read and worth it. But I was hoping for more.

  • Anton
    2019-05-19 00:41

    “A Once Crowded Sky” is a comic book in novel form. Like many comic stories, it centers around a huge crisis event that brings all of the worlds superheroes together to fight a great evil. But this time, winning the battle means losing their greatest champion — and all of their powers.The story beings six months after all of the heroes of Arcadia gave their powers to Ultimate, the superhero robot that inspired them all, so that he could fly off to defeat the threat known as The Blue (and die in the process). The heroes left behind are adjusting to normal lives. All except PenUltimate, former sidekick who quit the game and didn’t show up when the rest of the heroes did. Now Pen is the last super powered being in the world, and when The Blue returns it’s up to him (and a few former heroes) to stop it.“A Once Crowded Sky” reads like “Watchmen” written by Jack Kirby. It’s another postmodern look at the four colour world of superheroes, but instead of critiquing the genre it celebrates it. While Alan Moore’s view was that only damaged and borderline psychotic people would choose to dress up and fight crime, Tom King’s heroes do it with a Silver Age enthusiasm (in fact, they call themselves “players” and refer to the business of being a superhero as “the game”). They understand and accept the cyclical nature of their never ending battle, which makes it that much harder to live in a world where there are no more superheroes and criminal masterminds.I enjoyed the story, but thought the book dragged a bit in the middle (which ironically was the most action packed part). Where King really excels is telling the backstories of the heroes that populate his world — characters like Soldier of Freedom and Star Knight and Doctor Speed. Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of these characters, and the chapter titles have comic book names like “Ultimate, The Man With The Metal Face #572” and “Solider of Freedom Team Up Special #1”.If you’re a comic book fan, chances are you’ll enjoy this novel. Tom King has created an interesting group of heroes that owe much to the characters of the Marvel and DC Universes without reading like carbon copies, and he’s placed them in a grown up story that raises questions about what it means to be a hero. As debut novels go it’s very strong, and I’m looking forward to what he writes next.

  • Chris Bauer
    2019-04-24 22:59

    As a comic book junkie with decades of experience I jumped a the chance to read "A Once Crowded Sky" by Tom King. The author has a very unique background of working for both DC and Marvel and I was looking forward to reading some excellent "four color" writing. I was disappointed. The book is either a story about "the end of a beginning" or "the beginning of an end" depending on how you view the story as it unfolds.The ideas behind the book started out fresh and exciting. The most powerful "super" in the world is gone, and with his sacrifice so too vanish the powers of other super-powered beings. All the heroes banded together to prevent a cataclysm and the price of saving the world was their power. All save one; PenUltimate, the sidekick of the sacrificial Ultimate. The story focuses on these "once-were-Gods" and how they cope (or don't) in the world of Normals. Pen is the only hero left with any powers but is somewhat shunned by the others as he did not participate in the heroic sacrifice.The characters were at times interesting but only in a flashy 2D style, which may be appropriate for comic-based narrative, but I was expecting a lot more. The narrative became bogged down quickly in highly uninteresting details which did little to move the story forward. None of the characters generated much in the way of sympathy / empathy and many times behaved like spoiled children. Backstory was rehashed over and over again. The primary plot seemed to beg, borrow and steal from a variety of sources - which is hardly surprising given the plot and focus of the work.I guess I wanted more action, resolution and tension rather than read about former Supers getting drunk and wallowing in self pity. The inclusion of b&w illustrated panels was very cool and the interactions between the characters were largely interesting as well, but just fell short of being riveting. The story moved forward but sort of slinked along at an awkward pace.I have a lot of respect for the author in terms of his attempt of scope. Its a very grandiose idea with significant challenges to it and I'd love to read more of the genre, but this effort falls just a bit short.

  • Beth
    2019-05-19 20:06

    All the super heroes, except 1, have given up their powers to Ultimate to fight the Blue. Some energy force cause the villains to kill themselves so now the use to be heroes must adjust to life without villains and powers. While they are still adjusting to their new roles, The Blue shows up on earth. The powerless heroes must rally together, including the reluctant side lick, Pen Ultimate. Pen Ultimate was Ultimate's side kick and the only one that chose to keep his powers. A choice that was ridiculed by the rest of the hero pantheon.This story is extremely descriptive and vividly expressed. Tom King colorfully draws an intriguing comic book world come to life in A Once Crowded Sky. I did find the story quite predictable with the characters “sides” clearly defined...taking away the suspense. A Once Crowded Sky is an intriguing, interesting and original comic style story.I received this copy of A Once Crowded Sky from Touchstone - Simon & Schuster, Inc. in exchange for a honest review. Written by: Tom KingHardcover: 336 pagesPublisher: Touchstone Publication Date: July 10, 2012ISBN-10: 1451652003Rating: 3Genre: Comic Fiction ContemporaryTo Find out More: A Once Crowded Sky WebpageFind this book on:Amazon | Barnes & NobleFor more reviews check out Tome Tender's Book Blog or find us on Facebook.

  • Amanda Thompson
    2019-05-11 18:41

    The idea of this story sounds absolutely amazing. It's a superhero world in which all but one hero had to sacrifice their superpowers in order to save the world, and it follows the aftermath of these immortals suddenly dealing with their own mortality. I wanted to love this book so, so much. Unfortunately, only ten pages in, the f-word had already been used close to twenty times in a single conversation. Yeah, I'm not putting up with that.For those who don't mind the swearing, the storytelling 10 pages in is an interesting mix of comic book scenes and literary fiction, the writing seems decent, and the story compelling. But for me, I don't put up with that much swearing.

  • Timothy Boyd
    2019-05-20 18:04

    I could not get into this book at all. I know any superhero story is in some way going to be a reflection of the big name heroes and their history but the characters in this book just seem to be cardboard cutouts of already established superheros. The writing never seemed to reach out and grab me and pull me into the story like a good book should. While not one of the worst books I have ever read (see my reviews for Catcher in the Rye, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Fahrenheit 451 for those) it is not a book for me. I am going with not recommended.

  • Rick (from Another Book Blog)
    2019-05-01 19:03

    One of these days I'm going to stumble across a superhero novel I actually like. I'm not sure what it is about the genre that makes the transition from "graphic" to "novel" so difficult, but my patience is starting to wear a little thin. I guess I'll just have to grit my teeth and put my hopes into Seven Wonders. A Once Crowded Sky is set in Arcadia, a city teeming with former superheroes who gave up their powers in order to prevent the end of the world from The Blue—a nebulous force that required the heroes to give their vast abilities to Ultimate (The Man with the Metal Face), who collected them in a belt and flew into The Blue (to his death) to seal off the problem and save humanity.Every hero made this sacrifice, all except PenUltimate, who had opted out of "the game" in order to pursue an ordinary life as an average citizen and newlywed. But now, six months after the defeat of the The Blue, mysterious attacks have begun to rain down on Arcadia, and Pen is the only one capable of stopping them. Former colleagues and heroes beg him to help, but his wife Anna yearns for the life that she was promised.As the attacks intensify, Pen knows he can't stand idly by; but he soon begins to question who the real enemy is, and if he can trust those closest to him. When Anna's life is put in danger, though, Pen must make the ultimate decision whether to save his reputation or keep his promise.On the face of it, A Once Crowded Sky sounds awesome. It has all the fun of a summer blockbuster, but with the literary weight and complexity that's lacking in the majority of graphic novels. As a story, A Once Crowded Sky should soar ... instead, it loses its powers early and plummets to its death.A Once Crowded Sky is steeped in many superhero tropes and, I think ultimately to its detriment, gets as much mileage from relying on these shorthands as it does subverting them. If you're not at least superficially versed in comic books, your enjoyment of this book is probably going to suffer.The novel is the work of first-time author Tom King, a former CIA operations officer who also interned at both Marvel and DC. While his background certainly gets put to good work here, King simply isn't a good enough author (yet) to pull off a novel of this scope. This is a shining example of how the best ideas can be total shit with poor execution.The issue, which rears its head in two different ways, is repetition.Firstly, our heroes navel-gaze over the same issues page after page after page after page after page. The novel's middle-third could have been trimmed from 100 pages to about 10 without losing anything from the story. The result is that A Once Crowded Sky becomes monotonous extremely early (after a very promising beginning), making the entire experience a slog, to say the least.Secondly, King literally repeats the same words and phrases over and over again, ad nauseam, for 323 pages. Here's a painful example: "Pen can't move. He's too hurt to move. He's not enough of a hero to move. And his wife's whimpers finally stop. And Pen listens to the quiet, and he can't move, and he knows he has nothing but wires, wires, just wires and wires and wires, all wires, yards and yards, miles and miles, years and years of wires." (pg. 177)It's so ridiculous it almost makes me dizzy.As far as characters go, some (like Soldier of Freedom and Strength) are well-drawn and feel both recognizable and somewhat fresh, even as they draw on well-known comic counterparts. Others, though, are less clearly established, and confusion is often the name of the game as you try to make sense of what's happening to who and when. King tries to draw too much too quickly and is less successful.My instinct is to not recommend this book to anyone, even comic book fans. However, there are plenty of positive reviews from the comic book community that spit in the face of my assessment. My advice, then, is this: proceed with caution, and don't say I didn't tell you so.

  • Eric Mesa
    2019-05-16 21:52

    If you love or have ever loved reading comics, you need to read this book. It is essentially a love letter to comic book fans. This is a world in which the characters are slightly self-aware. They don't really know they're in a story, but it does still have some of the same vibes of Redshirts. The characters know that they always come back after death (view spoiler)[(a tragic fact considering how the book progresses (hide spoiler)] and they know they monologue and then save the world. But they don't necessarily know they're in a book or comic.I love that this book is essentially the written version of a trade paperback. Each chapter is broken into sections with titles like Ultimate Man #454. And you can see how if this were drawn it would be a trade of something like a Marvel summer event. While many of the characters seem to have analogues to our world - like a Captain America, Superman, Batman, and Superboy - they don't feel like derivatives or parodies. They seem like fully fleshed characters. It just makes sense that there would always be a Captain America-like hero. Even Watchmen has a demented version in The Comedian.The main premise of the book is to explore what it means to be a hero and why we want such unrealistic heroism (to an almost black and white level) in our comics. (view spoiler)[ PenUltimate is considered a coward for not showing up when all the super heroes gave up their powers. And, in fact, had he done it, the narrative would have been complete and everyone would have been reborn. (hide spoiler)]The book also reminds me of Bill Murray's line in Groundhog's Day when he claims that maybe God only knows everything because he's seen it before. (view spoiler)[In the biggest plot point I didn't see coming - the source of Prophetier's power (and the reason he still has it) being that he somewhat created the world of super heroes was quite an amazing plot point. But not as crazy a plot twist as the fact that he set things in motion by giving Ultimate the Superman comic (hide spoiler)]I've literally read hundreds of books in my lifetime and so I consider it a mark of a very good writer when he keeps me surprised and on my toes. Tom King did that many times over and it didn't seem cheap like M Night Shamalyn. There was only one plot twist I saw a mile away - (view spoiler)[ that the evil Ultimate heart from the cat was in ultimate when he came back. It's the ultimate Chekov's gun because otherwise why would King keep returning to a stupid cat (hide spoiler)] The only parts that felt a bit contrived were when characters ignored other characters who clearly wanted to give them info and then that person dies or something happens. I know it's a key part of story-telling so that stories aren't just a few pages long - but I've never liked it even when my original author heroes like Michael Crichton used it. The front cover makes a comparison to Alan Moore's Watchmen. The biggest one I see is in the ending. In Watchmen both Ozymandius and Dr Manhattan were willing to kill to allow the greater purpose to win. But it's all undone by Rorshach's journal. (view spoiler)[Soldier is willing to kill a good kid to keep the narrative from repeating, but it's heavily implied that it was for naught. Not only does Anna have Ultimate's heart and is pregnant, but PenUltimate started his own comic at #1 after spending the whole book in Ultimate's comic. Anna also starts at #1. And the final panel implies that her daughter has super powers. Also Prophetier's shortsightedness somewhat mirrors Rorshach's although the comparison is pretty thin (hide spoiler)]I can't reiterate enough how much you should read this book if you love comics. And, just like the comics, it invites rereading once you know the plot twists because there were little details that you could have picked up along the way.

  • Ryan Thomason
    2019-04-27 00:04

    Let me tell you why you shouldn’t let this crowd your bookshelf.Ok, maybe that was a bit harsh, how bout, if you find this book in the discount bin and you like superheroes you can determine what to do with the book yourself after you buy it.I accepted a review copy based on the premise of this book by Tom King, A world where superheroes had lost all of their powers to save the world from a blue energy destroying foce and the villains all committed suicide. There is one person left with powers, PenUltimate, the former sidekick of Ultimate The Man with the Metal Face, who was the greatest hero of them all. Why does PenUltimate still have powers? He had retired from “The Game” and didn’t show up with everyone else when they gave up their powers. Ultimate had absorbed all the powers in a belt and then stopped the Blue Energy from destroying the world. Everyone gave up their powers but PenUltimate. So naturally, they all think PenUltimate is a coward for staying at home with his wife instead of showing up and sacrificing like they did. Things start to go wrong something is unleashing horrible attacks around the planet and PenUltimate finds himself being forced from retirement, forced to be a Hero again.Now, that sounds pretty bad ass right? So where did I fall? I can’t put a finger on it to be honest. There was just something about when I finished, I had a feeling of “Thank Crom I finished this, after a month of reading.” I’m not a slow reader, it’s just that my time to read books is very, very limited between Family, Work and the usual WPR musings. I never got absorbed into all night readings with this book. I’m not going to say I hated the book, I didn’t, it was entertaining on a base level, but nothing about it blew me away enough to rave about it and demand you purchase it.I felt Underwhelmed.The heroes, and their lack of powers doesn’t really diminish from the book, it’s an interesting take into a world where all of these people were super heroes, and now, they have to get real jobs, move on with their lives, feel pain. Some die trying to still “save the day” some go to counseling, it’s very interesting but I never felt sucked in.If you see this book and are expecting a comic book/graphic novel kind of immersion in a novel form, you might be disappointed, there is something about the Graphic, the art in comics that make superheroes fun. If you’re looking for a new take on the medium you should check this out, but I wouldn’t pay full price just yet.

  • Tobin Elliott
    2019-04-22 23:59

    Yet another great premise killed by lousy writing. Couldn't finish this, which pisses me off, because it was a great idea, and with some cool graphic panels thrown in, just like a comic book, it looked like it was a well-thought out package.Then I started to read it.In the 56 pages I read, it felt like King randomly forgot sentences or paragraphs. There was a whole lotta missing context at times. I'm sure he thought this was edgy, or mysterious, but it was simply annoying.However, the final nails in the coffin arrived with two lines of narrative that showed up within pages of each other, and, on the last one, I literally closed the book and said, "Nope. I'm out."The first was, Felix hasn't touched a drop of alcohol since his last drink.Not the stupidest line I've read in a book... that would be a toss-up between Tom Clancy's The sun rose promptly at dawn, and Lee Child's It was as distinctive as the most distinctive thing you could think of.Seriously. He hadn't touched a drop of alcohol since his last drink of alcohol? Seriously? Like, I haven't gone swimming since the last time I went swimming? Isn't that what "last time" means? Lazy ass writing.Then, a couple of pages later, we get, The cry cries again. Jesus. Let's ignore using the same word twice in a row, but how in the holy hell does a cry cry? Can a singing sing again? Can a scream scream? No. The person making the sound can make it again, but a verb can't verb again.So, I'm out. I have no idea what the next 300 pages held, but with writing like this, I really don't give a shit anymore.

  • Bri
    2019-05-21 22:58

    When I first spotted this book during check-in at the library I was really excited to check it out. The concept sounded fascinating to me. Unfortunately, once I started reading, I just couldn't get into it. I gave up without even making it in to my usual 100-page cut off.I like the format, but the content just felt lacking to me. I felt like the reader was supposed to just KNOW who these characters were. There wasn't enough offered to me to endear the characters to me quickly, probably something compounded by the fact so many characters were introduced so quickly. I only actually read about 60 pages, but I feel like I read much more just because I spent so much time flipping back and forth trying to remember who everyone was. The list of heroes at the front of the book probably should have included brief bios instead of just the names.I get that the book is trying to emulate a comic book style (what with the section titles like "The Soldier of Freedom #518). But I feel like King fails to pull readers into the middle of a storyline the way comic books can often manage. King failed to engage me with the characters and almost made me think I should feel bad for not already knowing their histories.The book was a disappointment to me. I was absolutely IN LOVE with the concept but, in my opinion, King fails in the execution.

  • Shanshad Whelan
    2019-05-18 23:56

    I've read a lot of superhero novels. Some have hit the mark--understanding what superhero comics are and how to evoke that in a narrative plot. Some are a bit far off base and never quite capture that vantage point that "gets" superheroes. There's no doubt this author gets the genre--King recognizes the tropes and cycles and feeling of the comics without hesitation.What I will say is this--if you're looking for a comic book story told in novel form, this won't be it. The author's take on this is a bit more internal monologues, analyzing the shape and sense of comics through a world of superheroes who have given up their powers to save the world. It's not always easy to follow and if you don't have an interest in a bit of bellybutton gazing, you probably will find this irritating. If the question "what's it really all about?" sets your teeth on edge then back away slowly from this book.I liked the story. It's more of a straight drama than some of the superhero stuff. Soon I Will Be Invincible went more for some of the camp. But this kept me interested in reading until the end and I liked the variation of format and how the story was told. The ending wasn't quite as strong as the beginning for me, but overall I was well pleased. This book won't be for everyone, but I think it hit the mark for what it intended to be.

  • Shelleyb
    2019-05-09 20:42

    PULL THE TRIGGER!!! I am in love with this book! I am a manager for chapters and when this book came in put it on my reading list right away! Being a huge (secret) Fangirl, And avid reader (did you see where I work!) I was very excited to finally get to read "A once crowded sky" ( I had 5 other books ahead on my list, cuz ya gotta keep a list!)I am not even half done but I can't stop talking about it! Truly hope Tom King writes MORE!!! (and what the heck, He was CIA and worked at Marvel comics? AMAZING!)I can't wait to finish it!The "Blue" is about to destroy the world , The supers answer the call to action. Their powers are no more. Pull the trigger, The Vilians are gone..dead...gone. Pull the Trigger. how does life continue? What is left for a hero with no powers, no purpose? PULL THE TRIGGER! (Pull the Trigger, pg 19 The soldier of Freedom #518 )My favorite Chapter so far! This is a great read for people who like dark stories, super heroes and graphic novels.But that's just me!

  • Kevin Smythe
    2019-04-21 02:03

    I was expecting a book about a world where superheroes lost their powers. What I got was much, much more. An ambitious book, King proves that superheroes can be used to tell any story. Much of this book deals with themes of mortality, family, sacrifice, and the relationship between humans and gods. At times I felt like King was writing a critique of comics; at other times, a love letter. I suspect this was meant as a bit of both. The style of the book is very non-conventional (which I loved, as a sucker for unique ways of telling stories). The chapters are split into segments that are headed with comic book titles and issues numbers and, in many ways, the prose reads like a comic script: Very descriptive and clear narration and dialog. There are other ways King writes in this book, but to discuss them would be to get into spoiler territory. This is a heavy book that asks for you to be part of a conversation with it. If you're prepared for that, pick it up!

  • Andrew
    2019-04-24 22:03

    3.5/5So I do just have to say initially that I love Tom King. I loved the first issues of Vision and Sheriff of Babylon and Grayson and The Omega Men (unfortunately I still have to read the rest of what's come so far, as I've been waiting for trades to continue the series), and the current Batman series he's been putting out has been great. I'm a huge fan and I'll probably buy any comic he does.As such, I picked this up expecting to love it. And for the last third-ish, I kinda did. Unfortunately, though, for about the first two thirds it just never really grabbed me and it was hard to get into for a long time, as I wasn't the biggest fan of the writing style. Maybe when I go back and re-read it I'll like it better as I'll be used to it (and I'll know that I'll really enjoy parts of it), but as of right now it was just a good read--but unfortunately not a great one as his comics have been.

  • Matt King
    2019-05-15 17:44

    It's difficult for me to get into any superhero story where the main character isn't really interested in being a hero, so this book kind of started behind the 8-ball. The writing kept me going, though, and there are some really brilliant passages in here. I think next time I'd like to see a little less deconstruction of the genre and more application of what makes it so great. Still, this was well worth the read.

  • Faye Bierbower
    2019-05-18 22:03

    I received the book as a Goodreads first read. This reads like a comic book (or series of comics) in the form of a novel. Love the classic/epic illustrations inside. I enjoyed the read, but it's been a while since I've read comic books; therefore it threw me for a loop between the jumping about and the plot/characters flip-flopping wildly. I'd like to read this one again soon, to better evaluate it.

  • David V.
    2019-05-14 00:04

    Received as an ARC from the publisher. I don't even know what to say about this book. Maybe I just didn't "get it." Fictional superheroes and villains all know each other. They give their powers to one of them so he can save the world, dying in the process. The remaining ones aren't happy with their ordinary lives. I'd love to sit down with the author to discuss the book.

  • Daniel
    2019-05-03 22:01

    From beginning to end great book.

  • Tony Laplume
    2019-05-18 23:41

    Well, this is the work that started Tom King's career. It was a good start. It did a good job of setting things up. Hell yeah!Okay. So, A Once Crowded Sky might be said to have many parents. Obviously, Watchmen is one of them. Kingdom Come, Grant Morrison's Animal Man, Infinite Crisis, Brightest Day. Even Heroes, the TV series. Even Unbreakable, the movie. And probably other stuff. But put them all together, and you're still missing Tom King. Maybe it's more obvious, now that he's written his fair share of comics, too, but that distinctive voice, the one that delights and maddens so many readers of Batman these days, that's in this book. That voice, that style, that many readers first discovered within the pages of The Vision, which was the first time he brought what he brought to this book to his comics. It's also a postmodern work of commentary on the nature of superhero comics. In some ways, it's a sequel, an answer to Watchmen. Some readers of Alan Moore's seminal comic understand that it ends with the promise of its ending starting something else. King begins his story in the aftermath of such a climactic event. But then it builds into another climax, where like Unbreakable secrets are exposed, villains are revealed.I'm not going to say it's perfect. There are perfect sections. There are sections that are not so perfect. One has the feeling that if King wrote it now, it would be perfect, through and through, now that he's had a lot of writing experience, written a few classic comics (Vision, Omega Men, several volumes of Batman, Sheriff of Babylon). Do you really need to be devoted to King to enjoy this book? No. Of course not. But I think you need to appreciate comic books, to know their tropes. Outsiders will nod and think they get it. Likely, they gloss over elements. Heck, even I gloss over some elements, King's blurry concept of The Blue, for instance, the void at the heart of the narrative. If you understand comics, you can gloss over that sort of thing. But if you're glossing over too much, and are just accepting that this is clearly another of those superhero stories that take a step or two beyond the average, then you're missing a large part of the message, that the whole point is really that superheroes shouldn't be dismissed as just another storytelling gimmick, that by the time Anna is revealed to have that fancy new heart, that she doesn't choose, as some other writer might have chosen, to take up her late husband's place, finish the job, that this human drama, that rests at the heart of the best material in the book, the best material King has written since, this metaphor about battles we fight with ourselves and the world around us, they're real, and they're what gives life meaning.So there's that. I think that's pretty valuable.

  • Nicholas Karpuk
    2019-04-20 18:09

    As a novelist, Tom King is a pretty good comic book writer.I'm going to hazard a guess that a lot of people who bought this book probably got steered towards Tom King either by his excellent Vision miniseries or his current work on Batman and Mister Miracle. For those who haven't bought this book, I would suggest you stop reading this and immediately go pick up Sheriff of Babylon if you're craving another Tom King fix.This is a damn comic book script. It's effectively Tom King's attempt at writing The Watchmen. It's a meta-rich discussion of super heroes in a world where they've a lost their powers. It's not an attempt to make them more grounded and realistic. And only in a limited way is it attempting to deconstruct them. It's a discussion of what happens when all but one of them lose their ability to do what defined them. It shouldn't have surprised me, but King has a stellar ability to make the reader understand complex physical motions. He makes choreography more tolerable than almost any author I read. But that still doesn't make me okay with it, because action and sex choreography are a blight on the world of novels. At times I read passages of this book and thought about how well it set up a two page spread for a comic book. Hell, chunks of some chapters are literally presented as comic book script.But this is a novel, and I feel like if you're not willing to exploit what's powerful about a particular medium and avoid what its weak about it, you should move that story over to a space more accommodating. The problem is, this premise is a lot more well-worn in the comic book realm than in novels. Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Mark Waid, Gail Simone, and many, many others have presented stories like this. And I think King noticed this, because most of his actual super hero work is a lot more ambitious. Is this an unfair take on a book that actually features some often beautiful prose? Oh my yes. I read this book after devouring his run on The Vision, Batman, Mister Miracle, and Sheriff of Babylon, so I'm knee-deep in work that probably reflects lessons learned from writing this book. But it's hard not to think about it.Tom King is brilliant at visual storytelling. Which is why he should probably stick to visual mediums.

  • Josh
    2019-05-20 00:56

    Tom King's debut novel is a difficult exercise. While portrayed as a novel about superheroes for the comic book set, I don't think it's any such thing in reality. Instead, it's actually a deeply cynical, angry tale that has much more in common with a horror novel than anything else. Don't read it if you love comics, because the author seems much more interested in destroying any myths about heroism, ripping apart any positivity or hope that someone might find from those stories, and demanding that the reader fall into a world that's filled with greys at best and comic book heroics are for suckers. King has constructed a world that's awful for its heroes, who all gave up their powers in an effort to save the world, except for one, who was branded a coward for quitting the whole gig instead of going along with the whole crowd. And stripped of their powers, they all flail around without any real direction, a crew that King treats like a bunch of drug addicts along with the contempt that many people show for the same.Even nastier, he's decided to build the crux of his story around the concept that superpowers are really for suckers and that life with them in it is a fraud and those who want them are failures. Which is especially unpleasant since he makes all of the former heroes such desperate flawed people and seems entirely uninterested in exploring what they were like when they had powers as well: were they always deeply flawed people who just ended up with powers to cover their failings or was it really the loss of identity that crushed some of them and forced them into being something else? frankly, that's a more interesting question and doesn't force the reader to agree with King's thesis that superpowers are bad for the world.It's written well enough, I suppose, but it's hardly enjoyable. Two stars for craft, but it some ways it's a book that makes me want to stop reading anything it's so utterly cynical and unhappy, which makes me want to give it a fucking zero.

  • Brendan
    2019-05-14 00:00

    I really wanted to like this book. I'm a fan of Tom King's writing in comic books and thought his literary style would translate to a novel. The Vision is overwhelmingly literary and one of my favorite superhero comics ever. But his style did not transfer well at all. After reading this I have a theory that he's best suited to comics because it forces him to use a minimal amount of words for the greatest effect and the art forces the plot to move forward whether the characters want to go or not. Mr. King was not able to kill his babies and the novel got lousy with pointless paragraphs, repetitive conversations and meandering walks around the world. Ultimately the book really needed an editorThe language in the book is disappointing. A lot of the names of the superheroes feel slapshod, and his dialogue and terminology feels forced. For example: In the novel the superheroes refer to the superhero thing as "the game" and the supers are "gamers." Every time one of the characters said it I cringed. It doesn't feel like something any of the characters would come up with, it feels like something an author came up with and wanted the characters to use. The book has some good ideas, but I don't think they ever got ironed out into a real story. And I guess it's because the book is really long considering the plot and the small cast of central characters. But that's even more galling because there are entire chapters whose sole purpose seems to be to rehash the last two chapters, and then chapters after that rehash the rehashing, and so on. And beyond that there were entire chapters that didn't seem to substantively contribute to character development, world-building, or the plot. I feel shitty writing this review, since I really do like the guy's work. But I read some of the negative reviews and thought it was still worth checking out. I got 90% through the book but couldn't force myself to read another page. I could not care less about the world, the characters or the plot.

  • Terryann
    2019-05-07 01:54

    "The day he met Anna she was a gray blur set against a placid-blue background. Ultimate was wrestling Hawkhead in the clouds above Arcadia, and the two men slammed into the side of a large office building. A woman tumbled out. Ultimate threw a fist and focused on the fight because he knew she'd be fine. Someone else was looking out for her. Pen[Ultimate] unhooked his windboard and glided through the sky, sweeping Anna up in his arms, instantly falling in love, kissing her passionately, longingly."Or at least that's the story they'd agreed to tell the kids, because saying they'd met in a bar, hooking up after too many tequila shots, didn't have the same ring."Yes, I suppose that is kind of funny but it's about the only funny. King refers to the book as a "tragicomic-book novel" and believe me, the tragic predominates. Imagine seeing your parents murdered by the man who will become your mentor. The man with the steel face. The Ultimate. Your childhood is sacrificed to the training necessary for a superhero. Your adolescence and young adulthood are spent fighting villeins, always fighting, always killing, because you have to be some altruistic force for good. You don't love it, you don't even enjoy it, you just do it. And then you find Anna and everything changes. You love each other with a passion that comes from denial. And then you lose that... Is it that it always comes back or is that you can never go back?I haven't read anything this dark since Triangles by Ellen Hopkins and I don't know whether to recommend it to you or not. I don't think you would like it but it really has a lot to say. We read things like Macbeth and say "Ho hum" because they don't really relate, and you would think that a comic-book novel of superheros and villeins couldn't possibly relate but somehow it does... I guess the quotes from Dante Alighieri's Paridiso should have given it away, but I can be pretty obtuse at times.

  • Eric Mellor
    2019-04-21 23:08

    I wanted to like this book, I kept telling myself how much I love this book. The prose was so advanced that I could barely concentrate on it, and the plot wound so much that I could barely follow. It wasn't until I found myself a month after I started it, only halfway done, and overly anxious every time I picked up the book that I admitted the truth. It's just not that great. I came to Tom King from his fantastic run on "The Vision" for Marvel and his even better "Batman" for DC, and this, I believe, is why I was unable to come to terms with the truth. I willed myself to love this, ergo I must love it. It wasn't that his prose was too good that I couldn't focus, it's that everything he said was reiterated for essentially the whole chapter. It's not that the plot was too advanced for me, it's that I couldn't tell what was going on. I really don't think that's my inability to read. I think that's his plotting and prose. Maybe I'm wrong. What the book does right, as everyone has said, is in its concept. The cover quote compares it to Alan Moore's "The Watchmen". That's definitely a stretch. It's interesting trying to parse out the things he wanted to do, but it's also sad realizing how far he actually was from realizing them. 3/4ths of the way through the book I found myself returning to the character page at the front to figure out characters. That just took me out of the book. Yet, look at me. I'm giving this thing 3 stars. No matter how much I come to terms with my expectations I still can't fully admit the truth. I'm glad I read it, but I wouldn't recommend to anyone else. Honestly, though, having read this and his subsequent works, if I saw another Tom King novel at my local bookstore, I'd give it a chance. I know he can do it, I just also know he fell short with this one. Sorry Tom, I really do love your comic work.