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Likely Stories - Starter Villain

Hi, and welcome to Likely Stories. I’m Paige Connell, and I teach 9th grade English at Midway High School. Today I want to talk about one of my surprise favorite books of 2023, Starter Villain by John Scalzi.

A villain to a group of supervillains, thrust into a life of evil with spy cats, crass dolphin warriors, a ruthless henchwoman, and a HEAPING dose of snark. Sign. Me. Up.

Charlie Fitzer is your average Everyman, a divorced, down-on-his-luck substitute teacher trying to hang on to his house and keep his adorable and suspiciously intelligent cats fed. His luck begins to change when he learns of the death of his estranged billionaire uncle Jake who has left a “parking structure business” to Charlie.

At the funeral, in which no less than five people try to re-kill Jake just in case he’s faking his death, Charlie learns of his uncle’s true life: he was a villain who was at the top of a consortium of other evildoers. Jake had a lair inside an active volcano, he managed a cadre of communicating cats he used as spies (including the ones living at Charlie’s house), he oversaw foul-mouthed dolphins who want to rise up and overthrow “the man” who keeps them subservient, he kept tabs on an Indiana Jones-esque warehouse of treasure possibly stolen from Nazis, he absolutely did not fake his death to escape consequence, and now he needs someone (here’s where Charlie comes in) to stand up against the syndicate of evil.

WHEW.

After taking all this in, Charlie feels he’s quite in over his head, but he keeps up the best he can. He has to decide if this life of villainry will be for him, or if a mild-mannered life of substitute teaching and cat-feeding is more his style.

The sardonic, incredulous tone Charlie strikes at all times makes the ride even better. I have to admit I was drawn in by the cover of this book, but the content inside did not disappoint. Parts of this book were laugh out loud funny, and all of it was wild and unique. I actually listened to the audio version, which was narrated by Wil Wheaton, who is the perfect choice for Charlie’s voice. His uncertainty of this new life into which he’s stumbled and his sarcasm toward the villains surrounding him are encapsulated perfectly by the narrator.

If irreverent, speculative stories with a wry twist are your thing, you’ll want to start this one as soon as possible.

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Paige Connell has been a Wacoan since 2002 when she attended Baylor University, fell in love with the city, and never left. She works at Midway High School and has been teaching English since 2009. Paige’s passion is reading: she regularly reads 120 books or more each year and loves to share her thoughts on Goodreads and social media. Additionally, Paige co-authored the children’s book Goodnight Waco on behalf of the Junior League of Waco in 2021. When she’s not reading or listening to a book, you can find her nursing a mug of tea, analyzing Taylor Swift lyrics for figurative language elements, or spending time with her family—her husband Chance, her daughter Cara, and her Corgi mutt Remy.