SJ Hermann’s Morium, available at Amazon, features school kids who are emotionally overwhelmed with life.
It would not be too glib to suggest that the concepts behind EMO behavior are probably more broadly embraced than by those who identify overtly with the culture, and they are rife in this novel.
One might ask why that is. What with pallid handsome Edward Cullen, and the grip of vampiric subculture on the zeitgeist in the last ten years, teen angst has its outlets in pop culture in ways that are darker than, say, 90s grunge. Sure, there were always Goths. But black, today, is the new tie dye.
Introspection is a little more profound in the teenager – and solitude brings negative thoughts. This is all made explicit in this impressive debut.
Hermann’s Morium – the first book of a series – tackles the issue of bullying through the prism of science fiction and the supernatural. The novel features broody moody (although decent) teens, bullied in high school, who find themselves endowed with supernatural powers that they struggle to control.
Lexi is a self-harming girl whose single-parent father struggles to find a job. Like Lexi, her friend Nathan is undermined at school by bullies. A third character – whose sexuality was questioned by even parents when she arrived in the area – rounds out the triumvirate.
Small-mindedness is shown to be not exclusively prevalent among teens. And as the story progresses, we find out that the superpowers discovered by our heroes can become messy.
The metaphysical problem of other minds is addressed too, and issues concerning what constitutes a soul, although not explicit, are woven into the plot.
Nathan and Lexi – the victims of school bullying – level-up. Their high school adversaries are supplanted by villains such as bank thieves, rapists and muggers. Both supernatural and science fiction elements feature– and it is clear here that superpowers often corrupt. It would be fair to suggest that although the characters are identifiable, there is no clearly defined good vs evil – and so too in life. The roundedness of the story – and the dysfunction of the central characters – means that good people can turn bad.
The old billboard posters for the original Superman (1978) advised that the movie was worth watching because you’d believe a man can fly. Hermann’s detail in the flight of his characters is rich enough that you’ll believe the same. And in the best way, bringing about supernatural powers brings on superhero themes. Think Spiderman's Uncle Ben on power and responsibility. Think the best of the Marvel Universe. And continuing the theme of movies that are like this book, in terms of character development and dynamics - splintered families, extraterrestrial stuff - it has touches of a great Zemeckis or Spielberg movie too.
There’s a dash of clever feigning on occasion – readers may be unsure sometimes who they’re following through the story for a page or two. But these sleights of hand have neat rewards.
Explaining the science bit also wraps neatly into the story. It is a tale with a moral core that impresses in this era where such details are rare.