Book Review: “Extraordinary” by K. M. Herkes

“Extraordinary” is the new short story from author K. M. Herkes about Valerie Wade, a single mom that learns she may be a “poz,” a superhuman with abilities beyond what most people are capable of doing. It’s set in the world of Rough Passages, Herkes’ series about a civilization that’s trying to find ways to deal with the new reality they’re faced with as humans begin to develop amazing abilities. What sets this apart from other series about super-powered people is that most people don’t develop their abilities until they hit middle-age.

The story follows Valerie during one of the most difficult times in her life, as she’s struggling to raise her two kids with only the help of her elderly mother and still dealing with her split from her abusive ex-husband. Her mother is openly hostile toward people identified as positives, and Valerie fears what she might say if her daughter was identified as one. She fears for the future of her children. Some people that develop these extraordinary abilities become too powerful too fast, and Valerie is terrified that she could be one of these burnouts.

This story hooked me in early, and I enjoyed every word of it. There’s a lot to like about it, but the best part was the characters, particularly Valerie herself. She’s a strong person. She’s dealt with a lot in her life and she keeps pushing forward. As readers, we get to know her through her narration and we learn about her fears, worries, and her internal battles. I wanted good things for this character, because after only a few pages of the story I felt sure that she was someone that deserved better than life had given her. Her emotions were expertly woven into this story, and I could hear her voice in my head as I was reading along.

I think it’s important for me to note something here, too. I’m not opposed to “unlikeable” or non-traditional protagonists, and the reason I liked reading about Valerie Wade wasn’t just because she’s portrayed as a good person–it’s because she’s a well-written, layered character. That’s the backbone of good fiction, and it’s a part of what made “Extraordinary” so much fun to read.

The other part I liked was the world that Herkes has created for Rough Passages. All throughout “Extraordinary” there are little bits of the story that reveal more of the world, and it’s a fantastic setting for this new series. There’s a lot of subtle worldbuilding here, and most of it is seamless. There’s a lot to see if you read closely, but (even better) you don’t need to read through bulky chunks of text that slow the story down. I don’t want to tell you too much about it here, because the story does a perfect job of easing the reader into it and painting a good picture of what life is like in Valerie’s world. There are so many awesome things happening in the periphery of this story, little details that made me want to know more. It’s clear that Herkes has put in a good amount of time thinking about how to present this to the reader. I’m excited to see what’s ahead for this series. Even though this story is listed as the first volume of Rough Passages, I know that Herkes has previously published other stories set in this world. Those other stories are on my list now, and I’ll be on the lookout for future installments.

I really liked reading about an average person trying to cope with these huge life events, especially in a case like this where it differs from so many other stories like it. People in the Rough Passages world are basically turning into superheroes, but this tale wasn’t action-packed and it didn’t focus on a character’s coming-of-age. This is a story about an adult, with an already crazy life, trying to cope with problems that are completely beyond her control. It’s a very human story, if you know what I mean. I think there’s something here for everyone, even people that might not normally read fantasy and science fiction.

I read this story in less than an hour, all in one sitting, but it had a big impact upon me. If you like short stories and you’re partial to great characters (who isn’t?), then I highly recommend “Extraordinary.”

You can get “Extraordinary” on Amazon for only 99 cents.

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