Over the last few years, Adam Silvera has quickly become one of my favorite writers. If he has a new book out, I will buy it, no question. That was especially true for Infinity Reaper because I loved the first book, Infinity Son, which came out last year. Infinity Son ended on a heck of a cliffhanger, and I was anxious to return to Emil and Brighton’s world to see what would happen.
What’s it about?
(Spoilers for Infinity Son)
At the end of book one, the heroes defeated Luna at great personal cost. Possessed by June, Maribelle killed Atlas. Even worse, instead of disposing of the Reaper’s Blood, Brighton gave into his megolomania and drank it. Infinity Reaper builds directly off of that ending. Maribelle vows vengeance upon June and tracks down a weapon that will allow her to kill the ghost specter. Brighton’s desire for power at any cost terrifies his friends and family, particularly Emil, and the pursuit of power doesn’t come as easily as he expected: instead of powering him up, the Reaper’s Blood is slowly poisoning him. As for Ness, he has been returned to his corrupt father, and is being used to spread lies about celestials.
What’d I think?
It took me a bit to get back into the world, to be honest, even though I did reread Infinity Son right before. I think I was expecting to dive right back into the worst of it and delve into Brighton’s megalomania. Instead, Brighton gets very ill with blood poisoning. Reflecting back after having read the whole book, this part of the book works really well. It feeds Brighton’s desire for power, connects him back to the trauma of witnessing his father’s death, and allows the characters to grapple with his pursuit of powers separately from his possession of powers. If Brighton had been all-powerful from the jump, there wouldn’t have been enough room for the slow growth of concern. Brighton would have been too powerful to question, and having his power-up parallel his emotional journey was the right call. At the time, though, I was impatient to see the Reaper’s Blood in action. I guess I was like Brighton in that way. Ultimately, slow buildups make for more satisfying payoffs, and while the first quarter or so of Infinity Reaper could have moved a bit faster, I’m not mad at it.
I rewatched some of the X-Men movies shortly after reading Infinity Reaper, and it was interesting to enjoy them in such close proximity. I know that the Infinity Cycle was inspired at least in part by the X-Men, so I found it fascinating to compare the two stories. I last watched X-Men before I was at all politically aware, so even though I knew it was political, I didn’t realize quite to the degree. X-Men is about a registration bill and Infinity Reaper takes its inspiration very clearly from the Trump era, with Senator Iron (the Republican nominee much beloved of
Fox Wolf News) as the discriminatory, hypocritical, damaging Trump stand-in. I’ve always found fantasy the most satisfying when it engages with real-world issues, and both Infinity Reaper and X-Men do that. While X-Men’s primary inspiration seems to be as a queer metaphor (Bobby even has a coming out scene in X2), Silvera’s story is more interested in power: who has it, what it does to people, and what people will do to get it. Celestial/mutant power isn’t a queer metaphor in the Infinity Cycle. It doesn’t have to be, for one thing (pretty much everyone is queer; Emil, Ness, Maribelle, Iris, Eva, Wyatt, and Tala are all either gay or bi/pan). In the Infinity Cycle, power isn’t a metaphor. It’s power, and unlike queerness, power is a choice. It’s telling that while celestials are much persecuted, it’s the specters who dominate the series. Brighton chose his powers. Ness chose his powers. While Emil did not choose to have his powers, he has the option to lose them. Is possessing specter power immoral? Does it matter what one does with the power once it is obtained? Is it possible to have as much power as Brighton does and not be corrupted by it? Is there a greater good that can be achieved with the powers that counterbalances the evil of having killed an endangered creature to obtain it? The Infinity Cycle grapples with all these questions.