Author Carrie Harris (carrieharrisbook.com) is a geek. She’s made a living off of her love of genre storytelling, both as an author, designer, creative director, and marketing executive for a number of tabletop games and as the author of nearly twenty novels, ranging from middle grade pulp adventures to young adult horror and sci-fi to adult paranormal romance. Her latest novel, Liberty and Justice For All, is the launch title for Marvel’s new line of prose works featuring the adventures of the mutants enrolled in the New Charles Xavier’s School for Mutants. I had the opportunity to chat with Carrie about the book, which you can listen to below.
Liberty and Justice For All skews toward younger readers. Reading through the book, I couldn’t help to be transported to the Scholastic book fairs that I grew up with. My ten- to twelve-year-old self would have absolutely loved reading this book. Though our main characters, Triage and Tempus, are young adults, they are presented as a bit juvenilized for the novel. The presentation is appropriate for the target audience. For concerned parents, the worst language in the book are variations of “this sucks.”
The book contains scenes of adventure, but any real gore has been sanitized. The story features one mutant with the ability to heal others, one with an enhanced healing factor (not that one… no, not that one either) so a level of peril and injury should be expected. The most disturbing incident occurs early and in the relative safety of the Danger Room, where peril is perceived instead of actual. After that, the most recurring issue is vomiting, again providing an appropriate ick factor for the target audience.
All of the above is written to give parents an idea of what to expect when their kid asks for a copy of Liberty and Justice For All. None of this is to say that the book is “simple.” Our leads are put in real world danger soon enough and they find that even in the real world that things aren’t always how they appear. The pair quickly encounter a pair of X-Men villains in need of assistance. The unlikely foursome is forced to work together, where Triage and Tempus must confront their preconceived notions about the infamous villains they’ve heard so much about. Harris adds a depth to the antagonists often missing in other depictions of these characters in other media and uses it to remind readers that just as no hero is infallible, no villain is without their better angels. Harris favors nuance over mustache-twirling, and in that choice lies the heart of the story.
Harris escalates the tensions and raises or changes the stakes in a way that utilizes the best of her game and story design skills. What starts as a simple training exercise becomes a rescue mission that quickly turns into a McGuffin retrieval that twists into a climax that manages to surprise while also being expertly set up right from the start of the story. Chekhov’s gun is in place and referred to throughout the novel.
Liberty and Justice For All stands as example on the technical “how to” for young readers who want to learn the craft of storytelling while telling an engaging and entertaining story. A passing familiarity with the X-Men is helpful but not required. In fact, it might be best to not worry too much about X-Men canon, as the story is set between Marvel’s 2012 Avengers vs. X-Men and the 2016 Inhumans vs. X-Men events, a fertile time to tell stories of new mutants that fleshes out the broader X-Men universe.