Review: We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen

Rating: 7.5/10


Jamie woke up in an empty apartment with no memory and only a few clues to his identity, but with the ability to read and erase other people’s memories—a power he uses to hold up banks to buy coffee, cat food and books.

Zoe is also searching for her past, and using her abilities of speed and strength…to deliver fast food. And she’ll occasionally put on a cool suit and beat up bad guys, if she feels like it.

When the archrivals meet in a memory-loss support group, they realize the only way to reveal their hidden pasts might be through each other. As they uncover an ongoing threat, suddenly much more is at stake than their fragile friendship. With countless people at risk, Zoe and Jamie will have to recognize that sometimes being a hero starts with trusting someone else—and yourself. 


We Could Be Heroes is Mike Chen’s third published novel, and it is an interesting take on the superheroes vs villains trope. While I do think it is a noted divergence from Chen’s other works, there is a lot to like about this book, as well.

The story starts off a little clunky for my tastes. While I respect the way the first scene is written in an attempt to draw the reader in right away, there was something about it that just did not appeal to me. The writing did not seem to flow well in the first few chapters. I am happy to have stuck with it, though, because the author got into a writing groove in short order. This is the Chen I am used to: free-flowing, prose-y writing, thoughtful of how words and phrases fit together to impact the pace of the story. The author’s stories have never been super fast-paced, but they do usually keep it steady without many lulls. That, plus the ability to capture the human condition, have always been plusses for me in Chen’s writing.

When speaking of the human condition, emotions are often a big part of that. As emotions go, the author does a great job of capturing those, as well, in We Could Be Heroes. There are not a lot of characters in the book, so the two main protagonists (Jamie and Zoe) get the majority of the page time. As I got to know these characters really well, I could not help but notice a parallel between my experience and their own. Loss of memory is a big part of the plot, leading the characters to spend much of the book getting to know themselves (past and present). This aspect was really important to me because it made me feel like I had just as much invested in this story as the characters, and that fact helped to foster a connection to the story.

In addition, one of the best aspects of the book is the way the two protagonists grow together over the course of the story. They learn a lot about themselves and each other, but, more than that they discover there are ways they can be in the world and forge their own paths. There is a real hopeful element to the narrative that has stuck with me.

One aspect of the story I was not a huge fan of was how some of the situations became somewhat convoluted. As Jamie and Zoe scheme and plot different ways to find out more about themselves and exactly how they have become who and what they are, the two end up in some pretty sticky situations. In attempting to get the characters out of those states of affair, in my opinion the author took too many liberties with their powers. This created opportunities for plot holes, and that fact is no more evident than the way the book ended.

Overall, I enjoyed We Could Be Heroes. It is a story of friendship, trust, love, and hope. The plot is every unique, even if the execution fell short in parts. Still, it is a very solid entry in the Mike Chen portfolio. I do recommend picking it up if you are looking for an easy, light-hearted Sci-Fi read.

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