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A Once Crowded Sky: A Novel Hardcover – Jul 10 2012

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Hardcover, Jul 10 2012
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (July 10 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451652003
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451652000
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.5 x 23.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 621 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #417,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“An exciting post-millennial conflict allegory, which echoes the terror of Alan Moore’s writing for Watchmen while sidestepping out of its shadow. ” (The A.V. Club)

“An original, assured debut . . . Impossible to put down.” (Library Journal)

“Everything we love about comics — origin tales, a worthy villain, team-ups…conspiracies, super technology, disgraced heroes, redeemed villains — it’s all here. And it’s a fun read.” (

“Beyond postmodern, complex in conception . . . relevant to the graphic-novel, video-gaming generation.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“A more literary - and literate - novel, making effective use of the present tense to add urgency to the tale, and creates characters that are agreeably complex. ‘A Once Crowded Sky’ also benefits from the black-and-white comic book-style illustrations by Tom Fowler that help readers visualize these unfamiliar heroes.” (Tulsa World)

“King presents us with a story that subtly questions our ideas of humanity and heroism. The tale moves quickly and fluidly… an incredible page-turner.” (The Charleston Post and Courier)

“Ultimately a story of wonder, and of redemption. . . . At its core, this is a story about humanity, told from the perspective of simultaneously the most and the least human of us all.” (Spencer Daily Reporter, IA)

“In a summer swimming in comic book inspired blockbusters, perhaps the most visionary tale in a generation won’t be found in either a multiplex or the local comic book shop but rather nestled in the shelves of your local book retailer." (

“King's story revolves around the only superpowered hero left in the world—the one who stayed behind with his wife when all the others sacrificed themselves to save the world. As a strange new violent terrorism begins destroying parts of cities at random, PenUltimate needs to decide whether he wants to be a hero again…an enjoyable postmodern superhero story.” (Washington City Paper)

“Masterfully developed, incorporating versions of the archetypal superhero into a fantastic modern prose story. I loved the author's entertaining writing, the occasional humor, and the connections to myth, history, and literature. I breezed through a lot of the book, not wanting to put down such a well-written, epic fantasy story. By the way, I don't think I've ever read a comic book in my life…” (SusieBookworm)

“A good and quick read for anyone looking to enjoy some good fiction…even if you aren’t into comics whatsoever you can enjoy this book.” (

“A fascinating concept…it kept me spellbound from page 1 right to the end.” (

About the Author

Tom King worked for the counterterrorism unit at the Central Intelligence Agency, following the events of 9/11. Before the CIA, he worked for DC Comics and Marvel. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
I'm an admittedly big fan of comic books, so your mileage may vary but I found it pretty compelling and hard to put down. Gorgeous Tom Fowler art too.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars 80 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Literate Take on Super Heroes July 10 2012
By James Joyce Fan - Published on
Format: Hardcover
My husband is one of those lucky comic book nerds who found a fellow comic book nerd to marry. Long before I met my hubby, I was turned on to Watchmen a couple years after its release when I was about ten or so. It was easily the smartest piece of literature I touched until high school, by which time I'd read Watchmen twenty times. I've been trying to amass a collection of comics and graphic novels--or any literature for that matter--which sets out to deconstruct the genre, and I've sadly concluded over the years that all of these works generally do little more than expound on Moore's original work, AT BEST. I think that the Incredibles must have done more to introduce comic-deconstruction themes to a mass audience than most comics since Watchmen.

AT LAST, we have another work to look deep into the meaning of comics and the idea of metacomic writing in Mr. King's work. For the first time since my read of Watchmen all those years ago, I find myself reading this title, now for the second time since I got it yesterday and blew through it in one night. I'm happily finding new insight in both the storyline and the greater themes that King must have considered at length before he wrote word one of this novel.

And, not for nothing, it is an exciting read, with well thought out and believable characters, particularly with regards to one of the characters (Soldier). I judge most of what I read in any fiction by my ability to believe in the motives of the main characters, which accounts heavily for my high rating.

Happy reading!
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The comic book hero that saved the novel July 10 2012
By Eric - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Usually, comic books are not novels, novels are not comic books. King has done something UNusual by mixing the two genres. For the most part, he does so without sacrificing the power of either one, which is impressive. Imaginative and carefully done, the book is both literate in the dense and self-reflexive world of superheroes and complex enough to offer long-form character development. You need to know comic books to really get everything out of the book, but it works on other levels too. King seems well-read in many kinds of literature and has come up with fresh sets of characters and ideas. It's a terrific first novel, and I'm curious to see its effect on literary conventions. But mostly, I think readers will like reading it.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The power of good literature is alive and well July 10 2012
By Amazon LLon - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's hard to believe that this is a first novel by this young writer. It has the wit, fluidity, and page-turning intensity that one generally gets only from veteran literary writers. I truly enjoyed every minute of it, and when I had to put it down a few times to take care of some business, its characters haunted me. I couldn't wait to get back to it.

If you are looking for depth and complexity, for literary muscle, King's novel, which turns Dante's Paradiso on its head, has plenty of all of that, but the most thrilling thing about this book is that its depth and complexity and literary muscle don't weigh the book down a bit. For all its abundant intelligence and literary playfulness, the book reads like a summer thriller. It is truly a joy. I also love the little pieces of graphic novel that blend perfectly into the text now and then.

I hope somebody in Hollywood picks up on King's story. It would make a great film. I'd love to experience it as a movie. These are great characters battling a world gone completely wrong, learning how to fight all over again. In this sense, the book is a metaphor for King's own experience. I understand he applied to join the CIA the day after the World Trade Center was attacked on 9/11, abandoning plans to go to law school, and then served as an undercover CIA agent in some of the most dangerous places in the world doing what his characters in this book do: learning to fight an unexpected and deadly battle with tools and fortitude they never imagined they would have to use.

It's a wonderful book, deep and meaningful but truly entertaining. I hope this guy keeps writing. He is somebody to pay attention to.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book for fans of all genres. A wild ride that is fun and quick - page turner. Get it. Aug. 10 2012
By Ryan J. Parks - Published on
Format: Hardcover
You are a superhero. You are the side-kick to greatest superhero in history. You want to retire. You want to be with your wife and live a normal life. So you do.....
You are asked by your fellow superheroes to come to one last battle, one last event, one last hurrah, but you ignore it....they always say "one last time", and it's never one last time. You're a superhero...there are no you don't show.
They hate you. You didn't show up.
They did in fact have one last battle, and it was to give up all their super powers. But you didn't show. You didn't show.
Pen Ultimate, the side-kick to Ultimate, didn't show up. And now he is the only man on the planet with super powers. The burden, the heavy burden. He didn't want to play the "game" anymore and now he is the only player alive. All the villains are dead, mass suicide. The "Blue" force took it all.
This absolutely unique take on comic book superheroes is a fantastic novel from the brilliant mind of new comer Tom King. It isn't a comic book, it isn't a graphic novel, it is a legit novel, with the comic book twist spun into a chronological web, chaptered in comic book digests, along with great artwork to help you along and to give the reader a better look at the characters in the book.
The characters are well thought out and gritty men and women, all frustrated with the loss of their powers and there mundane new lives, powerless. Soldier of Freedom, the secondary hero in the book, a poster boy (older man, actually) ala Rambo for the USA, who's lived over a hundred and fifty years fighting all the major US Wars. Prophetier, the man who has been prophesizing the heros battles and falls, since childhood in a notebook similar to his own comic book. Devil Girl (DG), the hot red headed asian from hell (she's really from hell), who has been there to tease and save Soldier forever. Starry-Knight, one of the richest men in the world, who built an empire while all the other heros played kick ass and never did anything else with their lives. Ultimate, Pen's mentor, The Man With The Metal Face...the man that gave it all up to save the world.....and other characters, all with their own stories and styles. Tom King writes them all with a third eye that drags you in and keeps you wanting more, keeps you flipping the pages.
So what does the last superhero on earth do when the shit hits the fan? When something, someone, starts destroying the earth ("Arcadia" in particular, the city where most of the superheros live) and there are no superhero's but him to fix it? He mans up. He becomes the superhero he was always destined to become. The man his mentor Ultimate taught him to be. And in the process, he gives hope and encouragement to other once superhero's who have come to hate him....with the possibilty that in the end, they always come back.
I highly suggest taking a wild ride on this book and jumping right in and letting your imagination fly high into the sky, where you, the reader live the life of a superhero. This book is for all genres: comic book enthusiasts, sci-fi readers, horror fans, mystery and suspense - you name it, you got it. Tom King not only gives you a fresh new outlook on the genre, but brings a philosophy to it and a definiton that has never been told, until now.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant, beautiful, thought-provoking July 23 2012
By Mangraa - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There isn't much I can say which other reviewers haven't already said about this book. The obvious comic-book influence actually works in this case, a rare occurrence among books which try, and often fail, to fuse the two different styles of narrative. But don't expect just another stereotypical comic-book narrative out of this one - this book is best read with brain cells fully functioning and thinking fully engaged.