Starter Villain by John Scalzi

Charlie, a middle-aged journalist who lost his job and is substitute teaching, inherits his wealthy uncle’s empire only to discover that he’s now part of a global cabal of villains.


  • Intelligent animals
  • Fun plot that wraps up nicely
  • Engaging and humorous writing


  • Charlie is a bit too similar to other characters

Starter Villain Review

Starter Villain by John Scalzi is a fun story with engaging writing that will keep readers glued to the book until the very satisfying conclusion. Scalzi’s humorous style of writing will also entertain readers, carrying them through the slower parts of the plot.

Charlie is a middle-aged divorcee who has moved back to his childhood home after being fired from his job as a journalist covering business news. Without much to his name, he’s living in his father’s home, a home which his half-siblings want to sell after their father’s death.

Things aren’t going well for Charlie. His substitute teaching barely covers the bills, and he’s on the verge of homelessness as his siblings hound him to sell his only home.

But what Charlie has is a wealthy billionaire uncle whose death sets into action a string of events that finds Charlie at the head of an international organization of villainy.

The conflict of the story feels a little too ordinary: Charlie’s uncle, and by extension Charlie himself, is locked in a struggle against a global villainous cabal for supremacy and world domination.

Scalzi’s protagonists tend to be very relatable. Charlie is no exception—he’s the everyman and his life decisions have led him down to a low point in life, making him that much more relatable. And like Scalzi’s other protagonists, who also come from humble roots, Charlie is a fairly likable and decent person despite his bad luck. Best of all and like most people, Charlie means well.

But where the protagonists tend to be relatable, they can also be a bit too similar in terms of their personality—perhaps this is due more to the writing style than the actual characters.

Many readers will agree that one of the best aspects of the story is the intelligent cats, and perhaps for some, the regal cover art depicting a cat in a business suit was enough to draw their attention to the book. But it’s not just the cats who are intelligent. The story sports some others as well, including a group of Marxist cetaceans whose struggles and demands may have been a sign of the current times.

Starter Villain by John Scalzi has some science fiction elements like intelligent animals and high technology devices, but the story is more fantasy and mystery than it is science fiction. For those looking for Old Man’s War, there’s going to be some disappointment. But those looking for a fun story with some light science fiction elements will be quite pleased.

Read reviews of other fun science fiction works by John Scalzi.