No Ordinary Heroes: On Vincent Chu’s ‘Like a Champion’

Chu’s relatable stories are filled with characters as diverse as they are ordinary, proving that everyday life can be entertaining.

Vincent Chu
Short Stories | 244 Pages | 5.25” x 5.5” | Reviewed: PDF ARC
9780998409269 | First Edition | $15.99
7.13 Books | Brooklyn | BUY HERE

Photo: 7.13 Books.

Most fiction these days focuses on one central theme, one person picked out of the crowd to do something great. A hero. A chosen one. A savior. This feeds into the fantasy so many have about being something greater than we are. But what about everyone else, those of us not chosen? Some people are destined for greatness, while the rest of us just live here.

These are the people on whom Vincent Chu focuses in his collection of stories, Like a Champion. He doesn’t seek a hero to save the day or to solve the mystery, but instead finds the ordinary people who tend to be overlooked. When diving into their stories, he manages to display a different type of greatness.

Chu’s characters are as diverse as they are ordinary. They might not seem like they’re making an impact in the grand scheme of things, but they occupy their own space in the world. Like Fred from Finance, the unnoticed guy at work who desperately wants to be a part of the group. Or Jane, who has to work up the courage to meet a nice guy from an Internet dating app. Or even Beatrice, who feels hurt when her coworkers start a club without inviting her. These are just some of the regular people found as characters in Chu’s book.

But these people aren’t simply ordinary; they’re real. It’s so easy to see ourselves in these stories. In a world where fiction is supposed to be an escape from the reality of our lives, it’s refreshing to get a story from a normal perspective that isn’t asking you to do or to be anything, but just to enjoy it. In the story, “Overseas Club,” one of the characters says:

“You might think that as an individual, there’s nothing you can do to change the world, but I believe that history tell us the exact opposite.”

The important thing to remember is that the problem and solution to a story don’t need to have world-altering stakes. Changing the world can mean something as simple as making a new friend, like Frank from “Frank from Finance,” or accidentally giving all of your friends diarrhea with tainted fruit salad, like Sam and her mom in “Ambrosia.” These stories show that real life can be just as entertaining as action adventure stories, with the added bonus of being more relatable.

Many of Chu’s stories deal with relationships. Instead of showing this with coming-of-age scenes or romantic moments, he highlights normal interactions between people. In “Recent Conversations,” Jane sends a text message that says, in rushed emotion sans punctuation,

“Relationships are hard enough why add the extra strain of fighting over jazz or techno every night[.]”

This is referring to Jane’s budding online romance, but the idea of relationships being difficult enough without adding extra stress is a theme throughout many of the stories. It’s a subtle way to show that human interactions can be volatile.

The real beauty of Chu’s work isn’t heart-thumping action or over-the-top drama, but that it’s rooted in reality. At some point, in at least one of the stories, the reader is going to say, “That’s me.” Writing something that captures so many different people isn’t easy to do, but Chu has achieved it.

SEAN FAULK is a teacher in Houston, Texas. He’d much rather spend his time reading and writing. Sometimes he even finds the time to do it. He has a couple of self-published books under various names and hopes to branch out one day. In the meantime, he is just happy to read other people’s work.