A superhuman love story

Times Staff Writer

With a lingering writers strike, many TV fans are finding other storytelling outlets to occupy their time. Online tales, comic books and even card games (in the case of Fox's "24") are making the rounds. For followers of NBC's "Heroes," there is "Saving Charlie," a novel released this week.

Fans looking for an action-packed, mystery-filled romp reminiscent of the first season aren't likely to get that adrenaline fix here. But in terms of expanding on one of the show's more endearing and popular characters, the book scores high marks.

"Saving Charlie" is a love story -- one that, due to Hiro Nakamura's powers of teleportation and time travel, literally spans a lifetime in months.

Back in the first season, Hiro and his friend Ando found themselves in a small Texas eatery (Burnt Toast Diner) while on their way to save the world. There they met Charlene "Charlie" Andrews, a waitress who coincidentally had powers that caused her superhumanly to remember (and maybe more important) comprehend pretty much everything that she read almost instantaneously. In a few short minutes, Charlie learned Japanese and Hiro was smitten. In a few more short minutes, Charlie was killed by the now infamous Sylar.

In the book, Hiro, feeling it's his duty and destiny, decides to use his abilities to go back into the past and save her.

Aury Wallington, a former writer on "Sex and the City" and "Veronica Mars," was thrilled to write the book as a big fan of the show -- but not as a big science-fiction buff.

"They said, 'We want to play up the love story more than the sci-fi,' and I was like, 'Thank God,' " says Wallington. "I did a lot of time-travel research. . . . I'm a fan, but this is the first time I've actually researched it."

She touches on minor details dealing with Hiro's powers and the consequences of using them, but "Saving Charlie" is not overwrought with explanations about the space-time continuum. Hiro's adventures in the past lead to a relationship with the big-hearted, sassy waitress that can only be described as "sweet." But destiny's stir is always mixing up the coffee cup of life, and Hiro's powers are tied to events that he should be completing more than what he wants to do. While tumbling through time and emotions, he realizes that saving Charlie is a lot more complicated than going back and whisking her away.

This is where Wallington excels with the love story. Though an excitable character on the show, Hiro's depth of emotion has never been explored as much as it is here. His back story, dedication and early struggles with his abilities are all brought to the forefront.

Charlie, a character that we barely knew, is also presented as a complex and tragic figure. Her bubbly persona definitely masks a troubled past, and Wallington reveals it without being too preachy or obvious.

"Saving Charlie" is a great escape and provides more understanding of how the powers heaped upon the "Heroes" characters affect their lives. So, can we expect that other characters to get this long-form treatment?

"All I want in the world is to get to write the Sylar story, but the problem is what makes 'Heroes' so amazing and what makes the book so good . . . is that the writers have such an amazing command of that world," says Wallington. "As much as I'm dying to write Sylar's story, I'd have to wait to talk to them after the strike. I couldn't do it without having access to the writers."


Show Tracker follows television series through their highs and lows. Find updates on "Heroes" and other shows at latimes.com/entertainment.

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