Brandon Sanderson – Steelheart
84. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (2013)
Reckoners, Book 1
Length: 386 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Post-apocalyptic, Superhero Science Fiction
Started: 16 October 2013
Finished: 20 October 2013
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I may not get to them immediately once they come out, but of course I’m going to read Sanderson’s new books.
Everyone’s got a
weakness, but supervillains’
are harder to find.
Summary: Ten years ago, Calamity appeared in the sky. What exactly it is, no one knows, but it granted certain people incredible powers. These powers only fueled the desire for more power, and so the strongest of the Epics, as they are known, seized control of the human world, and now live as they please. Most people either seek to curry favor with the Epics, or else stay out of their way – only a small secretive group known as the Reckoners are fighting back. Chicago has been taken over – and turned to metal – by an Epic named Steelheart, and even the Reckoners don’t dare face him without knowing his weakness. But a young man named David thinks he might have the clue. He was there on the day that Steelheart took over the city, on the day that he watched Steelheart kill his father, he also saw something impossible: he saw Steelheart bleed. And he’s spent the past ten years tracking the Epics, learning their weaknesses, and planning how to bring down Steelheart… if the Reckoners will even let him join.
Review: Sanderson hits it out of the park. Again. (In what I believe is his first foray into sci-fi rather than fantasy… although I’m not sure exactly where Legion should count.) Actually, a lot of superhero sci-fi kind of falls on the border of fantasy anyways depending on what the source of the superpowers is – and in this case, we don’t know what that is yet, so it’s hard to say. But most of the time superheroes = sci-fi, so that’s what I’m going with… and it’s certainly not as overtly magical as his fantasy books. (Although if we’re being technical – which of course we are – this isn’t a superheroes book so much as a supervillains book. Obviously none of the Epics had an Uncle Ben to dole out the “With great power comes great responsibility” speech.)
Aaaanyways. Steelheart is very good, very entertaining, and very, very readable. Sanderson’s so good with worldbuilding, which is in full force here (and set in my hometown, which is always a plus!). Since it’s the first book in a series, there are quite a few unanswered questions, but it’s clear that the answers will be coming eventually, and there are enough details and answers and tantalizing clues to make this installment satisfying on its own (not to mention the fact that it also has a cohesive plot). I did have a few moments of pause, particularly early on in the book, with how similar this book was in premise to the Wild Cards stories I’ve read (except in the Wild Cards universe, some of the newly super-empowered become heroes, and only some become bad guys.) But that’s probably unavoidable in writing a superhero book – those super powers have to come from somewhere.
Sanderson is also stellar at writing action sequences. He can do interesting characters, and tightly woven plots, but a large part of this book’s entertainment value comes from its quick pace and its exciting, cinematically-described fight scenes. Pretty spectacular. Is this the deepest, most emotionally resonant book I’ve ever read? Probably not. But it was a fun read and a hell of a ride, and I’m looking forward to seeing where Sanderson takes this world next. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Recommended for people who like superheroes, or supervillains and the non-super-heroes who fight them, or basically for anyone who wants the equivalent of the better Marvel movies in book form. Somebody get me some popcorn!
First Line: I’ve seen Steelheart bleed.
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