Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

With superheroes ruling the movies, there have been more and more superhero books been published nowadays. “Steelheart” by Brandon Sanderson is the latest book in the sub-genre but with a twist. There are no heroic rescues, no saving the planet from villains, or even superheroes. This is a book about the human race and how “with great power, comes great greed”.

The story begins when an event named “Calamity” struck. A burst of light in the sky, “Calamity” gave some ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling these people Epics.

Soon, everything changed. Super-powered people started to rule over normal humans and within ten years, the most powerful of these beings have their own personal fiefdom in the world.

In Newcago, the former Chicago, this super-powered being is called “Steelheart” and he is supposedly invincible. David knows that he’s not because ten years ago, Steelheart killed David’s father and his father injured Steelheart. David want revenge and now has a chance as he had hooked up with a small group of rebels to kill Epics.

Now most people may know Brandon Sanderson as a fantasy writer and they would not be wrong. To my knowledge, this is his first superhero book and the concept is pretty interesting.

Although a superhero book, (almost) all the super-powered beings in the book are bad guys. The main character, David, has no powers outside the fact that he’s a superhero nerd with great knowledge of the various superpowers the Epics has. Personally as a guy who has collected comics for over 20 years, I like to think that this is a cool superpower but…back to the book.

First off, I like the fact that “Steelheart” is an action packed book with intelligence. David and his rebel friends, the Reckoners, are all seemingly normal humans so they need to use their wits to take down even the lowest Epics. In many ways, the backbone of the book is the tactical planning the Reckoners undertake before each hit. I find these “slow” parts of the book to be great.

In fact, most of the characters in the book are great. The members of the Reckoners are distinct, each with his or her specialty but at the same time, each of them is different enough that they do not come across as a stock character. Even the Epics like Steelheart have hints of personalities instead of generic villain characters.

I also enjoy the character of David. A strong young man with a palpable desire for vengeance, he was very relatable. He is determined and courageous but also smart enough to understand that taking down Steelheart may do more harm than good, especially to the people of Newcago. His internal questioning of his need for vengeance was a good touch by Sanderson.

Of course the book is not perfect. I especially dislike the ending when David discovered how the powers they have affect the personalities of the Epics. I think this plot revelation was a mistake by Sanderson. It undercut the book somewhat by giving an out for the Epics, that their mistakes are due to their powers instead of their inability to deal with the responsibility that comes with these powers.

Also some parts of the book are rushed. The attack on the power plant is case in point. Things just fall into place for the Reckoners during the attack even though their plan of attack fell into pieces.

Still, “Steelheart” is a book I would recommend. It’s not great but it is fun well-written book with a good twist on the superhero genre. Read it for a good fun time. 

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