Sunday, June 2, 2013

Book Review: "Steelheart" by Brandon Sanderson

When a select few humans are suddenly and inexplicably gifted with superpowers, what if they don't become the benevolent protectors we always see in comic books? What if, instead, they became tyrants? Sanderson's latest book addresses just such an eventuality in this superbly written near-future tale of rebellion and revenge. David lives in Newcago, which was Chicago before the arrival of Steelheart, the city's new sovereign "Epic." The day he took over the city, Steelheart also killed David's father and buried all evidence of the incident under tons of steel. But what he doesn't know is that there was one survivor - David - who saw what happened that day and knows it could be the secret to Steelheart's one weakness.

But how is a 19-year-old boy obsessed with collecting information on Epics supposed to take on a man who can fly, control the elements, turn inanimate objects into solid steel, and who is apparently invulnerable? If he has any chance at all to take revenge for his father's death David will need to enlist the help of the Reckoners, a group of ordinary humans out to hold the Epics responsible for their crimes. If David can find a way to join them, he'll still need to convince the Reckoners to take on Steelheart.

While his quest for revenge isn't the most uncommon theme, David's character is both genuine and endearing. I found his problem with metaphors particularly endearing (my favorite one was "like a brick made of porridge") and his interactions with the wildly varied cast of personalities that make up the Reckoners. But this is by no means a purely character-driven novel, although watching David figure out where he fits into the group was a very rewarding read in itself.

The story's rising action is such a thing of beauty, it makes me actually want to cry. I was constantly wondering what would happen next, and that's no easy feat, since over the years as both a reader and writer I've gotten pretty good at predicting plot twists. But Steelheart kept me intrigued from cover to cover, with Sanderson dishing out just the right amounts of new revelations at just the right times to create a compelling story arc that leads seamlessly into an explosive climax. And the falling action afterward is nothing short of flawlessly executed, with the select few strings left hanging designed (successfully, I might add) to keep me biting my fingernails until the next installment is released in 2014. It's a perfect launching point for the next book in the series, particularly when it comes to Doc's and Megan's identities. I would, however, have liked to know more about why using their powers makes Epics react the way they do, and more details about how and when Megan joined the Reckoners.

If you're a superhero enthusiast, of you're into steampunk, cyberpunk, urban fantasy or any kind of Sci Fi, this is your book. Between the brilliant plot twists and the remarkable variety of characters that make up the story, I'm floored in the best of ways. Reserve your copy of Steelheart at your favorite independently owned bookstore and try to contain your excitement until it's released on September 24th of this year.

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