Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Suicide Reviews: Steelheart (Reckoners #1) by Brandon Sanderson

 Steelheart (Reckoners, #1)

Summary: How far would you go for revenge if someone killed your father? If someone destroyed your city? If everything you ever loved was taken from you?

David Charleston will go to any lengths to stop Steelheart. But to exact revenge in Steelheart's world, David will need the Reckoners - a shadowy group of rebels bent on maintaining justice. 

And it turns out the Reckoners might just need David too.

Date Published: September 24, 2013
Published By: Ember
Number of Pages: 384
Rating: 4/5

You could call this the anti-superhero novel. In the Reckoners world there are these people called Epics, human beings with incredible powers that they acquired when a mysterious red meteor called Calamity appeared in the sky. They have the potential to be superheros but not one single Epic uses their power to help people. Epics only use their power to dominate and control. One of the most powerful among them is Steelheart, an Epic that has super strength, the ability to fly, and is immune to most weapons. So he's basically an evil Superman. 

All Epics have a weakness and David is determined to discover what it is so he can avenge his father's death and kill Steelheart. David joins the Reckoners, a group dedicated to eliminating Epics and restoring freedom. 

Jam-packed with stunning action sequences, incredible Epics, and cool technology, Steelheart is basically a comic book in prose form. But what sets it apart from the established comic book universes is that Sanderson both uses and puts a unique spin on standard comic book tropes. The world of the Epics isn't divided into heroes and villains - it's structured by power and power alone. You have high Epics and low Epics and the ones with the most power and influence control their own empires. 

It's fun to see how the Reckoners battle it out against the superior Epics. Each member of the Reckoners is fully-realized and fleshed-out. There's Abraham, an eloquent French-Canadian black man in charge of heavy artillery. Cody, a southern sharpshooter with an obsession with his parent's Scottish homeland. Tia, a brilliant redhead who collects intel and is addicted to cola. Megan, the badass girl with a chip on her shoulder and a secret. And Prof, the leader of the group.

And then there's David, the archetypal underdog. A poor orphan who grew up working in a weapons factory, he's desperate to prove to the Reckoners that he has what it takes to join them. He makes some brilliant decisions along the way - as well as some devastating poor choices that get him into trouble. He's brave, reckless, and smart - except maybe when it comes to thinking up metaphors. (One of the most hilarious aspects of the book is David trying to think up suitable metaphors and completely failing. It provides awesome comic relief.) 

One thing I really appreciate about Brandon Sanderson is he creates compelling female characters who have their own stories and agendas and are not just there to serve as the Love Interest for the male hero. Yes, there is romantic tension between David and Megan but it feels realistic and interesting, and it develops naturally. Megan actually turns out to be one of the more ambiguous characters and I can't wait to see how her character develops in the next two books. (Ernest Cline could learn a thing or two about creating female characters from Brandon Sanderson.) 

Steelheart is a super-fun read and I recommend it to comic book fans, action junkies, and anyone who loves a good story. Even if you're suffering from superhero fatigue due to the glut of Marvel and DC films, Steelheart is a fresh take on the genre. 

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