Monday, January 6, 2014

Book Review: "Steelheart" by Brandon Sanderson

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that left a number of human beings with extraordinary powers—some have the ability to change shape, some have superhuman strength, some can create powerful and believable illusions. The public called these people Epics, and had great hopes that they would be able to save the damaged world.

But great ability breeds arrogance, the need for power and control. The Epics kill whomever they want, whenever they want. And the strongest of all of the Epics—Steelheart—has taken control over Newcago, blocking out the sun, and leaving its citizens dependent upon his generosity for food, electricity, shelter, jobs, and their safety.

"I know, better than anyone else, that there are no heroes coming to save us. There are no good Epics. None of them protect us. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We live with them. We try to exist despite them."

Steelheart is said to be invincible. But David knows the truth. Eight years ago, Steelheart killed David's father and countless others in a heartless attack. Steelheart thought there were no survivors of that day, but David escaped undetected. And he saw that Steelheart bled from a gunshot wound, so he is not as invincible as everyone believes.

"I've seen Steelheart bleed. And I will see him bleed again."

Since the day his father died, David has been quietly studying the Epics, memorizing their skills and their weaknesses, and plotting a strategy by which he may one day get his revenge on the Epic responsible for his father's death. He is determined to join the Reckoners, a shadowy band of ordinary people led by Prof, which is determined to fight and destroy as many Epics as they can. What they lack in numbers they make up for in stealth and innovative technologies. David believes he can encourage the Reckoners to adopt his plan and help him destroy Steelheart, but that is a decision that isn't readily shared by all of the Reckoners.

"'The work we do,' Prof said, 'is not about living. Our job is killing. We'll leave the regular people to live their lives, to find joy in them, to enjoy the sunrises and the snowfalls. Our job is to get them there."

Getting to Steelheart is even more dangerous and complicated than any of the Reckoners, especially David, ever imagined. And after 10 years of thinking about nothing but revenge, he is suddenly forced to confront the question of whether the people of Newcago will be better off without Steelheart, or if having no one to ensure they have food, electricity, and jobs is worse than living under the thumb of a mercurial, homicidal dictator.

How do you know what is the right decision? When you've been consumed with one thought and one thought only for so long, how do you allow yourself to consider a different path? Are you protecting people if you expose them to other hardships? Brandon Sanderson's Steelheart is a tremendously creative, compelling, and complex book, one I really enjoyed. The whole idea of the Epics and the Reckoners is fascinating, and the amount of detail Sanderson put into development of his characters really showed in the book. This is the first book in a projected series, and I look forward to seeing what comes next for these characters.

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