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Bookends: Sometimes the Heroes Need a Helping Hand January 18, 2017

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, Science Fiction, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Sometimes the Heroes Need a Helping Hand

By Dan Davidson

June 15, 2016

– 846 words –

 

Steelheart

By Brandon Sandersonsteelheart

Narrated by MacLeod Andrews

Length: 12 hrs and 14 mins

Brilliance Audio

$24.95

400 pages in book format

Delacorte Press

 

Brandon Sanderson is probably best known as a fantasy novelist, and that primarily for taking on the task of wrapping up Robert Jordan’s massive Wheel of Time series, using the latter’s notes and outlines, after that author died suddenly. Jordan’s publisher had intended on one book, but it took three.

When he took on this homage, Sanderson had already completed a fantasy trilogy of his own, as well as a trilogy of young adult fantasy novels.

If you’re looking for high fantasy, this is not a book for you, and it seems to be quite different from most of Sanderson’s output. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with it, but some readers expect their favorite authors to keep hitting the same notes all the time. Some people didn’t enjoy J.K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike mystery series after years of Harry Potter.

Steelheart is science fiction, a young adult novel of the dystopian persuasion that has become so popular since the Hunger Games first appeared. It’s the opening shot in a trilogy called The Reckoners.

Some 12 years before this novel opens, an artifact that came to be known as Calamity appeared in orbit around the Earth, Was it a natural or artificial satellite? No one knew. What they did know was that very shortly all sorts of people began to develop some very comic booky type powers, and were suddenly able to do things that clearly defied the laws of physics and chemistry. Sadly, unlike what happens in the comic books, nearly all of these Epics, as they came to be known, turned out to be sadistic, megalomaniacal individuals with a penchant for setting themselves up as feudal lordlings.

The United States quickly became the Fractured States as the legitimate governments gave up all pretense of being able to deal with the new super beings.

Steelheart rules Newcago, having claimed it for his own ten years earlier, the same year that he killed the Epic called Deathpoint (these names all sound like the Epics have been reading too many old Image comics) and also David Charleston’s father. It was during a bank heist, and in that brief encounter David saw Steelheart bleed when a bullet aimed at Deathpoint by his father creased his cheek.

This was inexplicable. Steelheart was invulnerable, possessed of superhuman strength and endurance, able to fire blasts of energy from his hands and, strangest power of all, able to transform any type of matter, except that of living human beings, into steel. As a result of this, much of Newcago is made of steel and a lot of the residents live in tunnels carved into the mass by beings known as the DIggers.

But David had seen Steelheart bleed, was the only survivor of that day at the bank, and meant to see him bleed again.

Ten years later, David is in his late teens, having spent his youth in one of the comparatively benign youth workhouses where he was fed, housed, educated and learned a great deal about weapons by assembling them. He was also able to pursue his obsession with the Epics by compiling research about them and learning about the human resistance group known as the Reckoners.

When we meet David, he is out to observe the Reckoners at work, and hopes to persuade them to let him join their struggle. They specialize in killing Epics, finding out their secret weaknesses – for each of them has some kryptonite-like nemesis that leaves them vulnerable – and whittling away at the power structure, hoping to give the world back to normal people.

David does link with the Reckoners, a quintet of quirky specialists led by a man they call the Professor, and convinces them that his years of research are of value to their cause. He even has a plan for killing Steelheart, knowing that he has a weakness, knowing under what circumstances he had been hurt, but not knowing exactly what did the trick.

David has some mixed feelings about his life’s goal, for he knows that Steelheart, though a tyrant, is probably the most benevolent of all the Epic rulers in cities across the continent. What chaos will ensue if he is removed?

Much of the rest of the book is a series of adventures in which they tackle some of Steelheart’s Epic henchmen and work towards the final confrontation with the ruler of Newcago. There are a number of surprises and plot twists along the way, but never a clue as to what Calamity really is why it arrived, and what purpose it was intended to serve.

I found this book to be a little slow at the beginning, which is odd in a book that starts with a pair of action sequences, but it picked up nicely as the society began to take shape.

MacLeod Andrews read the first person narrative in a suitable young man’s voice, but was able to convey the older men and the women as well. I look forward to hearing the other two volumes on subsequent road trips.

 

-30-

 

 

 

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